When you spend three decades with someone you do learn some things. Charlotte knows, for example, that she becomes invisible when I'm watching news or sports on TV. I know that given the choice between a Kobe steak served WITHOUT ketchup and a Taco Bueno party burrito served with plenty of hot sauce, Charlotte will choose the burrito. Every. Single. Time. That's just something you're never gonna learn from a book.
That being said, there are plenty of great relationship books out there. So, when Dr. Martin Tashman, relationship expert and coauthor of The Essential Guide to a Lasting Marriage, offered to give us Boomers some tips to keep us from short-circuiting communal bliss, I said "Doc, you had me at short-circuit".
Three Tips to Build a Lasting Marriage
By Martin Tashman, Ph.D
After years of working with couples, I've come to recognize common themes that run through both successful and difficult relationships. There are three important factors in a good relationship:
1. Feeling Accepted
People get married or make long-term commitments because they want to feel accepted and validated and feel good about themselves. The guideline for all relationships is: relationships go well when partners are making each other feel valued. When one partner says something to make the other feel valued and important it strengthens the relationship. In contrast, when one partner says something negative and causes the other to feel badly (regardless of how small it may seem), it breaks down the relationship.
2. Feeling As Though Your Partner Has Influence over You
As a marriage counselor I often hear, "She doesn't listen to me;" "She's going do what she wants no matter what I say." All of us want to feel we have influence over our partner. This does not mean that our partner has to do everything we want or agree with us on everything. It does mean that we need to believe our partner has heard us.
We all need to feel that the other person takes our opinions seriously. Letting your partner know that you have given thought to your conversations can go a long way. Statements such as, "I'm not sure what I'm going to do, but I have been thinking a lot about what you said;" or "Even though I don't agree with you I think you are right about..." are much less likely to produce negative feelings. These statements don't mean you completely agree, but that you've thought about your partner's opinions and ideas and they're important to you.
3. Not Telling Your Partner Something He Already Knows
It is essential to understand that when you're frustrated or angry about an issue and repeat to your "meaningful other" something he already knows, it will have a negative effect on the relationship. Men often experience this as nagging.
You can help avoid these types of responses by dealing with your own feelings of frustration. A statement about your feelings and reactions - rather than an accusatory statement - is the ideal way to communicate this information. Instead of saying, "You have to pay your taxes," you might be heard more positively by saying, "Do you want me to help you gather up receipts?" or "Do you want me to remind you about the tax deadline?"
An attempt to help with the solution rather than saying something that could be perceived as a criticism gives the other person some control over future communications about the taxes. The more options people feel they have, the less defensive or angry their response.
About the Author
Martin Tashman, Ph.D (Sommerset, N.J.) Dr. Martin Tashman and coauthor Karla R. Dougherty have recently written a new book The Essential Guide to a Lasting Marriage. The book helps couples approach the most common pitfalls in a relationship: money, children, in-laws, sex and intimacy, and more. Dr. Tashman has been in the counseling practice for over 30 years; is the founder of YourMarriageCounselor.com. and author of The Relationship Rescue Manual. Tashman also recently provided marriage counseling on VH1's My Big Friggin' Wedding. He has a Doctorate in clinical psychology and Master's degrees in counseling and social work.