So, you’ve met someone special and you’re ready to start a relationship together. Now comes the hard part.
Yes, ‘positive dating’ is an essential part of finding your special someone. But if your relationship skills aren’t up to par, it might all be for naught.
Here’s 11 things people in successful relationships do every day to make their relationships grow stronger over time. Hint: you should do this too!:
1. They ask for help: when you ask for help several things happen. You implicitly show you respect the person giving the advice. You show you respect that person’s experience, skill, and insight. And you show you trust that other person, since by asking for help you’ve made yourself vulnerable. While it’s relatively easy to ask for help with something practical, it’s harder to ask when the help you need is personal. People who want a successful marriage are willing to ask for help, both because they need help and because they realize their partner will in turn receive a lot in return in terms of self-respect, self-esteem, and self-worth. They get to know they made a difference in your life, which we all love to feel.
2. They’re patient: showing patience is an extraordinary way to let people know we truly care about them. Showing patience–which is another way to show genuine confidence in the other person–is an extraordinary way to let your spouse know you truly believe in him or her. Showing patience is an incredible gift–because, ultimately, it shows how much you care.
3. They set a great example: researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that people with relatively prudent and reliable partners tend to perform better at work, earning more promotions, making more money, and feeling more satisfied with their jobs. That’s true for men and women: “Partner conscientiousness” predicted future job satisfaction, income, and likelihood of promotion, even after factoring in the participants’ level of conscientiousness.
4. They compliment, they recognize, and they praise: we all do some things well. We all have at least a few strengths, a few good qualities, a few positive traits…and that’s why we all deserve praise and appreciation. Think of it this way: It’s easy to recognize great employees; after all, they do great things. But it’s very possible that consistent praise is one of the reasons they’ve become great. People who work to build a successful marriage sometimes see the good in their partners before they see it in themselves–and that can provide the spark that just might help their partners reach their true potential.
5. They allow space and privacy: everyone shares. Everyone Likes and tweets. Lives have increasingly become open books. Over time, we’ve started to feel we have the right to know more about others than we ever did before. That includes our spouses. But sometimes we don’t need to know. Sometimes the best gift we can give is the gift of privacy, of not asking, not prying–yet always being available if and when the other person does want or need to share. It’s not necessary to know in order to care.
6. They actively search for opportunities the other has missed: we all want to improve, to grow, to succeed…but sometimes we’re too deep in the trees to notice the forest. People working to build a successful marriage take the time to look for the opportunities their partner might have missed. They’re able to not only know your dreams but to help you work towards those dreams–and to help open doors that might otherwise have remained closed. They want you to succeed, because…
7. They find happiness in their partner’s success: great business teams win because their most talented members are willing to sacrifice to make others happy. Great teams are made up of employees who help each other, know their roles, set aside personal goals, and value team success over everything else. And that’s exactly how great marriages work. Every great entrepreneur answers the question, “Can you make the choice that your happiness will come from the success of others?” with a resounding “Yes!” So do people who want their spouse–and their marriage–to be successful.
8. They’re sincere and genuine: Lip service is easy to pay. Sometimes it’s harder to show sincere excitement when things go well. Sometimes it’s harder to show sincere appreciation for a thoughtful gesture, a kind word, or extra effort. Sometimes it’s harder to show sincere disappointment–with others, sure, but also with yourself. People who want a successful marriage openly celebrate. They openly empathize. They openly worry. In short, they’re openly human. Your spouse married a person. Be a person. Be the person you are.
9. They know that sometimes tough love is the best love: I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. We all want to be better than we are. Yet we all fall into habits, fall into patterns, develop blind spots…and that’s why we all need constructive feedback. That’s why we all need advice, guidance, and sometimes a swift kick in the pants. It’s easy to make a snarky comment. It’s easy to frown or smirk or look disappointed. It’s a lot tougher to say, especially to someone you care about, “I know you’re capable of a lot more.” Think about a time when someone told you what you least wanted to hear…and yet most needed to hear. You’ve never forgotten what that person said. It changed your life. Now go change your spouse’s life.
10. They weigh the personal against the practical: sometimes seeking professional success can impact the success of your marriage. Here’s an example: According to at least one study, if one spouse commutes longer than 45 minutes, that couple is 40 percent more likely to get divorced. (There are some caveats. If you’ve already spent five years or more commuting more than 45 minutes, then you’re only 1 percent more likely to get divorced than couples with short commutes. In all likelihood, that’s because you’ve worked through the practical and emotional issues involved. Plus, if one of you had a long commute before you started your relationship, then you’re also a lot less likely to get divorced than husbands or wives who start a long commute later in their relationship.) Just in practical terms, a long commute might not be worth it. According to another study, economists determined a 40 percent increase in pay is necessary to make an additional hour of commuting time pay off in terms of personal satisfaction and fulfillment. A few dollars an hour more won’t make you happy if you have to drive an extra hour every day to earn it. Factor that in with the potential cost to your relationship, and personal considerations could definitely outweigh practical advantages. People working to build a successful marriage always look at the big picture. Professional success is just one factor in the happiness equation. Make sure you look at every factor–especially the health of your marriage.
11. They build a shared sense of purpose: fulfillment is often found in becoming a part of something bigger. We all love to feel that special sense of teamwork and togetherness that turns a task into a quest, a group of individuals into a real team. We all look for that at work…but where we really need to feel it is at home. Together, create your own mission. Create your own vision. Decide where you want to go, together, and make a plan to get there together. Few things will make you feel more like a couple than being able to say, “We did that.” Go do that.