Principles of a Happy Romantic Marriage

My wife and I have been married for more than 40 years, so I can draw from our personal marriage experience as well as my years of experience counseling couples to realize that in order for a relationship to last and prosper, both partners need to grasp and put these ideas into practice. In light of this, I want to use this summary of the principles to help you decide what, if anything, you can do to adopt and apply them in a way that will improve your relationship’s satisfaction and make it more likely to withstand life’s inevitable challenges.

What I call a Romantic Relationship is subject to the guidelines I lay out here. By this, I mean a partnership that prioritizes devotion and dedication to the other over other romantic relationships and include friendship, physical closeness, and a sense of exclusivity. The principles in question are specifically the following:

1. Take responsibility for your own happiness

You’ll find yourself pressuring your partner to make changes that will make you happier until you do this. This results in what’s commonly referred to as a “power struggle.” This conflict usually doesn’t resolve until both partners accept that no one else but themselves can truly make them happy. This is due to the fact that, if your brain is functioning normally, the emotional state known as happiness results from continuously choosing to think and act in ways that make you feel good, even in the face of situations that are “not ok!” Put another way, coming to the realization that my thoughts and responses to my partner’s actions and words determine my level of happiness or sadness rather than anything they say or do.

2. Take accountability

Assume accountability for the aspects of the relationship that you can influence, excluding addiction, abuse, or adultery. You give up all control over making things better in your relationship when you hold your partner responsible for its issues. This turns you into a victim who is dependent on your partner’s willingness to take the actions you ask of them in order to resolve your issues. This kind of thinking says that until your partner changes, nothing will get better. You are perpetually frustrated because you are unable to make your partner change. Regaining control over yourself and concentrating on becoming the person you want your partner to be will help you overcome this.

3. Make conscious efforts to bring peace into your relationship

Using the mindset of “What’s in it for my partner?” ask yourself the following questions on a regular basis: “What can I do today that will help my partner feel loved?” Understanding your partner’s “Love Language”—a term made popular by Gary Chapman—and using it or them frequently are necessary for this. If your spouse’s primary love language is “Acts of Service,” for instance, you can prepare to perform activities that your partner considers to be an act (or acts) of service consistently, preferably every day, as a way to show them how much you care.

It’s crucial to understand that when someone says, “I don’t love my partner anymore,” what they really mean is that they’ve made the decision to stop thinking of ways to express or show their partner their love. What can I say or do today to improve the peace in my relationship? is a second crucial question that connects to this idea. This inquiry serves as a gentle reminder that you possess the ability to create harmony or strife in your partnership.Conflict arises when someone communicates to win a dispute. On the other hand, peaceful communication usually results from listening and validating others even when you disagree.

4. Never show cruelty.

Disagreement is acceptable, but being rude is never acceptable! Recall that you have two options while debating: you can argue effectively or to be correct. Once more, even if you disagree with your partner’s viewpoint, you must validate them and listen intently to them. Active Listening is a successful listening strategy. To put it briefly, active listening means paying attention to what your partner is saying until you can honestly tell them that you understand them, and only then can you try to express your viewpoint.

5. Think positively about your relationship

Develop mental discipline that improves your feelings toward your partner. This principle is related to and affects all the other principles because your thoughts and beliefs are often the precursors to your actions. This is so that we can all learn to think in ways that increase or decrease our level of satisfaction with our relationships and lives. This is not to argue that you should try to think positively about the negative events in your life. It does, however, imply that, despite how challenging life may be, you may develop tranquil thought patterns. This theory is predicated on the notion that while there are many things in life that you cannot alter, you are able to alter how you react to them.

In light of this, the objective is to develop the ability to think positively about your partner rather than consistently feeling let down or angry. For instance, in the event that your partner fails to fulfill an obligation to you, you have two options: either you focus on peaceful thoughts such as “Oh well, I don’t always remember to do everything I say I will do (the unchanging truth for all humans),” or you become overwhelmed with the realization that your partner does not respect you and never follows through on commitments. Every thinking is an option. Though you might not be thrilled that your partner neglected to do anything, one way of thinking will probably make you angry, while the other will make you feel more sympathetic toward your partner and the circumstance. Usually, thinking in a way that makes you feel more sympathetic will result in a better, more sensible reaction. The idea that we are all repeatedly choosing our thoughts and how they shape our relationships and our feelings about them is crucial in this context.

6. Formulate a “Vision for Relationships”

The notion here is that happy couples somehow establish a shared and agreed upon picture of what they regard to be a truly rewarding relationship, whether that vision is written down or is merely discussed and agreed upon in some other informal fashion. Put differently, they are “on the same page” regarding their shared goals for their relationships, activities they want to do together and separately, goods they want to own, and people they want to surround themselves with. The following are some examples of items you could desire:

we live a life of meaning and purpose, we have an enjoyable sex life, we have lots of fun together, we have children and raise them to be secure and happy, we live close to our grown-up children, we attend a variety of activities together, we support each other in everything we do, we are faithful and committed to each other, we are loyal and never speak badly about each other, we resolve our conflicts peacefully, we are best friends, we stay physically fit and healthy, etc.

Once you’ve decided on the components of your vision—the things you want to do, acquire, or become—you may use them as benchmarks to assess whether the thoughts, words, or deeds you perform will advance your objectives and bring your vision to life. If not, you can adjust your course in a way that keeps you both moving in the direction of a contented, happy relationship.

7. Consider closeness

Physical intimacy, or the entire sexual component of a relationship, is what sets a love relationship apart from a friendship. You have a good risk of failing if one spouse chooses to overlook this aspect of the relationship for any reason. It’s critical that you and your partner have frank conversations about what your partner wants and doesn’t want in order to succeed in this area. Ideally, you take this action before to committing to anything long-term. I firmly advise you to seek professional assistance if you are having trouble figuring out what you both decide will be your own formula for wonderful sex that satisfies you both.

8. Steer clear of harmful behaviors

Keep an eye on things and take action to maintain your emotional and physical well-being. Happy, healthy, disciplined people build happy relationships. Before the partnership may become strong and healthy, it is imperative that any partner who suffers from an addiction or a gravely dysfunctional behavior—such as wrath, adultery, drug or alcohol abuse—handle these problems. Irrational thinking, whining, and the tendency to speak poorly of your partner when they are not present are a few relationship-damaging behaviors that are frequently disregarded in this context. These behaviors can be just as detrimental to a relationship over time, even though they aren’t usually seen as being quite as bad as drug addictions.

Again, there’s a lot more that can be said about how to start and maintain a good, healthy romantic relationship. These guidelines represent what I believe to be the better part of wisdom when it comes to living “happily ever after” with that one special someone in your life. My background is as a couples therapist and as a husband who is still with the “love of my life” after forty years of the inevitable challenges that come with raising a large family.

9. Focus less on what doesn’t work and more on what does.

I advise every couple I work with to develop the practice of asking one another, “What did I do or say today that made you feel more connected to me (or better about me and/or our relationship)?” at the end of the day. Because it gives each partner a greater idea of how to connect and enhance the positive sensations in the relationship, the response to this question is quite helpful. If this is done on a regular basis, both parties will eventually accumulate a wealth of useful knowledge regarding “what works” when it comes to enhancing their relationship. After you grasp this idea, you can start making deliberate plans to improve the connection by doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

10. Mend the harm that disputes have caused.

Repair attempts are what John Gottman, Ph.D., refers to as a couple’s “secret weapon” in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Anything a partner says or does to try to defuse a situation and keep a quarrel from getting out of hand is considered a repair attempt. My point is that when there is disagreement or upset, both parties in a good relationship usually start attempting to mend the harm that has been done. In my marriage, my spouse and I have decided that whenever one of us says or does something offensive, the other will always ask the “offender” to speak or do something to make up for their offense. My wife felt that I said something rude to her when we were at a QT recently.

My wife refused to start the car when we got in it to go. I exclaimed, “Lead the way, please!” My spouse declared, “Until you say what you said differently, I’m not going anywhere.” “Come on, I’m going to be late for my client,” I repeated. “What you said inside the store and the way you are talking to me right now are two things you have to fix,” she said. Knowing that she wouldn’t depart until I made a “repair attempt,” I apologized for the way I had spoken to you this morning and said it as politely as I could, even if on the inside I wasn’t feeling well. “Not good enough, I want you to say what you said in a kinder way,” she said. Once more, after realizing I was blocked, I made a much bigger effort to express my earlier thoughts in a more kind and considerate way. She then remarked, “Not good enough,” and we both started giggling uncontrollably. Among all the measures my spouse and I have taken to safeguard our forty-two-year marriage, I think that our readiness to make repairs and accept those that are made to us has contributed the most to our continued closeness.

11. Honor minor successes

It takes time and patience to establish a good, healthy, fulfilling romantic relationship. My spouse and I have faced several difficulties in our marriage, encompassing the strain that accompanies parenting a sizable family. By making time to celebrate our love and time together, we have managed to stay faithful and in love despite everything. This has meant regular “date nights” as well as “Staycations” and “Vacations” where we made the conscious decision to put all of life’s difficulties and difficulties aside in order to consciously concentrate on our love and having fun. If we hadn’t taken this action, we could still be together, but we would also have lost the passion and love that is so essential to all we value most—a passionate love that we fervently hope will endure forever!

Again, there’s a lot more that can be said about how to start and maintain a good, healthy romantic relationship. These 11 principles represent what I believe to be the better part of wisdom when it comes to living “happily ever after” with that one special someone in your life. My experience as a couples therapist and as a husband who is still with the “love of my life” after 40 years of marriage inform these guidelines.