The most notable thing about successful relationships is that the couple knows their relationship needs work. Each partner is constantly seeking ways to improve and be in tune with one another…. and it doesn’t feel like a chore.
But how do you know if your relationship shares the same strong characteristics as “the pros”? How do you know if you’re in a successful relationship?
In this post, we’ll discuss 4 qualities that are common among the most satisfying relationships.
Genuinely having a care or concern for your partner’s interests helps to improve levels of satisfaction in a relationship. According to my favorite marriage guru, Dr. John Gottman, couples who have a shared interest or engage in a shared activity regularly, are happier.
There’s a myth many people believe that says you have to have the same interests as your partner in order to have a successful relationship, however, this is not actually true. What really matters is taking an interest in your spouse’s interests, even if you don’t like them yourself.
Does this mean you now need to become an expert in her all-time favorite activity, underwater-basket-weaving??
No, of course not.
But, at least being willing to weave some baskets and participate along side her from time to time (without complaining) signals that you’re interested in her as a person. It signals that you genuinely care about her and what interests her.
Reflect for a moment on the activities you share with your spouse… What do you do together in your spare time?
When the next opportunity arises, consider spending time engaging in one another’s activities. You’d be surprised at how much fun a new experience (basket weaving or otherwise) can be and how quickly it can bring two people together.
Did he crush that presentation he worked so hard on? Did she land the biggest client at the firm? Did he improve Johnny’s swing in time for the little league game? Did she reorganize the garage in 1 day?
Whatever it is, are you aware of the times when your spouse is excited about an achievement? If so, what is your reaction during those moments?
The “relationship pros” are not only aware of when their partners are happy but they celebrate all of those successes with them.
Don’t just wait until times are tough to step up to the plate and prove how great of a partner you are. If you can acknowledge and appreciate the mini wins that your partner finds important. They will feel confident in the relationship. They will know you’re their biggest cheerleader and your support will go a long way (even if you think it’s seemingly meaningless).
Picture this: A wife comes home from work and says, “I had the conversation with my cube-mate… it went much better than I thought it would.” If her husband responds by saying:
A – “That’s great, Honey.” In a monotone voice, while reading the newspaper (never looking up from the paper).
B – “That’s great, Honey! I knew you could do it! Now you can work with less distractions!” Put’s down the paper (maybe even stands up), looks her in the eye, and uses an excited and celebratory tone.
Which scenario do you think conveys more of a sense of shared joy? A or B?
Hopefully, you’re thinking B! (If not, we have more to talk about)…
There are so many instances throughout a marriage in which partners can choose to engage and strengthen the bond in their relationship. Don’t assume a small moment can’t have a significant impact.
In fact, take one minute right now (yes, I mean now) and think of 5 upcoming opportunities to potentially share joy with your spouse. This way, you’ll be ready when the exact moment arises.
Shared joy is one free, simple opportunity to turn off the tv, put down the phone or the paper, and become a relationship pro.
Plus, it’s fun too. Who doesn’t love to celebrate?
Which reminds me of the next tip…
Celebrate What’s Right In the Relationship
One of the couples I once worked with would come in week after week and want to discuss all the aspects of their relationship that needed improvement. They would begin each session with a litany of “what went wrong” over the previous week and how a particular situation bothered them.
I began to redirect the conversation to focus on what went well in their relationship.
“I mean… isn’t that what you do in counseling? Talk about your problems?” (inner monologue)
If that couple spent too much time focusing on the negative, it would eventually become all they saw and they would begin to question the solidity of their relationship.
The next time you become irritated by something your partner does (or doesn’t do), instead of dwelling on that, think about 2 things you appreciate about him or her.
When you’re feeling perturbed, going through that list of mistakes in your mind, thinking to yourself, “Of course he would put the dirty dishes on the counter… again,” “There she’s goes, not valuing my opinion… like always”, try to catch yourself in the moment.
Once you catch yourself, counteract that negativity with 2 things you’ve noticed they’ve done well in the past few days. It will be challenging to do at first if you haven’t made a habit out of it, but once you’ve been able to catch yourself 2 or 3 times, it will become easier and feel more natural.
If you want to take it one step further and “Go Pro”, you might even share with your spouse what it is you appreciate about them when you notice it. A simple, “Thank you for cutting the grass yesterday,” could be all it takes.
Remember It May Be You!
This is a continuation of the previous point. It’s so easy to notice what others do wrong, isn’t it? After all, you have really contributed so much to the relationship and to the household. It’s about darn time someone pulls their weight!
… hold up…
Before you get too far down that rabbit hole, let’s take a quick minute to think about how you contributed to the situation. What parts are you responsible for?
Did you also raise your voice during the last argument? Did you ever forget to pick up an item from the grocery store (or pick up the wrong item)? Are you angry because he hasn’t taken out the trash and all it takes is 2 minutes for you to do it yourself?
The old saying applies here, “When you point fingers, remember there are 3 pointing back at you.”
Before you climb onto your high horse, take a quick moment to contemplate how you might be causing the problem rather than your partner.
When emotions are high, it’s easy to look at situations with blinders on. Our focus becomes very narrow and we forget to take a broader view. If you can take a step back and take responsibility for those areas where you were not perfect, that is the ultimate pro level characteristic.
When you notice yourself attributing blame, step back and ask yourself, “Is it me? What did I do to contribute to this situation?”. Relationship pros are able to be honest with themselves. If you can do this, you will join the ranks of satisfied couples who seek ways to improve their relationship.
The more (little by little) you’re able to commit to this, the more you will continue to notice improvements and make everyone jealous of your super hot relationship.
Focus on these 4 qualities and see if you notice a change in your relationship. Which one do you want to focus on first?