Posted by John Aiken, 7 July 2015: With so much buzz and excitement going on around the new TV 3 show Married At First Sight, it seemed a great time to be looking at the key ingredients of lasting relationships. As one of the psychologists and matchmakers on the series, I was required to teach our couples as many science based tools and strategies I could to give them the best chance of lasting.
One of the things I love about working in the field of relationships is that it’s very practical. Research over the last 40 years has found that there are a number of key scientific techniques that can improve your relationship satisfaction and make it more likely to last.
So even though you may be still single and looking for love, the process doesn’t stop when you find someone. Instead, you have to know how to make a relationship work and keep the fires burning.
With this in mind, here are 10 key strategies that can make your relationship last:
1 Spend time together
This is a priority that you cannot do without. You must always make time to be together. You can catch-up with friends separately, have your own hobbies and interests, and focus on work – but not at the expense of your partner. Date nights, week-ends away, brunches and lazy lie in’s are a must.
2 Have regular sex
When you initially start seeing someone sex is one of the most important parts of your relationship. It’s spontaneous, passionate, novel and at times mind-blowing! However as time rolls on, couples can get complacent in this department and let it silde. Make sure you lock in regular weekly sex to keep your physical intimacy alive.
3 Take an interest and ask questions
It’s so easy to get into a relationship rut and stop paying attention to what’s going on for your partner. To simply come home at night and park yourself in front of Shortland Street and say nothing. Instead, take the time to ask about your partner’s day, get to know their daily routines and show interest. Explore their fears, worries, stressors and hopes about the future and make them feel important.
4 Bring up issues softly
How you argue is more important than how often you argue. The first 3 minutes of a conversation will dictate how it all goes. If you start with a harsh tone and criticism – it’s going to end badly. If you bring up an issue softly with “I feel” statements, then the other person will listen. Think about your words, speak gently and be respectful.
5 Side with your partner and don’t fix
When your partner is under stress it’s so common for you to want to fix their issues and solve their problems. To relive them of their worry. However this inevitably backfires and leaves them feeling dismissed and judged. Instead, when they’re talking listen, empathise, side with them and never ever fix.
6 Respond back when spoken to
Couples make bids for attention all the time. Some are very explicit “Sarah I need to talk to you.” And others are more subtle “Have you seen my keys?” If you ignore these bids and say nothing – your partner will end up feeling unimportant, rejected and dismissed. So always make a point of stopping what you’re doing, put down the Ipad, phone or laptop and respond back.
7 Appreciate your partner
You can never go overboard with being positive towards your partner. Research has show that when you have more positive interactions to negative interactions you start to view your relationship in a very positive light and you don’t sweat the small stuff. So start throwing around more compliments, praise your partner and show gratitude for the things they do.
8 Share the domestics
One of the quickest and easiest ways to show fairness and respect to your partner is to muck in with the domestics. That means housework, grocery shopping, looking after the kids and washing. It doesn’t need to be 50/50 – but just enough equality so that you both feel happy with the situation. This will increase your sense of teamwork and togetherness.
9 Make daily connections
In your busy world it can be very common to forget to connect with your partner. To ignore them as you race from one commitment to the next. To prevent this from happening – you need to make daily connections with each other. So make sure you kiss them hello or goodbye when you leave or come home, send them little texts throughout the day, steal a coffee together when you can get it, and go to bed at the same time.
10 Create a shared vision
Don’t let yourselves drift along in a relationship with no goals or dreams. Instead, take some time to find out where you want to be in 6 months, 2 years and 5 years. Consider the following areas and start to move forward as a team – career, house, travel, kids, marriage, health and fitness, finance, friends.
John Aiken, Findsomeone’s dating and relationship expert, as seen on the hit TV 3 show Married At First Sight. He is a best selling author, appears regularly on TV, radio and in magazines, is a clinical psychologist and runs a private practice in Sydney, is a sought after speaker, and offers intensive couples retreats. (www.johnaiken.com.au)