As a mental health/psychology enthusiast, I like to share jargon-free lessons from experience, research, observation, and lots of reading.
Often, people get into relationships hoping for a long-lasting, happy union. However, it is not a simple thing to achieve as there are obstacles you face when two people from different backgrounds and possibly different views of life come together in marriage.
Divorce rates are high because people are not happy in their marriages. Because of the weak relationships, a profession of “relationship expert” has become lucrative career for many. Some with academic research to back up their expertise and others armed with nothing but just their opinions of what to do to achieve happiness in a relationship.
In a previous relationship, we did not have a firm foundation of friendship, and I used to expect him to always be there for me as a friend would. I would try to make his interests and hobbies my own. He would decide on matters affecting both of us without consulting me, and when conflicts arose, we would argue and he would threaten me with a breakup. I was not happy and eventually, the weak foundations crumbled.
I met someone who made me realize why it didn’t work out with the previous one. We are great friends; we respect each other and can have hard conversations with respect. We work as a team rather than as competitors or as a boss and an employee.
I think a happy marriage involves being with someone with whom you feel at peace. Someone who is good for your mental health and respects you as a fellow human being. just two adults supporting each other in life and making a life together without emotional or physical abuse.
How to Maintain a Strong Relationship
What can help you maintain a happy marriage? Remember, happiness does not mean that there will be periods of calm with no disagreement or getting mad at each other. Rather the calm periods are significantly more than the tough ones. You both feel comfortable and safe in the relationship and enjoy being partners.
It takes the effort of both partners to maintain a relationship. See the following tips about what both of you can do to improve happiness and satisfaction in your relationship.
1. Cultivate genuine friendship.
Friends care for each other, and they have affection and admiration for one another. Being your spouse’s friend and your spouse being your friend is an essential foundation for building the relationship.
Lasting marriages are made by true friends. Having a strong friendship increases your chances of contentment and satisfaction in your marriage. Genuine friends are sensitive to one another, good listeners, and share in your joys and pains. And you do not harm each other but look for the best interests of your relationship.
A relationship without friendship is like building a house without a foundation. It will not last long and will be a waste of time and resources. Friendship is better developed before you commit to each other in marriage. If you cannot be friends, then it means you are not suitable for each other.
You commit to your partner at a healthy level, not too much or less than your partner. A happy union is not a business and no one is the boss with more benefits than the other, but a healthy friendship in which everyone benefits.
2. Have friends together or separately.
Allow your spouse to have a social life apart from you. Let them have their friends and not expect them to have only you as a friend. Human beings have social needs, and you cannot fulfill this need as one person. It’s important to have other friends and take some space away from each other.
Do not depend on your partner’s friendship only because maybe you have different interests that he or she cannot pursue with you. As you grow in marriage, you might have the same friends, eventually. Friends can be a great support system when you are going through tough times in life.
Some people isolate their spouses from the world because of feeling insecure or simply a form of power play. This is a recipe for unhappiness in a relationship, as you are infringing on your spouse’s need for a social relationship. However, when your spouse warns you about a friend of yours, remember you two are friends first, so consider your relationship when choosing friends, so that external influences do not become your downfall.
3. Spend quality time together.
Relationships are not built by staying away from each other deliberately. You need to spend time together, even if you have busy schedules or children to take care of. Spending time together doing something that you both enjoy encourages positive interactions and helps to resolve conflicts.
You build your friendship if you schedule a time to be together with your spouse and enjoy leisure time where your full attention is directed at them. In situations where it is unavoidable for you to be apart for some time, maybe because of work, always keep in touch with your partner and schedule your time to be there for them when they come back.
One of the expected ways of spending time with your partner is sex, but it’s not the only way. What you do is not as important but how you do it. Do you do it like a duty, begrudgingly, or do you do it to enjoy your presence together as a couple? The time spent together is to enhance your bond, so be present for your partner.
4. Cultivate true teamwork.
You will develop trust in your partner when you are consistent in showing care and concern for one another and working to build a relationship with both of you with nearly the same effort.
Teamwork means that no one in the relationship is trying to prove that they have more power than the other in the relationship. You do not control each other as if they are puppets and not people. Instead, you work together to build a happy relationship.
When only one partner is interested in the well-being of a relationship, it causes strain in the marriage. Both of you need to be in it and make sure you have similar relationship goals. A happy relationship doesn’t feel like a battleground or competition, but a place of support and partnership.
What do you do when your partner comes home in the evening after a rough day? Do you ignore them and demand they meet your needs when they are in that state or would you empathize and be there for them even if they don’t feel like doing what you expect of them? Will you be too busy to set aside some time and embrace your partner?
When one of you has a personal problem, it is no longer just the individual’s issue, but a problem that affects both of you. You do what you do because you want to, not as if they are your boss and you got to do it to just make them happy.
5. Deal with the underlying reasons for conflict.
To solve conflicts better, you must address the underlying deeper issues that lead to the conflict instead of the surface conflicts such as personality traits. Every couple is a unique pair with its unique issues. However, most relationship conflicts arise because of unmet expectations, perhaps concerning household chores, external influence from family or friends, financial management, and sexual satisfaction.
Every couple is a unique pair with its unique issues. Be specific about your issues and not vague about them while holding resentment for your partner. For instance, your partner may have a different attachment style from yours and you will have arguments about the same things repeatedly if you do not understand where your spouse is coming from.
Maybe you like to be romantic with your partner in public, but they are uncomfortable with that. How would you resolve this? Instead of jumping to conclusions, know what makes your partner behave like that and figure out other ways to express your affection that you will both be comfortable.
6. Deal with stress without hurting your partner.
How you deal with stress in life affects your behavior when in a romantic relationship. Whether the stress has nothing to do with your partner but from other sources, like say dealing with grief, a serious illness in the family, or loss of income. If you do not deal with stress properly, it can impair your relationship.
Therefore, stress management is a crucial factor in maintaining a solid relationship. Stress affects you both psychologically and physiologically. When stressed, it is easy to say hurtful words to your partner or lose interest in sex, which is a key element in marriage. Stress affects your body in several ways, including increasing your heart rate, which then impairs your cognitive functioning, affecting your appetite for food and sex.
You need to learn to calm down first before you can say or act in a way that will affect your relationship negatively. Also, it’s good to be observant and know when your partner is stressed and be compassionate with them instead of aggravating their stress by choosing when they are stressed to bring up hard conversations that will cause conflict.
7. Focus on your shared values.
You are two different people with different upbringing and experiences, therefore you will not be aligned in thought toward everything. However, you need to share values that shape your decisions otherwise you will always be in fight mode.
I thought people were being judgmental when they advised me not to get into a relationship with someone who did not share my values. I thought if we understood each other and agreed on our goals, it would not matter. But he did not hold the same view. According to him since I was the woman I was automatically supposed to move to his line of thought. But that was not my worldview, and it was a source of constant conflict with him feeling disrespected and I felt disregarded. The expectations we had because of our different values were the root of all arguments and frustration in that relationship. I accepted him as he was, but he wanted to change me, to suit his expectations by force. Our values were not aligned. I thought we could work out; he thought we could work if I changed my faith for him.
You have to share a worldview about how you want your relationship to work and lifestyle. Having the same vision for your relationship makes couples who have different interests in life maintain a happy marriage because they have a shared primary vision.
8. Be grateful for each other.
Gratitude is a valuable asset in marriages. A relationship in which the two are grateful for each other makes the partners more optimistic about their partnership. They are positive about problem-solving strategies in times of conflict and reap more satisfaction from the relationship.
You want to feel more positive than negative emotions in your relationship to be satisfying. The more you stay together while practicing gratitude for your partner and the relationship you have, the more positive emotions will increase.
When you are grateful toward your partner and it’s reciprocated, you improve your connection and you both will be content with your relationship.
© 2021 Centfie
Centfie (author) from Kenya on April 24, 2021:
Thanks, Everline. I appreciate your comment so much.
Eve Nandwa from Nairobi on April 24, 2021:
Great advice. number 5 has always been an issue to many. Most of us pretend all is well and sweep the conflict under the carpet, forgetting they are slowly piling up.
Centfie (author) from Kenya on April 23, 2021:
Dora Weithers, I am always grateful for your comments. Thanks too
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 23, 2021:
You gave good advice. Numbers 3 and 8 are mr favorites. Thank you.