Most people approach dating with a strong mix of excitement and apprehension. One big reason for the latter is the awareness that so many marriages don’t make it (almost half, according to numerous studies). Chances are that you have been impacted by divorce, either your own, your parents’, or another family member’s. You know the pain caused when a marriage ends—and you don’t want to experience it.
Thankfully, there are many clear, practical steps you can take to give yourself the very best odds of enjoying love for a lifetime. Start with these:
1. Be aware of the top predictors. The top four reasons for divorce include: communication problems; infidelity or betrayal; financial problems; and psychological, emotional, and physical abuse. Obviously, if any of these issues exist before marriage, you should work diligently to improve them to your full satisfaction—or strongly consider not getting married.
2. Burn bridges that need to be burned. For partners to move forward together, they must be untethered from the past. If there’s anything from your pre-relationships days that might jeopardize the health of your union (former lovers, bad habits, outdated patterns), make a clean break.
3. Learn the art of productive problem solving. Every dating relationship and every marriage faces problems, both big and small. You’ll reduce the risk of divorce if you know how to navigate choppy seas effectively and efficiently.
4. Mix in the key ingredient: unwavering commitment. This might be the number-one factor determining the longevity of romantic relationships. Often, it’s plain old grit and determination that staves off divorce.
5. Focus on friendship as well as romance. When romantic feelings wane, it’s nice to have a partner you enjoy as a friend and companion. That’s why so many long-time married partners say, “My spouse is my love and best friend.”
6. Continue attending to your emotional health. You may have worked through issues from the past, but life has a way of bringing new challenges to us. Stay current in your quest for emotional wellness.
7. Discuss temptations before they appear. Chances are that sooner or later, you will be presented with the opportunity to cheat. And the best time to deal with temptation is before it happens. Talk together about how you will handle these dicey situations.
8. Change yourself, not your partner. No one really changes unless they want to anyway, so focus on your own self-improvement. By significantly changing some part of yourself, you might inspire your partner to follow suit—and significantly improve your relationship in the process.
9. Strive for interdependence, avoid dependence. The first means that both partners possess a solid self-esteem and are capable of standing on their own—but they choose to be interconnected for mutual support and synergy. Dependence, meanwhile, means being clingy and overly needy.
10. Practice transparency. Partners’ lives should be an open book, without secrets. If you or the other person is tempted to keep anything hidden, ask yourself why. Transparency fosters trust; lack of transparency foils it.
11. Accept accountability with each other. This doesn’t mean getting nosy and in your partner’s business all the time. It means you hold each other to high standards.
12. Affirm each other as often as you can. Kind gestures and comments go far in a marriage, and they will help insulate your marriage from being harmed by the inevitable bad days.
13. Make trust your top priority. Simply put, when trust is broken, love is diminished and damaged. But when trust is diligently maintained, love grows stronger and stronger.
14. Understand that your partner can add to your happiness—but isn’t responsible for it. If you’re looking for someone else to bring you fulfillment, you’re setting yourself up for even more struggle and discontent. It is up to you—not a partner—to bring about your contentment.
15. Develop a strong “couple identity.” Although there’s plenty of room in your relationship for individuality, you ought to have the strong sense that “We are in this together” and sometimes “It’s us against the world.”