To a degree, all of us married folks fear that our relationships won’t last for one or more reasons. While the divorce rate is dropping in the United States, we can’t be sure we’re out of the danger zone. With over 700,000 divorces in the U.S. in 2018, it’s still a major threat to marital bliss. This discussion begs the question: which factors, exactly, lead to a failed relationship in modern times? According to a 2013 study, the top reasons are a lack of commitment, infidelity, excessive conflict and arguing, getting married too young, and lack of support from extended family.
The fact is, though, those aren’t the only existing reasons for divorce. You and your spouse probably have unique pet peeves that might eventually lead to wear and tear in the relationship. For instance, you might feel as if the old connection both of you had is fading away. Or maybe, they no longer seem to make enough time for you. You may also be preemptively terrified about them losing interest for you out of the blue.
Eventually, your head becomes filled with negative automatic thoughts, such as: “what if they want to leave me, but haven’t figured out a way to tell me?”, or simply “what if they just don’t love me anymore?” You start thinking you’re no longer able to sustain a healthy relationship after so many years. At least not without your spouse’s support. Don’t fear, because your willingness to change can go a long way, and shows strong potential for saving your relationship, if that’s what you want. What’s your next step, then? The good news is that there are several things you can do, and they go beyond spicing things up in the bedroom.
Plan a getaway.
It’s a good idea to get away from your children and other family members for a while. Finding a safe place where the two of you can enjoy each other’s company without the stressors of your routine is a great way to strengthen your bond. Science is here to back this up: in a survey with 1,000 couples, 63 percent of them claimed that traveling has buttressed their relationship for a lot of reasons. For example, couples who often travel together tend to have better sexual relationships. Travel also fortifies a couple’s problem-solving abilities, especially if they’re somewhere foreign and only have each other to turn to in challenging situations, and it often gives a couple something exciting to look forward to. New airs, new places, new opportunities. This reassures them they won’t always be stuck in the same old routine for too long.
When planning a little getaway, try and find places you’ve never been to before, instead of Aunt Sally’s house you visit every Christmas. The goal here is to break free from sameness. Have you ever gone on a boat tour? If not, that’s a great idea for a couple’s adventure .
What you’re looking for is golden sand, breathtaking cliffs and sea caves, going kayaking (even if you’ve never done it before), kissing by the sea at low tide, basking in sunlight. You’re looking for somewhere similar to a cave beach in Portugal—such as the Benagil cave—but anywhere with a similar vibe will do just as well, as long as the two of you are alone in a new and exciting place.
Relive old memories.
What was your favorite thing to do together in the good old days? Stargazing on the car? Going out to dance, getting drunk, and then coming home to some heated lovemaking? Whatever that was, reliving sweet old memories is a proven way to increase intimacy between a couple. Whether you’re in a relatively new relationship or one that’s decades old, it’s always good to remember why you love each other every now and again.
Psychologists Susan Osgarby and Kim Halford, from the University of Queensland, tested what they called “positive reminiscence” with two sets of couples, each set having over 20 couples. They found that, for some of the couples, even sad recollections (such as those of disease and death) were fondly discussed. Reminiscing with your partner is simple. You don’t have to go all out to the point of partying with a bunch of kids when you’re in your 50s. There are softer and more accessible ways to do it, and they work just as well.
Consider looking at old photos together. Your older photos are likely scattered among picture albums, high school yearbooks, laptops, camera rolls from mobile devices, and social media accounts. You also have those folders in your computer with images you’ve probably titled “Christmas_2008_.jpeg” or something similar. What was the last time you looked at those?
If you feel like rebuilding your “memory box” of videos and photographs, a digital picture storage device is like a handy time machine to store photos in. It’ll collect all of your media from different devices and put them all in one place. It acts as a personal cloud that makes room for all your memories. All it takes is a mobile app download. The capacity of such device is one terabyte, which holds over 200,000 pictures. That’s a whole lot of storage space, if you’re serious about reminiscing.
You probably have that one song you danced to at prom. Play it while caressing your beloved, or dance to it again in an empty room at home. Play the tunes you used to blast when road-tripping, and let the good memories flood in. To make things easier, you can make a playlist with the oldies, and you’ll always have something to remember.
Avoid talking in negatives. Don’t talk about how you hated Dave’s haircut back in high school. Don’t ruin the moment talking about how “those days won’t ever come back”. Remember the laughs, the love, and the positive aspects, and let your sweetheart comment on they. If they, for some reason, strat talking negatively about a certain memory, change the subject to avoid conflict.
Try couples therapy.
Couples therapy has a bad reputation of only being for those relationships that are hanging by a thread, but that’s not true. Several healthy couples go to therapy to better understand themselves, each other, and make a combined effort to make the marriage last. They aren’t necessarily unhappy with their life together, they just understand that the outside perspective of a psychologist can help them refocus.
For example, a cognitive behavioral therapist is licensed to treat more than just anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can solve more specific problems and add great insight into your relationship. A psychotherapist or clinical psychologist will work with both of you to solve issues like improper communication, loss of interest for each other, accepting each other’s differences and flaws, and learning that relationships are never one-sided.
It’s a healthy intervention from a psychologist, who will be seeing the relationship from outside and coming up with solutions that were probably under the couple’s nose the whole time. Before you mention therapy to your partner, remember this: effective treatment requires that both of you work hard, so talk it through for as long as necessary. The only way through the healing process is acceptance. From both sides.
Don’t cheat. Ever.
Resentment, insomnia, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), vulnerability, sadness, insecurity. These are just a few consequences of betrayal and infidelity. Learning how to trust again after infidelity can be a major challenge, thanks to all the chaos it evokes in someone’s life. As you’ve seen in the beginning of this article, infidelity is among the most common reasons for marriage failure.
The worst part about it is that cheaters may relapse and hurt their partner a second or third time. Gladly, not all cheaters may cheat again. In the words of clinical counselor Karla Ivankovich, PhD: “There is a greater likelihood that a cheater will not cheat again if they do the work to find out why they cheated, recognize the gravity of their actions, and then take the responsibility and time to heal that part of themselves.”
In this case, making a concentrated effort to study and fix past mistakes hurts less than that stabbing remorse the next day, or the next remaining days of your life after you’ve cheated. For the sake of your relationship, avoid cheating at all costs. If, for psychological reasons you can’t avoid it, seek help.
On a final note, marriages can last despite the peaks and valleys of a relationship. If you’re still reading, know that long term happiness and quality of life with your significant other is worth fighting for. While it’s a lot of work, marriage is a commitment and can bring so much joy.