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LiVe Well

Seven Steps to Strengthen Your Marriage

By Elaine Hill

Dec 10, 2015

Seven Steps to Strengthen Your Marriage

The past 30 years of marital research has given us a wealth of valuable information on what strengthens marriage. If we gain an understanding of what works and commit to putting these ideas into action, we can significantly improve our chances of having a strong and enduring relationship with our spouse. The following are seven steps you can practice to strengthen your marriage today.

Get attached

Our western culture views independence as a virtue, but sadly this can sabotage our marriage relationships. Being attached to your partner is a reallygood thing! Dr. Sue Johnson, a psychologist and founder of Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT), has found that a secure attachment underlies the strongest relationships. When we believe our spouse is there for us and that we matter to our spouse, we will feel calm, connected, safe and empowered.

Respond sensitively

When couples have relationship problems, they’ve often experienced an emotional disconnect from their partner at key moments in their marriage. This may be characterized by negative cycles of criticism and anger. Instead of becoming defensive and missing our partner’s hurt, respond sensitively to each other’s needs.

World renowned marital stability therapist Dr. John Gottman and his team have discovered some more great tools that can help you build a strong marriage:

Nurture your fondness and admiration

You might feel driven to distraction by your partner’s personality flaws, but continue to treat them with honor and respect. Have regular dates and playtime together. It’s important not to problem solve on dates – that should be done during family planning meetings.

Turn towards each other instead of away

This is the best way to build your emotional bank account with each other. When times get tough, and they will, you can use stored savings of goodwill towards each other.

Let your partner influence you

Men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce than men who resist their wives’ influence. The research has found that when a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81% chance that the marriage will self-destruct.

Solve solvable problems

Recognize that you may not be able to solve every problem that comes your way. Here are some helpful steps in managing conflict that may come with problem solving:

  • Calm yourself
  • Take time to prepare your message
  • Use “I” rather than “you” statements with your spouse.  
  • Don’t go for the jugular when discussing problems – it’s just going to create more conflict or avoiding. 
  • If one or both of you find that you’re becoming overwhelmed as you talk, take a timeout.

Create shared meaning

An important goal in marriage is to create safetywhere we can share our feelings and convictions with each other. The more shared meaning we can find, the deeper, richer and more rewarding our relationship will be.

If you would like more information on how to strengthen your marriage, there are excellent resources available through counselors, churches, community groups and your local Employee Assistance offices. Here are some books that can help strengthen your relationship further:

  • “Hold me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson
  • “Seven Principles for making Marriage Work” by Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver
  • “Fighting for your Marriage” by Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley and Susan L. Blumberg
  • “Improve your Marriage without talking about it” by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny
  • “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman