The Not-So-Secret Recipe to a Successful Relationship

Cluff Counseling - Older Couple Walking TogetherSuccessful relationships don’t just happen on their own; they emerge when two people invest great time and effort in them. These seven tips are tried and true in improving and prolonging meaningful relationships!

We all have those couples we admire. For me, it is Gordon and Marjorie; I have watched this couple interact since I was a teenager, and have marveled at the deep love they clearly shared for one another. They were so attentive to each others’ needs, spoke about each other with great respect, and their mutual adoration was apparent to all. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I see many couples each day who are working to enrich and improve their marriages. Sometimes marriage is not all we think it is going to be–life gets busy, sickness happens, children come, jobs are lost, arguments arise, until suddenly you feel distanced from our partner and the spark that brought you together seems to be missing. This is why up to 50% of marriages in the United States ends in divorce. Although there is no such thing as a perfect marriage, there are consistent patterns researchers have found in couples with marital longevity. Here are seven of the tried and true tips to turn up the love and work towards a lifelong union:

  1. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to give active attention to the moment. It takes effort, but does wonders for relationships!
  2. Commit to recommit. Commitment is a choice–one that spouses must make each and every passing day. Renewed commitment, demonstrated through words and deeds, is the springboard to a long-lasting partnership.
  3. Be playful. Remember the flirty dating days when you and your significant other would tease one another endlessly? Where did that behavior go? It may have taken a backseat to the rigors of work and the perpetual piles of laundry adult life often requires, but you can easily bring it back. Having fun and being playful is is a predictor of relationship satisfaction and is thus an important dimension of a successful relationship.
  4. Work at it. Relationship maintenance behaviors are critically important to the sustained health of any romantic partnership. These behaviors include but are not limited to the following: Expressing positive emotions, being open, giving relational reassurances, using your social circle to support your relationship, willingly sharing the work/responsibilities that come with your long-term relationship, attending marriage classes or seminars together, reading marriage or relationship books together, etc.
  5. Let it go (cue Frozen song). We have all had an argument with our significant other that started with socks on the floor and ended with big blows to the confidence. We let something small and insignificant trigger a massively unnecessary argument! To this I say (or sing), let it gooo. Let go of the unimportant. If it is not going to matter tomorrow, it does not matter today.
  6. Talk it out. I see many individuals who internalize resentment and miscommunication. Not only does that damage you, but it damages your important relationships. If there is an issue, use your words. Talk through it with your partner. If you find this process to be overwhelmingly difficult, contact me today and we can make a plan to improve your communication skills. I can assure you that learning to talk through conflict will improve many aspect of your life–not just your relationships!
  7. Express love. This seems obvious, but it is one of those small things that disappears after the dating days have bled into the rituals and responsibilities of married life. There are countless ways to show love and this will vary according to how each individual receives love (I highly recommend referring to the 5 Love Languages to understand how you can personalize your demonstrations of love for your partner). Whether it is affirming words, acts of service, quality time, gifts, or physical touch, find what speaks to your spouse and show your love for your spouse regularly.

These seven steps are incredibly simple, but amazingly effective. If you practice mindfulness, recommit daily, be playful, work on your relationship, let go of the small stuff, use your words, and show love, your relationship can weather the storms of life. When times get tough and you feel tempted to throw in the towel, remember that no relationship is perfect and that it takes great time and effort to build a lifelong, successful relationship. If you find that you and your partner need a little coaching to get on the right path, book a session with me today. With consistent work and focus, your relationship can be like Gordon and Marjorie; you and your partner could some day be the couple that others look at with admiration and strive to emulate.

Psychology Today: “7 Secrets to a Successful Relationship”
Gary Chapman: The 5 Love Languages

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Melissa Cluff, MS, LMFT, CSAT

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.