*This was first posted on her blog.
I made an analysis of 10 Rules of Marriage that I found on the internet recently and several requests came in on more proactive and positive rules for couples to abide by.
Based on what I understand and practice as a relationship expert, I came up with Winifred’s 10 “rules” that I hope will encourage you to invest in your marriage or relationship. These rules are derived from the principles used in Gottman Method Couples Therapy as well as Applied Positive Psychology that I am skilled in.
While I call them rules, they are not cast in stone. Pick and decide with your partner on which rules that are most relevant to your current stage of relationship. Let’s dive in and look at each of them.
- Be a safe harbour to each other
What this means is that you will be the person that your partner will turn to for connection, support, comfort and love. There is intimacy and closeness that you can be your real and authentic self. You also prioritise each other when you make decisions. For this safe harbour to be strong, you make effort to safeguard the relationship by setting clear boundaries on rules of engagement with the opposite sex. You don’t take the marriage for granted. For couples who share the same faith, pray and grow your faith together.
- Adopt a growth mindset
Be willing to learn and change, recognising that there are skills that each of you can learn to deepen your relationship and connection. Instead of seeing your partner from your own perspective and being fixed on it, entertain the possibility of discovering new things about each other. Continue to work on being the best version of yourself for each other. Cultivate self-awareness so that you can continue to reveal your true self to your partner.
- Listen, summarise and validate
The first rule in listening to each other is that you’re not talking at the same time! I observe this a lot in my couples. After a while, both persons are talking at the same time and no one is listening. Always take turns to speak. To ensure that you are truly listening, make sure that you are able to summarise and validate the point or position of your partner to his/her satisfaction. Always check to see if you’ve heard each other’s side of the story correctly. This is the foundation of communication.
- Practice gratitude
Much research has shown the importance of gratitude not only in the formation of a new relationship but also in the successful maintenance of these intimate bonds. Additionally, the experience of gratitude enables one to feel closer to your partner and leads to a greater satisfaction in the relationship. When you are grateful for your relationship, you’re less likely to compare yourself with someone else. Learning to focus on what is good in your partner and the relationship will fortify and deepen the relationship. Verbalise your gratitude to your partner frequently to lessen the feeling of being underappreciated.
- Do small things often
It is more important to show your care and love through tangible actions frequently rather than doing a grand gesture once or twice a year on special occasions. When you do small acts of service and/love to your partner by sending a message to encourage him or her on a challenging day or to share in the joy of small wins, you strengthen the emotional connection between the two of you. Identify your partner’s love language and show your love accordingly in a way that he/she can receive and appreciate. Express your thanks regularly, affirm the virtues you admire in him or her and be willing to apologise first to repair any regrettable incidence.
- Build a healthy love bank
A love bank is a collection of what makes you feel connected, cared for and valued by your partner. The concept is similar to a normal bank where there is deposit and withdrawal. When you build more positive interactions with your partner, your emotional love bank account is flourishing. You feel safe and secure. Even if you have a “withdrawal” (for example, a small argument), it doesn’t feel too threatening. You know that you have sufficient amount in there that it won’t end up in the red. When you notice that your partner or you are getting more annoyed and easily triggered, chances are there is an overdraft. Pay attention to it and put in effort to increase the emotional connection. Ways to increase your love bank include understanding your partner’s inner world, showing fondness and admiration, and turning towards his or her bid of connection. Repeat #3, #4 and #5. Be mindful not to turn this into a game of reciprocity where comparison is made on who’s done more.
- Approach conflict with curiosity
Conflict regulation skill is critical to the success of a relationship. Differences that are addressed adequately are less likely to snowball into massive conflict. When you find yourself in a different position from that of your partner, be curious to ask questions about his or her position so that you can deepen your understanding of your partner. What happens more often than not is an assumption is made that your partner is being oppositional or disagreeable to make your life difficult. This perception is detrimental as you begin to assume the worst in each other. Those who are conflict avoidant often find it challenging to regulate their own emotions and the emotions of their partner during conflict. It’s important for them to learn the skill to call for a break so that they can self-soothe before continuing with the emotionally charged conversation. When you are curious and re-frame conflict as an opportunity to deepen your understanding of each other, it becomes less daunting.
- Be playful and laugh a lot
Recall the time when you first got together: there were easy conversations, plenty of laughter and fun. As you progress in the different stages of relationship, the responsibility and burden will increase. As such it is easy to slip into a routine and forget about having fun together. Cultivate and utilise your sense of humour as it is a good way to connect with your partner and to lift the mood when the going gets tough. Watch comedy, share jokes and funny stories so that you can laugh together. If you have kids, laugh with them too. Life is hard and it will be more severe when we take everything too seriously.
- Support each other’s dreams
Couples who decide to be committed and marry each other usually have a dream in mind. When you are not intentional in having such an important conversation with your partner, it is easy to be consumed by the day-to-day tasks and activities that you forget the big picture. Take time to find out your partner’s dream regularly. Initiate such conversation when you’d like to take a new direction in your life. You can enhance your relationship by creating shared meaning and dreams. Common ones include building a family and home together, finding a cause that’s meaningful for you to support, creating impact through the work that you do either professionally or in the community you serve. Discussion of such dreams is important as it will affect the decisions that you make as a couple and family.
- Accept influence and compromise
It is impossible to always find an agreement between two individuals and so being able to accept influence and compromise is key to the success of the relationship. Accepting influence is about developing your ability to find a point of agreement in your partner’s position. It is not about insisting that you’re right or finding evidence that your partner is wrong all the time. In accepting influence, it doesn’t mean that you need to change into someone you are not. You need to have a good sense of who you are at your core, and be sure to protect it so that you are not coerced into becoming someone else. If you make the decision to be the person that your partner needs you to be, accept your responsibility for that decision rather than blaming it on your partner. The challenge in accepting influence is really about relinquishing your control and preference some of the time to prioritise the needs of your partner.
I’d really love to hear what you think of these “rules” and which might be the ones that you will focus on cultivating and practicing. Feel free to email me should you have any questions on these. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Should you find this helpful, please feel free to share it with everyone you know. You have my permission to share it. Thank you for your kind gesture in sharing.