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The online alternative to marriage counseling

How To Make A Relationship Last

How to Make a Relationship Last

First off, congratulations on finding your life partner! No matter how long you've know each other prior to your marriage, married life is a huge new adventure. The road ahead will not always be smooth. Life puts challenges in everyone’s path. However, that's what Power of Two is here for—to insure that you can face your shared challenges with cooperation and ever-growing love. Welcome to Marriage Drivers Ed.! Here you learn the skills you need to navigate your relationship safely and effectively as supportive teammates, as well as with fun and affection. Buckle up and read on to find out how to make a relationship last!

Step 1: Start off on the right road and with a good map

Knowing how to make a relationship last starts with the wedding. Relationship challenges often begin with the stresses of planning such a big event. This means it's a good time to set firm habits for communication in marriage that will last you a lifetime. 

Do you speak up about what you would like?  Do you listen to your partners’ preferences and give them equal weight with your own?  We call this bilateral listening. This is a two-part skill of voicing your own concerns and also listening to your partner’s perspective. Spouses' bilateral (two-sided) listening skills are strong predictors of the success they will experience at building a strong, loving, and lasting marriage partnership.  

Here’s an example. In choosing wedding-meal table centerpieces, you might say “What’s important to me is that the flowers match my bridesmaid dresses. White and yellow roses would be gorgeous.” Then your spouse speaks up and says, “My main concern is that we keep our expenses down for flowers. I’m glad to pay for a great band, but I can’t see spending a lot on the centerpieces. How about daisies?” With two-sided bilateral listening you might suggest, “It's true, roses can be pretty pricey. How about if we use mostly white daisies with a splash of yellow roses in each vase?” 

Tah dah! With bilateral listening the two of you have easily found a win-win solution! 

Step 2: Ration your passengers and their baggage

When you get married, chances are you're getting more than just a spouse. Getting off on the right foot with your in-laws will help your relations with them down the road.  Your partner's family provides a great resource network, the opportunity to travel, and a whole new batch of interesting people to know. 

At the same time, if conflicts arise with your or your partner’s parents, remember, you each chose to marry your spouse, but not to invite his or her whole family to every aspect of your life journey. The wedding marks the transition from the family who raised you into your new life together as a married couple. You are your own little family unit now, so keep your marriage about you and your spouse. Think about it this way: if you see a hitchhiker surrounded by baggage, pause long enough to give him the friendly help you can; just don't take him and his baggage with you. This car is for you and your spouse--plus potentially kids later on!

Here’s one other suggestion for managing parents and in-laws from psychologist William Doherty. In general, it’s best for you to manage your parents, and have your partner manage his or hers. From your many years of being their offspring, each of you has developed expertise in management of your own folks. Trust each other’s wisdom.

Step 3: Don't be afraid to ask for directions

It's not easy to admit you're lost. Still, if you sense that your marriage is starting to go down the wrong road or you feel like you're driving in circles, seek out help! Power of Two online relationship counseling is a great resource—inexpensive, available 24/7, no appointments or driving needed. This program is like a GPS system in your car. It can offer you directions for how to handle touchy situations right when you need them. No need to stop or to take detours—just let us help you to “recalculate,” and get your marriage back on track!

Step 4: Watch out for Warning Lights

A new car runs smoothly, looks fresh, and is a joy to ride in! Unfortunately, though, over time even the best of cars gradually develop quirks, need repairs, start to look ragged, and sometimes even break down completely. Likewise, in marriage, the love-focused honeymoon period gives way to the second stretch of the journey, which is dealing with your differences. The risk increases then that you will find yourselves slipping into negative habits like excessive self-sacrifice, selfishness, power struggles, or bickering.

While your marriage will change as you grow together, change needn’t be bad or frightening. Pay attention to how your "car" feels and sounds when it's at its best. As soon as you notice the bumps and clunks that indicate something is going wrong, get a tune up! Here at Po2 we assume that complaints, discomfort, boredom or fighting are not normal! On the contrary, they are signs that your partnership needs some speedy repairs. Fixing problems before they get serious is a key part of how to make a relationship last.

With loving attention you can keep your marriage, the vehicle for your life journey together, in top shape. With continual small increases in skills, you can insure that your partnership will collect only the happy wear and tear from challenges well-met and the loving memories from a lifetime of adventures you have shared together.

Step 5: Bon Voyage!

Quick, before you travel further, check out the activities at Power of Two Online for a roadmap for a great journey!


Questions? email us at [email protected].



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Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Health Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant 90-FE-0123.Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Department of Health and Human Servies, Administration for Children and Families.