The secret to a happy marriage is a very popular topic. A simple google search will give you plenty of advice, and while some of this advice is very valid and does make a difference in the couple’s dynamic, I think that sharing some of the common pitfalls that I see when working with couples can be fruitful to those seeking answers, especially because the Maltese culture and the way we communicate might mean our relationship dynamics are different to those experienced in other countries, who have a reality which is totally different to ours.
Here are 3 common missteps to avoid for a happy marriage
Your life partner is not responsible for his/her family of origin
One of the most typical traits in our culture is the proximity to our parents, siblings, grandparents and extended family. With relations being so close physically and emotionally, it is very common for couples to have issues with one or more members of their partner’s family.
If you have been accumulating scrapes with the in-laws over the years and you feel that your partner is siding with his/her family, things are likely to escalate rapidly.
What you could do
In these circumstances, it might be helpful to have an honest conversation with your partner about how you are feeling while being cautious not to push blame on your partner who might feel torn between being loyal to you and his/her family.
Having a conversation about the need to establish healthy boundaries between your family and the intrusion of the extended family in your personal matters could help. This should lead to you agreeing as a couple, and parents to your children, on how you are going to go about it in order to take control and stop the situation from escalating further.
Anger is not an excuse to hurt indiscriminately
Another common threat to happy relationships is when tempers flare during an argument. The mix of various stressors, a fiery Mediterranean temperament, and the accumulation of holding back from communicating empathically and respectfully with your partner at times results in an explosion of emotional abuse and even violence.
While conflict is a healthy and normal part of any relationship, emotional and at times physical abuse can leave deep emotional scars that can seriously harm a relationship.
What you could do
When this happens, it is important to work on repairing this fracture with your partner, by taking responsibility for your actions, giving the space and time to heal and understanding the necessity of showing respect and empathy towards your partner even when you are disagreeing will be very helpful.
You could also explore some ways to manage your anger.
Golden rule: Always have each other’s back
When there are chores and responsibilities that are continuously lumped only on one partner and alliances are formed outside of the couple, it is common that one of the partners feels isolated or taken advantage of. This affects intimacy, communication and the feeling of trust and security that many crave when going into a long-term relationship.
As a couple enters a lifelong commitment, there needs to be an awareness that healthy relationships mean being supportive and open to feedback. There also needs to be a shift away from a self-centred mindset into a couple-based mindset, where both partners need to
co-construct a healthy balance between having their individual space and investing time and energy into a meaningful relationship.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Sonya Galea is a family therapist with Willingness Team. She works with families and couples experiencing couple relationship issues and parenting struggles.
Baker, E. ( 2014, Mar 20) Recipe for a Happy Marriage: The 7 Scientific Secrets. Time Retrieved from Recipe For A Happy Marriage: The 7 Scientific Secrets | Time
Grohol, G. (2010, Sep 20) 8 Ways to Ruin your relationship. Psychcentral.com. 8 Ways to Ruin Your Relationship (psychcentral.com) Somerstein, L. (2014, Jun 23) 18 Qualities of a Marriage Built to last. Good Therapy. GoodTherapy | 18 Qualities of a Marriage Built to Last