Marriage can be tough and let no one ever talk you into thinking that it’s going to be easy.
Throughout the course of my career as a counsellor, I found that relationships in general are difficult and thus need constant attention in order for them to flourish, regardless if the relationship is with friends, a romantic partner, or with your spouse.
What do we mean by constant attention? Think of it as a performance review if you will.
With that in mind, can our relationship with our spouses improve if we are constantly assessing it?
James Cardova, a professor of Psychology and director of the Center for Couples and Family Research at Clark University in Massachusetts, explains that it’s the equivalent of a “six-month dental check-up”.
In a study he conducted in 2014, 214 couples were given questionnaires and asked to assess their relationship’s strengths and weaknesses. Half of those participants sought a therapist to go over the evaluation forms and formulate a plan to go over their concerns while the other half was on a waiting list.
Over a span of one year and two years, he found that those who performed the check-up saw significant improvements in their relationship satisfaction, intimacy and feelings of acceptance, and a lesser presence of depressive symptoms.
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But can you really improve your relationship?
I would have to agree with Dr. Cordova’s findings on this one. When you constantly check up on the current state of your relationship, or on any given aspect of your life, you are able to detect what makes the relationship work and what hinders it from getting better.
Imagine your relationship as a Rugby player. He can’t continue in his current state if he finds that he is still too weak or too underperforming. He needs to seek out what’s wrong with his current performance level and seek out ways on how he can improve it. When he takes the actions that will help him improve his performance, he becomes a better player and now he sets a new benchmark for him to get better. It’s a recurring positive cycle.
Your relationship does not need to remain stagnant, nor can you stay in a safe haven of satisfaction when you feel that “everything is all right so there’s no need to fix anything”. Couples who are proactive in keeping their relationship healthy and are constantly seeking out ways to improve it end up happier and more satisfied.