By Stacy Kaiser, USA TODAY
Most of us know that there are no magic tricks to building a solid and happy marriage. As a psychotherapist, I’m asked on a daily basis to provide as many secrets as I can to help couples become more successful at it.
This month, the National Marriage Project released the results of a study to pinpoint common traits shared by those who have successfully combined marriage and parenthood. Most of them are applicable to every marriage, with or without children.
The traits researchers found that were shared by the happiest couples are a combination of traditional values that make concessions to modern views. The traditional factors include religious faith, commitment, support of friends and family, a sound economic foundation provided by a good job and quality family time. A few of the more modern factors are shared housework, good sex, marital generosity, date nights and having a college degree.
None of these finding are earthshaking. Like so many things in life, we often know what really works and what we should do, but that doesn’t mean we actually do it! If everyone in an intimate relationship heeded the findings in this report, there would be a lower divorce rate, stronger relationships and happier people overall.
I’ve noticed that today’s couples do not want to have a relationship based on “old-fashioned” values. Most stress to me that they don’t want to be like their parents and grandparents — staying in a marriage for the long haul, even when desperately unhappy. Because they refuse to be “stuck” in that position, the pendulum has swung in in the opposite direction. It also has led to the fairly recent phenomenon of “starter” marriages – those who divorce at the first sign of trouble. I see a generation of people who tend to struggle with commitment. I don’t mean commitment solely in terms of infidelity and betrayal. I’m talking about a sense of commitment to the person you chose to marry and the commitment you made to keep your marriage growing and happy through every stage.
In my book, ‘How to be a Grown Up,’ I talk about the 4 Cs of a quality relationship:
Consider your partner’s feelings, thoughts and desires;
Compromise as often as you can;
Comfort your partner when he or she is in pain, even if you are the cause of their distress;
Compliment daily — it lifts people up, counteracts insecurities and it simply feels good.
Like the results of this study, the 4 Cs are pretty much common sense. I’ve found that great success comes from sticking to the basics. Make your partner and your marriage a priority, and encourage him or her to do the same. Both of you will be left with something fulfilling and lasting. Isn’t that what you planned on when you got married in the first place?