Marriage, or any long-term relationship, is hard. Trust me, I know. I’ve been married for eight whole months. Give me my trophy! Seriously, romantic relationships are some of the most rewarding and challenging you will ever have in your life. That’s why we’ve asked an expert for their tips in building and maintaining a healthy relationship.
Expert Tips for a Healthy Relationship
Here are four great tips for a healthy relationship that you can employ in a few challenging situations:
1. How to Stay Connected During Life Transitions
According to Dr. Anne Holding, a postdoctoral fellow in clinical psychology at New York University, big life transitions can challenge even the strongest relationships. Whether it be navigating a new job, a big move, or adding a family member, it’s normal for big changes to feel overwhelming.
“Open communication is really important at this time, especially because each partner may be experiencing the transition differently,” Holding says. “Allow yourselves space and time to reflect and talk about how each of you is navigating the transition.” Make sure to check in with each other frequently but keep a curious energy instead of an anxious one.
Holding suggests asking yourself the following questions: What aspects of the change are you enjoying and finding energizing? What parts of the transition are you finding difficult? What are some ideas you’ve had for making the transition smoother? Are there aspects of your “old life” you miss and want to incorporate into your new reality?
2. How to Quickly De-Escalate an Argument
One time, I was so mad at my husband and just couldn’t calm down. I decided to take a shower to try and get some perspective, but I ended up throwing all the shampoo and body wash bottles against the wall, breaking several of them. I don’t recommend having this type of meltdown if your goal is to de-escalate an argument.
Instead, Holding suggests a few healthier options: “Often arguments escalate because each partner isn’t feeling heard. A quick way to de-escalate an argument is validating the other person’s point of view and showing that you understand how they feel.”
Holding recommends doing this by reflecting what your partner is saying back to them — in your own words — to ensure you’re accurately understanding their point of view. “Another way is to express that their emotions make sense to you given the circumstances of what happened,” she says.
If you’ve tried these strategies and you still can’t calm down, Holding suggests disengaging completely: “If you feel too “heated” to hear them out in the moment, you can let your partner know that you’d like to discuss the issue at a mutually convenient later time when you both have had time to let your emotions cool down.”
3. When and How to Practice Rituals Together for a Healthy Relationship
Rituals, or traditions, are an important way to stay connected with your partner and maintain a healthy relationship. According to Holding, there is no “one-size-fits-all” ritual that will magically make your marriage last forever. Instead, focus on finding something you both enjoy and look forward to, which represents quality time for connecting and unwinding.
“Maybe it’s the cup of coffee you have in bed together in the morning, your Friday night ritual of ordering take-out and watching a movie, or your daily walk around the park,” Holding says. “Take time to explore what that ritual is for your couple and why each of you finds it a rewarding part of their day. Are there other rituals you are curious to explore and incorporate into your routine?”
Currently, my favorite romantic ritual is ordering pizza on Friday night and watching two of our favorite shows back-to-back. This year’s highlight was WandaVision followed by Summer House. Sprinkle in some wine or a pre-roll, and it’s not only a ritual — it’s a party!
4. When to Get Help
Finally, Holding sheds some light on when to know that you need some extra help and could consult a counselor or therapist to keep your relationship happy and healthy.
“There are many reasons to seek couples therapy and doing so can be vital for each partners’ mental health and emotional well-being, as well as for the well-being of children,” she says. “More serious relationship issues such as abuse, affairs and addictions are obvious signs that a couple could benefit from therapy. However, seeking counsel for issues relating to emotional distance and loneliness (e.g., falling out of love), trust and commitment, escalating conflicts, poor communication, lacking sexual intimacy as well as disagreements with regards to finances, parenting and lifestyle can also be worthwhile.”
Lead image credit: Digital art by jenteva/Adobe Stock.