The secret is to avoid drama in the first place!
Sometimes maintaining a strong, healthy and growing relationship feels easy and natural, seeming to take no effort at all. Other times, that same relationship requires intention, effort, focus and genuine hard work.
Happy, successful couples understand that BOTH states of being are a normal and necessary part of nurturing a long-term relationship. To help reduce the amount of struggle, they know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
As such, they mindfully keep their relationship on track by avoiding the following six traps that lead to relationship disaster:
1. They don't break trust.
The ability to trust each other is the single most prominent predictor of relationship success according to research by John Gottman. He says trust is measured in ways such as: "Can I trust [my partner] to be here for me, listen to me, choose me first over others, take care of the family, not take drugs, help with the children, be faithful and respectful to me?"
Gottman's research found that not only was a trusting relationship more likely to survive and be healthy; untrusting relationships actually negatively affect physical health. During the 20-year study, 58 percent of the husbands in the 'untrusting' group died compared to 20 percent of the husbands in the 'trusting' group.
2. They don't let their anger get out of control.
While anger is a natural human emotion that warrants healthy expression, successful couples figure out how to avoid explosive, hurtful blowups. They also don't hold grudges. In Ephesians 4:26, New International Version (NIV) we read: "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." This verse of scripture does not say don’t get angry, but rather ... when you do feel angry, don’t store it up as a grudge for days and don’t blow up and hurt people with it.
Based on his research of thousands of couples, Gottman predicts, with 96 percent accuracy, a marriage's survivability after watching a couple fight with each other. In relationships where one or both parties is highly critical, maintain contempt for their partner, and act overly defensive and/or continually stonewall the other; there is high likelihood of the marriage failing if there is no change.
Successful couples develop skills to channel their anger toward solving the problem rather than aiming it at each other through attacks or withdrawing.
3. They don't avoid difficult decisions or conversations.
In every healthy relationship, there are times when we disagree. It can happen because we have different perspectives, we misunderstand each other, or our previous life experiences have programmed us to respond in certain ways.
Regardless of the reason, in a well-functioning relationship; both parties want to work together to resolve the issue in such a way that both feel they are functioning as a team. This process can take time to learn and may even involve outside intervention to learn new skills. Try reading good books on relationships, attending an occasional communication seminar, or even counseling.
4. They refuse to hit below the belt.
Successful couples do not avoid fights, even when the issues at hand are messy, painful and cause them to feel distant from one another. However, they do avoid 'going too far' in terms of the words, tone and gestures that use. They purposely avoid doing things that their partner has identified as 'off limits' or 'below the belt.'
These couples still argue and disagree, but they avoid creating irreparable damage to their partner. They both work at repairing the relationship and moving toward a place of win/win compromise.
The truth is, we hurt one another in human relationships. There are times we inflict hurt on purpose, and there are times we have no idea what it was that caused our partner pain. Healthy couples are no different; they just work at processing what happened, repairing the damage, and moving on to resolve the incident.
5. They never use sex as a weapon.
Couples vary in the frequency of their sexual activity together. It's not uncommon for one spouse to have a higher libido than the other, even in successful relationships. Studies show that changing sexual habits for a partner can benefit a relationship.
In successful relationships, couples find a rhythm to their sexual relationship that satisfies both partners. Sex is never used as a weapon to manipulate or punish their partner.
6. They don't let emotional distance grow.
It is normal in marriage to experience times when you both feeling exceptionally close and times you feel some distance or detachment. Feelings of closeness and longing for each other ebb and flow. In a healthy relationship, neither party will let the feeling of detachment go on for too long without addressing it and processing what's happening.
If emotional distance continues for too long, one of the parties may begin to experience further detachment and possibly feel rejected, leading to resentment. Once one of the parties in a healthy marriage realizes the distancing feeling has gone on longer than normal, he/she will address it; find out if the other partner is experiencing the same feelings, and then, together, will make the necessary changes and adjustments to regain the sense of closeness they both need.
Dr. David McFadden is a couples counselor at Village Counseling Center. Receive your free copy of the Better Life magazine, filled with articles with topics from taking good care of yourself to resolving conflicts in your relationship and discovering how to have success in your life.