Have you had the gutters cleaned on your house lately? How about weeding and lawn mowing? Maybe you have had to fix a leak or repair a crack in the wall. Your house, in order to stay in good working order needs regular maintenance. Failure to take care of those tasks and your house is likely to suffer and eventually fall into disrepair, the same is true for the relationships in your life. Regular relationship maintenance will keep the love alive and the investment in your relationship strong. So what’s needed to sustain a healthy relationship?
Relationship maintenance refers to regular behaviors that are engaged in by partners in an effort to stay together. The more relational maintenance you engage in as a couple the better your chances of longevity in the relationship. Researchers Laura Stafford and Daniel J. Canary identified a set of five general relationship behaviors that when engaged in regularly increase the quality of the relationship.
Your relationship maintenance checklist…
A 10:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions is ideal. The more positivity you can share the better. What exactly does positivity mean in this context? It’s not simply a sunny disposition all the time, it’s more about how you approach your spouse. If you disagree are you able to listen for what makes sense in what your spouse shared? Do you know to change toxic talk into fix-it talk? When you see your spouse are you able to share a positive thought about your day rather than a negative one? A kiss, hug or loving physical contact all increase the positivity ratio and help maintain a warm and loving climate in your marriage.
Are you receptive to your partner? When your partner needs to share something about their day or air a grievance are you open to hearing what they share? Most couples spend a good deal of time together which, if you are not careful, can create an atmosphere of dismissal when your spouse is sharing. You may have heard this thought or feeling before. Successful couples are able to listen skillfully and ask good questions to create an engaging conversation.
Do you feel you can count on your partner to lend an ear when times get tough? Are you able to support your partner when they need a shoulder to lean on? Being a supportive partner requires solid listening skills. Knowing your partner’s love language and making sure you are filling their “love tank” is good relationship maintenance.
Integrating into social networks.
Engaging in meaningful social interactions together is a relationship building activity. It is especially true if you spend time with other successful couples. Spending time with other couples helps you remember why you fell in love in the first place. It is also a opportunity to see how other couples navigate their relationship so you can fine tune yours.
Sharing tasks and responsibilities.
This kind of relationship maintenance requires solid decision making skills. Most married couples share a household, which in turn means they share a great many responsibilities. Successful couples are able to make decisions and work through the to-do list gracefully. These kinds of skills take practice, fortunately the nature of sharing a life together affords many opportunities for that sort of thing!
Bottom line here, despite claims that marriage is not hard work, for many many couples marriage IS work, or at least a work in progress. Make sure you are doing the necessary relationship maintenance to keep your foundation rock solid.