Tools for Couples Happiness — 07 November 2010
How to create a happy long-term marriage

Why do some married couples live happily ever after, while others part or stay miserably together? The answers are many and complex. Yet, making a few decisions and adopting certain behaviors can improve the chances of attaining a successful long-term relationship.

Many research studies have focused on identifying personal attributes or mates’ trait compatibilities that facilitate a good marriage. Others sought to associate childhood relationship models and learned behaviors as keys to marital skills. Some relationship experts emphasize interpersonal tools for remediating unhealthy habits to increase relationship harmony.

Based on my professional and personal experiences, I have learned that relationship success is not based on ideally matched personalities, the absence of annoying behaviors or lack of positive relationship role models or skills. It appears to be based on held values and behavioral practices that anyone can choose to adopt.

The three most important factors associated with greater relationship success are: 1. Having an unwavering commitment to the partner and the marriage. 2. Valuing the mate in words and behavior. 3. Being consistently kind to your spouse.

1. Commitment to any special cause does not depend upon ease or convenience. It often requires determination, hard work and great personal sacrifice. The rewards are associated with the positive outcome to others, not personal benefits. The same applies to a marital commitment. It is the well-being of the partner, not oneself, that should take priority over all other considerations.

2. The “me” approach to marriage is an oxymoron. Marriage is about the “me” being secondary in the “we” to first considering “you.” When couples talk about having “grown apart,” they describe shifting their focus from each other toward self-centered quests. Regular affirmations of your mate’s worth through validating words and accommodating actions leads to shared love and intimacy.

3. Above all – be kind to your mate at all times. Even when you are hurt, annoyed, disappointed or even angry, remember that kindness is the root of expressed love and the essential core of your decency.

David Buss and Michael Barnes found in one of their studies titled, “Preferences in Human Mate Selection,” that both men and women identified kindness and consideration as the most important traits of a potential mate.

• Hold strong to your commitment to your worthy life partner, unless you encounter verbal/ physical abuse, resistance to dealing with addiction or repeated infidelity.
• Focus your attention on your partner, the same exceptional being you initially fell in love with and vowed to cherish. Value him/her daily in words and actions.
• Consider your mate’s needs first and foremost in every decision. This habit generates reciprocal respect by your spouse and creates a cooperative bond.
• Affirm your mate regularly since everyone is in love with being loved.
• Be consistently kind to your spouse, even when you are exceptionally stressed. Habitual kindness prevents or softens even the toughest bumps in relationships and creates a culture of love, stability, security and happiness.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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