Updated: Dec 5, 2019
During photoshoots, I always ask each couple whats their secrets to a successful and happy marriage. The first thing that always happens is they look at each other, smile and say these 3 points:
"Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction."
1) Communication is key
Make small talk, you may think talking about a TV show or the weather is far from connecting emotionally, but these supposedly insignificant details, like a "deep" discussion of your feelings, can improve your emotional ties to your partner. Don’t just ask about mundane experiences. Share them. We feel closer to others when we can talk about some experiences we have in common. I have found, for example, that couples having relationship difficulties can take a first step toward repairing a rupture by talking about their children, especially if they can be encouraged to speak of pleasant moments or cute incidents. Of course, since many conflicts occur around the rearing of families, you will have to be careful not to bring up moments that will trigger further discord. But even if something you say does start a conflict, you can find a shared moment by recognizing that you were both trying to figure out the best solution for a child that you love.
Listen carefully. Knowing that you are being heard is one of the experiences most likely to cement a feeling of connection to another. One way to improve your listening skills is to use a technique called “active listening.” This is a form of listening in which you acknowledge not only that you are listening—as with a nod of the head or saying “uh-huh"— but also that you understand what is being said. Understanding can be communicated with a smile, a word or a phrase that captures what they’re saying, or even with a simple “I understand”—if you really do understand. Interestingly, active listening can also involve interruptions for clarification or even disagreements. If you interrupt, be sure to ask permission. “Sorry, can I ask you a question?” is a reasonable way to do it. Then ask something that is clearly related to clarifying what your partner is telling you. If you disagree with the overall concept or with their handling of a situation, wait until they have finished talking before you express disagreement. But if you are not sure that they have accurately described something, you can ask for more clarification—without accusing them of lying, of course. Most importantly Ask questions, and don’t assume that you know the answers.
Be fully present. When your partner is talking, you don’t need to do anything. You don’t need to try to fix the situation or make things better. Your only role is to be another being for your partner to share their human experience with. Understand first. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Try not to formulate your responses as you’re listening to your partner. This only keeps you from deeply digesting what they’re saying, and hinders true understanding. When your partner feels understood, they will naturally reciprocate with curiosity about what you think and feel and you’ll have an opening to share your perspective.
3) Never stop dating
Never thought date night was so important?
Think again. This longing to recreate date-night intimacy could be related to a primal urge for survival. There is a well-documented connection between the support that comes from a well-functioning intimate relationship and the personal well-being of the relationship partners. Intimate relationships buffer partners from the negative outcomes associated with the stress due to life events like pregnancy, the birth of a child, job loss, illness, retirement and, of course, routine daily stressors, as well. It's not just that intimacy adds to a marriage. Lack of marital intimacy and satisfaction actually causes harm to marriage and marital partners. Marriages (and other close relationships) that lack intimacy and closeness tend to be unsatisfying, unstable, and highly conflictual. These relationships are associated with an increased risk of distress, physical illness, and poor psychological adjustment.
So, institutionalizing "date night" is not only fun, it can protect your marriage from deterioration and it can keep you and your spouse more healthy, happy, and able to manage your life stressors.
Remember this, never give up on a good thing and that sometimes understanding how to love can be as hard as learning a new language.