“Mawage” may have brought you together, but after the clergyman with the speech impediment instructs you to “tweasure your wuv,” what next? Married, co-habitating, or simply in it for the long haul, any committed relationship needs a few tools to make it through the years. This week, here are 7 science-backed secrets to make your long-term relationship feel more like a Bruno Mars flash mob and less like the theme song from Married with Children.
Secret #1: Be your own person.
Before sharing your life with another adult, it’s important to have spent some time adulting yourself. You don’t have to have your life cross-indexed and color-coded, but it is important to have separated in a healthy way from your family of origin. If your alarm clock is a phone call from mom or you don’t know how to do your own laundry, invest the time to get your life on solid footing before merging it with another human’s.
Secret #2: Be a team.
Some problems seem unsolvable—a fundamental difference in parenting styles, incurable slobitude, or opposite values around money. But the least constructive approach to sticky problems is to blame each other and fight it out.
Rather than approaching a problem as you against your partner, approach it as the two of you against the problem.
Instead, try an approach called unified detachment. Unified detachment is a fundamental shift in perspective that joins you and your partner together against the problem. Rather than approaching a problem as you against your crazy, unreasonable partner, approach the situation as the two of you united against the problem. For example, “What should we do to save money for the future?” or “How can we work together to fight less?”
Secret #3: Outweigh the negatives with positives.
A classic study out of the University of Washington asked heterosexual newlywed couples to discuss a hot-button issue in their relationship for 15 minutes. The headline-making results found that divorce could be predicted from the first three minutes of the couples’ argument. The key, it turned out, was the balance of negative and positive interactions.
In their discussions, spouses in stable relationships predictably displayed less negative affect—contempt, belligerence, anger, defensiveness, or whining—and more positive affect, like validation, affection, and humor.
Interestingly, for the husbands…