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  • The Secret of Long-Term Marriages: Marital Friendship

    What’s the secret to longevity in a relationship? What are the behaviors and strategies that separate a 3-year relationship from a 60-year one? In other words, how does love last? According to Dr. John Gottman, it’s marital friendship. Marital friendship is the foundation in Gottman’s Sound Relationship House theory.

     

    The thing that sustains a relationship and helps it blossom into a deep inextricable bond that sees no other recourse to conflict than persistence. These couples that manage to hit 40-, 50-, and 60- years together aren’t relationship gurus or experts. They certainly didn’t stay married due to an absence of conflict or mistakes. But why did they stay together? What compels a couple to move forward? The answer is equally obvious and elusive. They stayed married because they liked each other. They knew each other.

     

    This primary task of new couples just starting out is always the same: get to know your partner. The beautiful thing about this phase is that it is continuous. Successful couples learn new things about their partners all the time even decades into a relationship. An easy way to accomplish this getting to know your partner’s world is called building love maps. When we choose to spend our lives with someone, we are essentially handing them a map to our inner world. Our hopes, fears, dreams, memories, everything that makes us who we are. But the map is incomplete, a mere pencil sketch, the job is for the couple to begin adding the details. Landmarks, texture, color, perspective to the twists and turns that inevitably enter a marriage.

     

    There are many tools available for couples to better chart out these love maps. The Gottman Institute created deck of cards called 52 Questions Before Marriage or Moving In to give couples the opportunity to explore topics that might not be top of mind when they’re in the early stages of young love. Examples of the types of questions include: in what ways do you operate well as a team? How is this relationship different than those that have not worked out? What are your main strategies for coping with tough financial times? Open-ended questions are important, but even the detail-oriented questions can lead to discovery: who was your childhood best friend? What kind of books do you most like to read? Do you have any secret ambitions?

     

    Asking questions and telling stories adds crucial details to our love maps, making them more beautiful and beneficial to the relationship as time goes on. Helping chart paths forward in times of trial while deepening the tender moments. Bringing clarity about your journey as a couple.

     

    John Gallagher, LMHC has been a practicing therapist for over 20 years and specializes in both individual and couples’ therapy. Schedule your appointment today.