“People who work on their relationships and stay in relationships are happier”, explains Dr. Waldinger in summarizing the Harvard Study of Adult Development that followed more than 700 men from 1938 until now. The research found that:
- The social connection appears to be a strong predictor of health and longevity.
- Isolation and loneliness on the other hand appear to be toxic. People experiencing more isolation have health decline earlier in life and brain function decline sooner.
- Relationships high in conflict are also bad for your health. Those satisfied in their marriages at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.
- According to Dr.Waldinger, “Staying connected and involved is actually a form of taking care of yourself, just like eating right or exercising.”
Here are 5 tips to help your relationship thrive:
1. Time together.
In our hurried lives filled with children, work, activities, and smartphones, time together requires planning. Many of the couples in counselling simply are not getting enough time together. Prioritizing time with your partner reminds them that they matter to us. Within a week, spend time with your partner doing something you mutually enjoy or trying out something new.
2. Daily check-in.
Healthier couples make time to ‘checkin’ with one another on a regular basis with your partner. Share personal subjects beyond parenting and household tasks. Listen to your partner’s personal perspectives and feelings. This will help you stay connected to your partner over the long haul.
3. Put your device down.
We are inundated by a barrage of social media demands on our time. Turn off your notifications when you get home from work. When you see your spouse, with your actions, send them the message that they are your priority.
Again our hurried lifestyle can interfere with the simple task of listening. Let go of your thoughts while you focus on what your partner is saying. Ask questions to further understand their perspective. Actively practicing empathy is another way you communicate to your partner that you care.
5. Stay engaged with kindness.
Conflict comes up in all relationships but it’s how we deal with that conflict that determines the health of our relationship. Research shows that anger and contempt are linked to higher rates of divorce. Couples that resort to criticism, yelling, or withdrawing from the discussion are more likely to break up than couples that fight consistently. Staying engaged with respect is key to the health of your relationship.
When should couples seek help?
All relationships have their ups and downs but some factors such as finances, parenting, and mental health are often the subject of reoccurring conflicts. Repeated versions of the same arguments over and over are a sign that it might be time to visit a couple’s counsellor for marriage therapy as Divorce Answers recommends.
We hope this helps to clarify a few priorities for you when considering what you bring to the health of your relationship. Remember we can only control what we bring to our key relationships!
By Heather Bach MA, CCC
Bach Counselling Group