Tips on how to keep a marriage fresh

The Daily Telegraph columnist Linda Blair gives her advice to couples going into a new relationship


The Daily Telegraph columnist Linda Blair gives her advice to couples going into a new relationship
When couples embark on a new relationship, they hope it will last forever.
Sadly, statistics show that for as many as half, this will not be the case.
Recent UK figures put the divorce rate at 42%, and the average length of a marriage at 11 years.
This is despite the vast amount of advice out there about how to make a relationship last.
Daniel Gottman, a leading psychologist in the field, offers excellent guidelines on how to have a successful partnership.
He urges couples to prioritise each other’s needs, to spend time apart as well as together, to listen fully to one another, and to be willing to compromise when solving problems.
Why, then, do so many of us still end up going through the painful process of separating?
The most likely explanation is that we’re living longer lives, during which we’re encouraged to assume a wide range of roles.
As a result, relationships today need to be more flexible than ever to accommodate these changing circumstances.
Not long ago, for example, most couples started a family soon after they married, and retired towards the end of their active lives, so their relationship almost always revolved around work and family.
Today, partners may establish independent careers, interests and friendships long before they have children – if they even choose to have them.
They can also expect many years of active life in retirement.
Yet, despite this, the deeply entrenched habits established at the outset of a relationship encourage couples to continue behaving towards one another just as they’ve always done.
When one partner reaches out for help and comfort, for example, the other responds just as they did when they were first together – even when those ways may no longer be helpful or even welcome.
How can you break this pattern?
Applying Gottman’s guidelines will help, of course, but the real secret is to set aside some times when you presuppose nothing about your partner.
Take turns asking each other out for a “date” and pretend while you’re out that you’ve only just met.
Ask each other what you love doing and what’s most important to you, and listen as if for the first time. Ask how you can help your partner fulfil their dreams.
You can also use what you’ve learned on your “dates” to find new common ground, things you’ve never worked on together but that could become a new adventure to share.
Just because you’ve lived with someone for years doesn’t mean you know them as well as you think – in fact, your presuppositions may even get in the way of really knowing them.
Be guided by Charles Dickens’s words in A Tale of Two Cities: “A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”
Linda Blair is a clinical psychologist and author of The Key to Calm (published by Hodder & Stoughton). – The Daily Telegraph..

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