Love is brief, but frequently recurring. ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld
And for many years prior to meeting him, I dated a lot and failed at sustaining any meaningful, healthy relationships—but each of those painful, heartbreaking experiences taught me valuable lessons about myself, what I need and want.
Clearly, I don’t have that much authority on the subject, but I woke up this morning with these words composing themselves in my mind. So here it is—all the wisdom I have garnered so far about sustaining a happy marriage or long-term partnership. May it be of benefit!
1. Be grounded and secure in your own identity.
A happy marriage serves as an antidote to loneliness. It is lovely to have companionship, someone with whom to share both adventures and the mundane wonders of daily life. However, it is essential to be grounded in our own selves primarily. Excessive dependence is the root of many major relationship problems. To be healthily interdependent, keep cultivating self-knowledge and participating in activities that make you thrive and come alive.
Connect physically. Sex, of course, is the ultimate form of intimate touching. Be sure to have plenty of sex. Remember, too, the incredible value of simply hugging, kissing, holding hands, giving back rubs and foot massages and the like.
3. Share pleasures, problems and purpose.
According to Love 2.0 by Barbara L. Fredrickson, “Couples who regularly make time to do new and exciting things together—like hiking, skiing, dancing, or attending concerts and plays—have better quality marriages.” Travel and date nights are valuable and not to be pushed to the bottom of our list of priorities.
Likewise, sharing the burden of problems is key. Rather than keep a stiff upper lip, admit to your partner what is bothering you. Talk about it. Two heads are usually better than one when it comes to finding solutions.
Finally, the strongest couples have a shared sense of purpose, whether it involves raising children, collaborating on projects or whatever. For example, my husband and I share the ideal of raising our daughter to be a natural, lifelong learner. I support him as a jewelry-making artesan, and he supports me in my writing and yoga teaching careers.
4. Give kindness and compassion freely.
Connecting emotionally is the heart of a sustainable marriage. Give gratitude generously. Be loving and kind. Pay attention to your partner’s moods and needs. Be empathetic. Cultivate compassion, and it will come back to you ten-fold. The trick is to give as much metta and compassion as you can, even when you are feeling a lack of love, kindness and empathy from your partner. Give love without expecting anything in return.
5. Cultivate quality communication.
Clear communication is key in every relationship. Speak mindfully. Listen attentively. Express how you feel and what you need in a non-blaming way. Also, pay attention to your tone. Try to speak with more gentleness and kindness. The teachings of non-violent communication (NVC) and neurolinguistic programming (NLP) are super helpful for learning how to converse in a healthier, more effective way.
6. Connect intuitively and intellectually.
We too often mimic the bad habits and patterns of our parents. Both my husband and I grew up with strong, often overbearing mothers and quiet, passive fathers, and we can tend to fall into those roles if we are not being mindful. Although I am usually easygoing and calm, when I get stressed and agitated, I appreciate my partner’s quiet reminder for me to breathe and relax. I try to do the same for him in his moments of anger. We also enjoy connecting intellectually by talking about the books we are reading and sharing our evolving ideas and philosophies on life.
7. Renew love moment-to-moment, day by day.
Here’s another lovely tidbit of advice from Love 2.0: “Love, this new view tells us with some urgency, is something we should recultivate every morning, every afternoon, and every evening.” In addition, connect spiritually. Sharing a quiet moment of meditation before a shared meal is one easy way to do this at least once each day. A happy, sustainable marriage is a living organism that needs all of the above to flourish. Renew your vows to love, trust and support one another all the time.
In case you didn’t notice, this list is based around the seven chakra energy centers. It is by no means comprehensive. What other advice would you add for loving partners, new and old?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman