In our current modern culture, keeping relationships strong and successful is not an easy feat and marriage statistics show just that with 50% of U.S. marriages ending in divorce. In his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey intuitively recognized that “most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” That phrase, all by itself, could very well be one of the most frequent reasons clients show up in my husband David’s office discussing a divorce. People often ask him the same question, “What is the most frequent reason people seek a divorce?”
Money problems? Sometimes, sure.
Differences in parenting styles and arguments about raising kids? Sure, now and again.
Cheating? That too.
All of the above occurs, but neither is the major cause of divorce. The real concern for married couples and partners is apathy. David calls it “malaise creep.” It is not purposeful or malicious. It just happens, day after day, month after month, year after year. A lack of staying connected, protecting that bond. An overriding indifference to your partner, their needs and your relationship.
Harvard University conducted a “happiness study” over a period of more than 40 years. Some findings include:
- Happiness with a spouse or partner has a positive impact on physical health.
- Taking care of ourselves physically is important, but tending to one’s relationship with a spouse or partner is also a form of self-care.
- Maintaining close relationships – more than money and fame – are vital to one’s happiness and fulfillment.
- Close relationships serve as a “protective factor” – people that are married or in a committed relationship not only live longer, but they are healthier both physically and emotionally.
Add to the Harvard Study a few sobering statistics: 50% of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, 60% of second marriages and a whopping 73% of third marriages.
The 3 C’s to Relationship Success
Many of us lead very busy lives. We work forty or more hours a week, we raise our children and once in a while we try to do something for ourselves. As the years pass and it is easy to focus on the fire burning most brightly – a child’s homework, cleaning the house, a work deadline, whatever it may be – we tend to forget about spending what is truly important.
So how can we avoid becoming detached from our spouse, partner, significant other? This indifference and lethargy? The malaise creep?
The good news is that we can. It takes time, it takes dedication and effort to keep a relationship strong and healthy – and yes, fulfilling and enjoyable.
In comparing notes of our work over the many decades, the two of us have developed what we like to call a sort of couples operating system, if you will, that we call “The 3 C’s to Relationship Success”.
- Communication – Assume good intentions, perspective taking (understanding your partner’s
viewpoint), tone and timing (not what you say, but how you say it.
- Connection – Staying connected serves as the lubrication for a relationship. Maintaining intimacy and doing hard things together can help keep the ties bound.
- Consistency – Communicating and connecting cannot be like the “Elf on a Shelf” that comes out once a year around the holidays. We need to communicate and connect daily. Put it in your datebook, your calendar, your phone if that is what it takes. Don’t skip a day.
Setting Goals with Your Partner
When speaking to corporate and business groups, we often ask the same series of questions.
How many of you have a business plan? Most hands go up.
How many of you spend time reviewing that plan? Again, almost every hand in the room goes up.
How many of you check in regularly on income, expense, growth and other aspects of the plan? You got it. All those hands are raised.
Then we ask this one – how many of you sit down with your spouse and partner to talk about your goals, plans for the future, then check in on those goals, how you are progressing? Not a hand to be seen.
Setting goals with your partner is an essential tool to relationship success. Doing so keeps you communicating and connecting and rowing your boat in the same direction.
President Kennedy said that “the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” Your relationship is your roof. Keep it maintained and the rain will stay outside– where it belongs.
Julie Bulitt, LCSW-C is a Clinical Supervisor at C.A.S.E. and has maintained a private practice for more than 30 years. David Bulitt is a local divorce lawyer and partner in the Maryland law firm of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA. Married for more than 35 years, Julie and David have 4 daughters, two adopted and two biological. They are the authors of two award winning books on relationships and co-hosts of “CONVERSATIONS FOR COUPLES – THE PODCAST”. More about Julie and David at https://thebulitts.com/