Topics that might seem uncomfortable, but extremely important to be tackled before making lifelong commitments.
“We are married, but my husband and I have completely separate lives. It feels like we are strangers.”
My friend Radhika and I were exchanging news about recent life events, but the conversation slowly veered towards her marriage and how her husband seemed to have given up on the relationship. The tears she had in her eyes weren’t tears of unhappiness, but tears of frustration.
The frustration of constantly having her expectations crushed.
The frustration of waiting for a change that never comes
The frustration of giving it her all, but not succeeding in making her husband “interested” in her.
I’m not married, but this conversation broke my heart. In the book, You Can Be Right or You Can Be Married, the author Brett R. Williams found that only 17 percent of couples are content with their partner. A 2014 study by the National Opinion Research Center suggests that people are becoming less and less happy in their marriages as time goes on. According to a report by Daily Mail:
- More than six out of ten adults in a relationship admit there is a lot they could do to improve their love life
- Four out of ten admit they have considered leaving their partner.
- One in ten no longer even trusts their partner.
These statistics paint a bleak picture for couples in long-term relationships. But when the results of these studies are broken down to the core elements, researchers found that the main reasons for a breakdown of a relationship over time are — people don’t know what they’re getting into,” “marriage isn’t natural,” and “people fill in the blanks with what they want marriage to be.”
The big questions are: are there some steps you can take before making lifelong commitments to ensure you have a happy relationship that stands the test of time? Can you create some filters through which a person has to pass before you consider spending the rest of your life with them?
Based on the research I did and a series of conversations with my married friends, here are three important skills every person should have before they consider making lifelong commitments with anyone.
Good communication skills
Relationship experts agree that almost every problem that arises between couples can be solved with healthy communication. But not everyone is a born communicator.
If you’re considering spending your life with someone, it’s important to determine whether or not they have good communication skills. According to a post by Healthline, here are some signs someone might be a bad communicator:
- Passive-aggressive behavior.
- Brushing things under the rug, as in avoiding conflicts and ignoring issues.
- Becoming openly defensive or hostile when talking about uncomfortable topics.
Even if someone is bad at communicating their feelings, you can still make the relationship work by helping them work on their skills. The person needs to be willing to make a change and help you help them get better at speaking what’s in their heart.
According to the psychotherapist, F. Diane Barth, L.C.S.W., here are some ways to help your partner communicate better without necessarily talking about feelings:
- Make small talk: open up about tiny details of your day and allow your partner the space to do the same.
- In moments of intimacy, don’t talk about the experience. Just share the moment with them in silence.
- Practice active listening and ask for more clarification if something isn’t clear.
- Ask questions, and don’t assume that you know the answers.
- Once you’ve become aware of some of the hidden shared moments you’re having with your partner, see if you can find ways to increase your daily amount of “insignificant” experiences together.
You don’t want to wake up one day and find your world limited to the monotony of the four walls of your house.
You don’t want to feel like you worked so hard to upgrade your skills, while your partner is still the same as the day you met them.
You don’t want to feel like you’ve outgrown them or their need in your life.
And for all these to happen, you and your partner both need to have a growth mindset — or the openness to new experiences. This is a vital skill every person should look for in their future life partner.
“Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum. Yet, all too often, we use our relationships to make our worlds smaller and smaller, to do less and less and to fall into deadening routines. Spending time together, taking chances and trying new things create a lively, energetic environment for a relationship to thrive.” — Dr. Lisa Firestone, psychologist and author of Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships
The concept of relational skills is usually used in the context of the corporate workplace. It’s believed that good relational skills in the workplace are the number one way to become a great employer and leader as it affects the flow of your workplace and impacts your employees’ productivity.
Here are the elements of having good relational skills, according to a post by Chron Magazine. These were discussed in the context of having a healthy environment in the workplace but are relevant in interpersonal relationships as well.
- Unwavering patience and the ability to let an agitated partner express themselves without interruption.
- Trustworthiness and honesty.
- Empathy and understanding, or being able to listen, look at, and understand the perspective of your partner.
- Reliability and dependability.
Long-term relationships are drastically different from the “fade-to-black, happily ever after” image portrayed by movies and books. When you commit to living with a person for the rest of your life, you need to put in constant work to make sure your partner is okay, that their needs are being met without yours being sacrificed.
Relationships are a two-way street where both parties are required to put in conscious effort over a long period of time.
When so many variables are involved, it’s difficult to look for guarantees and assurances. But if a person has these three vital skills, you can navigate any hurdle life throws at you with them by your side. And the best part? Even if they don’t have these skills at the moment, with time and practice, these can be incorporated into their mindset.