Butterflies in your stomach, first kisses, the first time you say “I love you” – this is what dating is all about! When you meet someone and fall in love, marriage doesn’t trail too far behind. But what happens after you say “I do”? A long-lasting, happy marriage isn’t a given, it takes a lot of work.
There are definitely attributes that healthy couples possess and contribute to a happy marriage. Rather than a list of qualities, I think of a pyramid. At the base, hands down, is respect for each other. While love is a key ingredient, love without respect is self-serving. That means a partner should respect you and value you as an independent person, with thoughts, opinions, and feelings. When respect is foundational in a relationship, it contributes to a sense of partnership from which every challenge can be navigated and your love can grow.
Curiosity is another foundational quality, and it’s rooted in respect. Stated another way; make no assumptions…. ever. It truly is remarkable how many disagreements would never happen if we started from a place of curiosity rather than assumption. Assumptions are based on our own experience and then projected on another, especially a partner. Assumptions actually create distance in a relationship rather than understanding. An example of this is the “mind-reading” dialogue which goes something like: “you should know how I feel” or the many variants of this. The assumption that someone else should know how you think or feel is the source of much discord in relationships and definitely one of the demon dialogues. The antidote are conversations that invite questions (i.e “help me understand”).
While the above may not sound very sexy, I consider them relationship foreplay. And yes, you’re more likely to have a hot time between the sheets or on the table when respect and curiosity are foundations in your relationship.
Check out my advice to couples in in the complete EventSource blog article “Top Toronto Wedding Officiants Share Their Best Advice For a Long and Happy Marriage“