My grandparents were married for 58 years before my grandfather passed away 8 years ago, and my grandmother a year after that. They were happy for every single one of them.
Their secret was that they never stopped learning, growing, and evolving, even when they were already happy. If there is ever a love that I hope to emulate, it would be theirs.
It’s a lovely thing to be in a committed and healthy relationship. This is how my grandparents were able to survive 58 years together, and how you can too.
Make Time to Communicate
When the going gets tough, it is easy to find yourself judging your partner’s behavior. After all, it’s human nature to assume the worst. But what this does is create a toxic and hostile environment that can ruin the relationship.
According to 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships, “couples who shared their innermost thoughts were 62 percent more likely to describe their marriage as happy.”
Rather than undermine each other, make the effort to communicate with your partner. Try opening up, ask some questions, and show your support. Maybe see if there’s anything you can give them — like a hug, or a space to think.
The minute you see things from their point of view is the minute you form a new level of understanding, patience, and love in your relationship.
Research also suggests that “how we support people during good times, more than bad times, affects the quality of a relationship.” This is because relationships thrive on positive things.
“Celebrating your partner’s successes turns out to be pretty important. When things go badly and you provide support, it doesn’t make the relationship good, but it keeps it from getting bad. Whereas if things are going okay and your partner has something good happen and you celebrate it sincerely, you’re doing something that can make a relationship even better.”
Focus on Humility
The key to a healthy relationship is by keeping your ego in check. Humble partners know when to stand their ground, and when to back away. Sometimes, it is better to just forgive and move forward.
Choosing to forgive your partner for something they have done can be empowering. A study found that partners who were quick to forgive also reported higher levels of commitment and effort to maintain the relationship.
In other words, it pays to be less self-centered and more focused on your partner. The next time that they do something wrong, catch your breath and forgive them. Being humble doesn’t mean that you let them off the hook. It just means that you value your relationship more than winning an argument.
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
— Marcel Proust
Feeling grateful is one thing, but telling it is another. I learned this the hard way when my partner asked me out of nowhere if I was grateful for our relationship. I was more than surprised. I always felt grateful, but he was able to perceive it differently.
When it comes to building successful relationships, going the extra mile to express your gratitude is important. In fact, a study found that saying “I’m grateful” can help people “savor positive experiences,” “cope with stressful circumstances” and “strengthen relationships.”
However, gratitude is more than saying thank you for cooking dinner. It is about appreciating who your partner is as a person. You’re not just thankful that they cooked you dinner — you’re thankful that they were thoughtful enough to cook the steak how you like it.
Gratitude includes thinking about all of your partner’s best traits and remembering why you love them in the first place.
Don’t Act Out Projections
If you have intense feelings of jealousy or anger in your relationship, then it is important to think about their source.
Is your partner really refusing to spend time with you, or are you distorting reality? Do you have a critical inner voice that whispers unfounded claims like, “He is cheating on you! Why would he want to be with you anyway?” Is it really a bad relationship or are you just projecting?
Most of the time, you just may be projecting these things onto your partner based on your history.
The thing to remember is: Everybody does it. It’s human and serves as a defense against threats to our ego. However, choosing to continuously do it can prove to be destructive.
When your reactions are intense and they don’t fit the situation, catch yourself and disengage slowly. Your partner is not any of the things your head is telling you.
In any circumstance, you can choose to be defined by your past, or you can choose to be the loving person that you would want to be.
Be Kind to Yourself
“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.”
— Oscar Wilde
To be the best partner you can be, start by being kind to yourself.
A growing body of research has shown that self-compassion provides positive effects on your well-being, including greater life satisfaction, emotional intelligence, and interconnectedness with others, wisdom, curiosity, happiness, and optimism.
Furthermore, scientific evidence proves that it is the foundation for a healthy partnership and that it predicts the types of behaviors such as offering care and concern for a partner.
When you work on yourself, it benefits your relationship. Think about it. How can you start being kind to others when you don’t even know how to be kind to yourself?
Being loving in these ways is easier said than done. It can leave you feeling vulnerable and anxious, and you may get hurt because of it.
With that said, an everyday effort by one partner can potentially influence the other partner’s thoughts and feelings. But an ongoing effort from both partners — one that addresses the needs of each other — can help flourish the relationship entirely.