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Divorce-Proofing Your Marriage

by Howard Lambert, Ph.D.

The key to divorce proofing your marriage does not reside in how you handle disagreements but in how you are with each other when you are not fighting. The core of a happy relationship lies in strengthening the friendship that is at the heart of any marriage.

John Gottman, Ph.D., this country’s leading researcher of happy marriage, has recently provided us with a guide for reviving painful marriages. This article will summarize a few of his most salient points.

  • KNOW YOUR PARTNER. Emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world. Learn the major events in your partner’s life and history. Remember important dates in your partner’s world. Ask questions about your partner’s preferences and remember the answers. Help your partner feel known and understood.
  • SHARE YOUR FONDNESS. Remind yourself of your spouse’s positive qualities. Share one concrete appreciation everyday. Discuss with your partner the most positive aspects of your relationship as you see them. Review out loud the best memories of your mutual past together.
  • TURN TOWARD EACH OTHER. This needs to be a daily occurrence: Be helpful. Smile. Say “thank you”. Initiate a touch. Go for a walk. Celebrate something. Exercise together. Listen to music. Play a game. Dance. Read aloud. Got the point?
  • LET YOUR PARTNER INFLUENCE YOU. Listen with respect when your partner has a different view from your own. Be curious about their point of view. Tell your spouse that they are making sense to you even though you do not see the issue the same way they do. Conveying honor and respect is the path to inviting your partner to treat you with honor and respect.
  • TALK. Believe it or not 69% of marital conflicts are unresolveable in the short term. These become the perpetual problems of your marriage. You do not have to resolve these major marital conflicts for your marriage to thrive. The heart of living with these problems is communicating basic acceptance for your partner’s personality.
  • TOLERATE SUBJECTIVITY. No one is ever right in marital conflict. There are always two subjective realities when you are talking to your partner. It’s your choice: you can either be right, or you can be in a relationship.

I hope these guidelines give you pause to stop and consider a few small ways that you can nurture and share the essential fondness you have for partner. You could even decide right now and do one small thing right now to fulfill one of these recommendations.