Maintaining a healthy and pleasant relationship is undoubtedly challenging. However, there are crucial aspects to consider at the outset of a relationship that can pave the way for a better journey together.
Among all the advice available, one particular piece of guidance stands out as the most important.
As someone who has worked with couples for several years, I've noticed patterns that emerge over time and lead to the breakdown of relationships. Identifying and addressing these patterns early on can prevent them from intensifying and causing harm, even after fifteen or thirty years of marriage.
What are the signs of an unhealthy marriage?
These patterns may include disrespectful behavior, over-pleasing, verbal insults escalating into aggression, relentless criticism, or any other negative dynamic that permeates the relationship, leading to anger, unhappiness, and ongoing challenges.
Too often, people in long-term relationships look back and wish they had acted differently earlier. They might say, "If only I had stopped it then" or "If only I had known better."
While it's possible to improve an unhealthy relationship that has persisted for a long time, the most effective approach is to change our actions and patterns at the initial stages to prevent destructive habits from taking root.
During the early years of a relationship, when things are still relatively flexible and not fully set, we have a prime opportunity to pay attention to crucial points and create a foundation for a healthier and happier future together.
Creating healthier and happier relationships
Here are ten ironclad rules that can guide you in designing a stronger and more fulfilling relationship, increasing your chances of maintaining a happy partnership for years to come:
1 - Never allow your partner to raise their voice at you
Criticism is acceptable, and people can occasionally express unpleasant feelings, but raising one's voice crosses boundaries. Establish this rule early on to avoid future conflicts. Remember, today's compromises become tomorrow's norms, so set clear boundaries.
2 - Avoid resorting to hurtful comments
Knowing your partner intimately can be a double-edged sword. Instead of using this knowledge to bring your partner down, focus on uplifting and supporting them. If your partner's actions hurt you, address it before it escalates into a larger issue.
3 -Express your feelings when something doesn't align with your values
It's important to consider your partner's wishes in a relationship, but not at the expense of losing yourself. Be honest and assertive when something doesn't sit well with you.
4 - Learn to forgive
Disagreements are natural, but prolonged conflicts can harm a relationship. Unless something is unforgivable, strive to resolve disputes promptly and move forward with a clean slate. After a reasonable amount of time, initiate a conversation to discuss and learn from the issue.
5 - Offer comfort, not fuel to the fire
Listen empathetically when your partner is upset about external issues, but don't get swept up in their emotions. Present the other side calmly and try to explain it gently. This approach can promote peace and reduce conflicts.
6- Replace criticism with constructive suggestions
Rather than using critical phrases, aim to offer helpful advice. Encourage change through supportive reminders and recommendations.
7 - Share experiences and opinions together
A solid marital relationship creates a sense of shared identity. Engage in conversations about the world around you, whether positive or negative, but maintain a lighthearted and friendly tone.
8 - Observe your partner's parental influences
How your partner's parents interacted while raising them can offer insight into future behaviors within your relationship. If negative patterns arise, address them early on while they are still manageable.
9 - Connect through eye contact
In the age of technology, remember the power of direct eye contact. A mutual gaze can convey understanding and strengthen your bond without words.
10 - Communicate with kindness
Above all, speak kindly to one another. Positive communication strengthens your relationship and helps it grow. While occasional criticism is acceptable, aim to reinforce your partner with multiple positive comments for every negative one.
By following these rules, you can cultivate a healthy, stable relationship that stands the test of time.
Gili Weintraub is an experienced emotional therapist and the creator of a highly effective method for couple therapy.