How to make your marriage last

Date

Gregory Ramey

'All You Need is Love' may be one of the greatest songs written by the Beatles, but the premise is scientifically invalid, according to a study in the latest edition of Monitor on Psychology.

'All You Need is Love' may be one of the greatest songs written by the Beatles, but the premise is scientifically invalid, according to a study in the latest edition of Monitor on Psychology.

Work hard: People who stay married for a long time make a conscious effort at working at their relationships. They place their commitment to each other as a higher priority than work, hobbies and even their children. They know the best way to be a great parent is to be in a loving and long-lasting relationship.

Talk about things that matter: It's so easy to waste time talking about routine matters of work, family or chores. Happy couples talk about their dreams, fears, hopes and fantasies. They share very private and personal feelings and thus stay emotionally engaged with their partner. With a psychological security based on trust and communication, these couples can truly be themselves and experience that amazing feeling of being safe and accepted in another's presence.

Be nice: We all want to feel special, particularly from our lifelong partner. The experts have found that little things mean a lot in a relationship. Simple things such as a genuine compliment, a thoughtful surprise and special attention during tough times really matter. They reflect a caring and concern that mean a lot more than flowers once a year.

Celebrate life: A colleague left work early to take her husband out for dinner to celebrate his recent positive evaluation at work. I voiced some surprise at making such a big deal over such a routine event. My friend gently advised me that their family constantly searches out opportunities to notice and enjoy events that others may view as routine. Successful partners enjoy each other and they actively look for ways to have fun. They are attentive to the small accomplishments of their partners.

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Argue gently: Conflict is inevitable in any relationship. Arguments about making, saving and spending money are the No. 1 sources of tension between partners. Good couples don't ignore such problems, but deal with them in a respectful way with lots of compromise and communication. They avoid bringing up past hurts but focus on coming up with acceptable solutions for both partners.

Fight boredom: So much of how we live our lives is due to routine and habit. After a while, it is natural to get bored by your partner and seek excitement elsewhere. Committed couples avoid that malaise by taking risks and trying new activities. This adds a vitality and excitement to your relationship and makes it more enjoyable to be around your partner.

All You Need is Love may be one of the greatest songs written by the Beatles, but the premise is scientifically invalid, according to a study in the latest edition of Monitor on Psychology. In fact you need quite a bit more than just the love stuff, with one in three Australian marriages ending in divorce. Here's some tips on how to beat those statistics, according to experts who have studied wedded unions that have lasted.

The message from the marriage experts is clear: Work hard, be nice, celebrate life, take chances and don't listen to the Beatles.

Dr Gregory Ramey is a child psychologist.

The New York Times

21 comments

  • The best advice I was ever given was to "out-give" your partner - if you are competing to give more of yourself, your time, your love, your attention to your partner then things are always in balance. Selfishness ruins marriages.

    Commenter
    Chinpy
    Date and time
    May 08, 2013, 10:47AM
    • Admittedly, as a divorcee only allowed 'access' to my beautiful kids, might I suggest:
      1. Treat your partner as you would have them treat you.
      2. Be aware of, and act on, the emotional needs of your partner.
      3. Be aware of, and act on, the physical needs of your partner.
      4. Prepare for 'change' and then work to understand, adapt and accommodate.
      5. Be considerate and fair in terms of time, decision-making and domestic duty.
      6. Allow space for the 'individual' within the relationship.
      [Whilst these didn't save my marriage, they seem to be working brilliantly in my 'new' (4 year) relationship...]
      7. It takes two to tango.

      Commenter
      suburban dad
      Date and time
      May 08, 2013, 10:59AM
      • I love this advice. I approach my relationship this way and love my partner unconditionally and completely. I celebrate all his achievements and make sure he knows that every day I am grateful to share my life with him.

        Commenter
        kitten
        Date and time
        May 08, 2013, 11:04AM
        • I like your article Gregory, although you appear to have omitted the most important "must have" for guy ... in order to make the relationship work.... that would be "a job", or "employment" or an "an income stream"...

          apparently the women folk get a little restless if the guys don't have an income stream. I know this cause my wife left cause I kept getting sacked so that the government could convince employers to create an employment opportunity for 3rd world migrants

          yep, ....apparently women are quick to write off dead beat, unemployed , university educated engineers with post grad qualifications... even if the reason they keep getting sacked is because the governments immigration agenda is economically crippling their chosen profession

          so stable employment is apparently a key ingredient to make a marriage work!

          Commenter
          swinging voter
          Date and time
          May 08, 2013, 11:33AM
          • after 27 years of marriage I can add a couple as well,

            Share hobbies/ interests, yes we can have separate interests but its important that you share some as well, like skiing or travel or sports or gardening etc

            Provide each other some space, sort of goes against my first point, but its important that each partner also has some space to spend time with their own friends here and there, but the friends do come second!

            Find the romance, kids/ work/ the daily grind can become very monotonous, so even if its a couple of nights a year, leave the kids with someone and have a nice night out and don't go home, get a hotel room

            and Remember to say thanks for being there, I couldn't do it without you

            Works for us.......

            Commenter
            shemp
            Location
            melb
            Date and time
            May 08, 2013, 11:57AM
            • Good advice. Coming up to my 24th wedding anniversary with my husband and I agree.

              Commenter
              MO4
              Date and time
              May 08, 2013, 4:37PM
          • And if you feel you can't communicate as well as you would like, and that no matter how hard you try to 'argue gently' you feel so self-righteous that you simply have to promote your perspective until your partner gets it (or leaves), or you are stuck in a relationship rut or dynamic that keeps repeating, then get to the heart of how relationships work in this book which happens to be free at the moment on iTunes http://bit.ly/11diO2K

            Commenter
            Astra
            Date and time
            May 08, 2013, 12:04PM
            • The first part (Work hard) doesn't quite hit the mark IMHO.

              Commitment doesn't take a higher priority, as their isn't a higher priority than the kids. We caused them to exist so it wouldn't be just for it to be any other way.

              "They know the best way to be a great parent is to be in a loving and long-lasting relationship."

              This strikes me as a tad narcissistic. To paraphrase "Being a great parent is all about me.". No, it's not. Being a great parent is about selflessness, generosity, devotion, love, and empathy. All outward focused attributes. To teach a kid about being in a loving relationship one does need to demonstrate said skills, not talk about them so in a way it's right, but too close to the me me me attitude that far too many parents have these days.

              Commenter
              JTO
              Date and time
              May 08, 2013, 12:13PM
              • Totally disagree with you there JTO, having witnessed so many miserable children of varying ages whose parents are only staying together "for the kids". The more parents love and nourish themselves, the more they will love and nourish others - including their children. Being a great parent is about being a great person - and you are a person, your own individual, before you are a parent. There is much, much more to being a great person (or parent) than just selflessness and devotion.

                The parents look after the children, but who looks after the parents? Are their needs suddenly no longer important because they have children? The last time I checked in my circle of friends, family and colleagues, the more exhausted, anxious, depressed or stressed the parents are, the worse off their children are.

                The best thing you can teach your children is not how to love others, but how to love THEMSELVES.

                Commenter
                StepMother
                Location
                Perth
                Date and time
                May 08, 2013, 3:47PM
              • Being a great spouse and a great parent don't have to be mutually exclusive. Just be sure to demonstrate "selflessness, generosity, devotion, love, and empathy" to your partner as well as to your children. Children need to see their parents role-modelling what a genuine, loving and respectful relationship is like and they look to their parents for this example.

                Helicopter parenting and spoiling children is not beneficial to them, in fact, quite the opposite. When children are little and needy of much care it is natural for both parents to put a lot of time and energy into the parenting role and support each other in this, but as the children grow up and become more independent parents need to be able to gradually let go.

                I believe getting divorced for frivolous reasons such as "boredom" is the worst thing you can do to your children. They will be far better off if their parents have the occasional night out or even weekend away to "reignite the spark" than if their parents gradually grow apart and divorce.

                Commenter
                MO4
                Date and time
                May 08, 2013, 4:35PM

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