Did you know that there are more men in the world than women?
I had it drummed into me when I was growing up that if I was to attract a man for life then I had to look good by dressing well, had to have the proper manners and be a lady, and my father would often say that I needed to do housework and be clean and tidy because when I was married, it would be expected of me. No wonder I rebelled.
To get this into perspective the data shows that there are 102 males to 100 females and that the numbers even out as there is a higher risk of death in males. Men outnumber women especially in China and India (Nations Population Division’s World Population Prospects, 2015). Yay! so why are we worried about finding that special someone. I personally think these figures are askew as now that same sex couples, (male with male and female with female) are in the picture this changes the data set. The world population data is unlikely to take this fact into account when looking at the number of ‘married’ data set couples.
Lets forget these stats and look at the topic at hand,. Why do people break up and others remain together for 40+ years? What does one committed couple have over others that determines being together forever? Is being together forever a life sentence or a committed choice?
If you are in a long-term relationship married or unmarried, having disagreements is inevitable. The book ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ by John Gray, highlights the existence of gender differences, not only in communication but how we actually think and behave. For example what’s important to a woman may not even show up on the radar of a man and men don’t like diatribes whereas women like to chat and get into the details of a conversation.
Disagreements arise about everyday issues such as money, the kids, parents, what station to watch on TV, where to go or what to do. Some will be major and some minor arguments. After the argument and you reflect on it, it’s easy to see what you could have done or said something differently. Arguments take their toll and can often lead to divorce or the end of a long term relationship. It destroys the very fabric that held that relationship together and made it strong. How you handle conflict is therefore important and some couples undertake conflict management training to assist them with the necessary tools.
In a 14-year study of 79 married couples from the Midwest, Gottman & Levensen explored the predictability of divorce in early and later marriages. During the study, 21 couples ended up divorcing however the researchers noticed some key behaviours amongst couples who managed to stay together. Some of the suggestions below are from the study and others I have added to give you more to consider.
- Don’t ignore the problem – if something causes a disagreement then tackle it immediately. Some people brood and let their arguments grow and it takes more time and effort to manage it than if it was handled right away. My parents would always say choose your arguments, some are small and not worth the effort but even if a big one, never go to bed angry with someone you love.
- Allow the other person to be heard. I was at the MRT station in Singapore and watched as a woman and a man on the platform engaged in a conflict. The man stood there impassively never uttering a word as the woman got angrier and angrier as he would not engage her. Though one could say he was giving her a voice to say what she needed, his body language indicated that he had no intention of actively listening, as he faced away from her. If someone is to be heard face them, don’t interrupt them until they have finished with comments or criticism, use a calm voice to respond and be open to what is being said. There are no winners in arguments.
- Talk daily by checking in. This should be a priority to take the call and respond to your significant other. Showing interest in the other person is romantic and shows you care about them and have an interest in keeping the bond strong.
- Don’t be distracted by calls or social media on your mobile. If at home or going out and spending time together turn off the mobile unless your work relates to emergencies or it’s a one off call because there is a crisis on the project you are working on. We are so attached to our phones and feel we cannot be disconnected because we may miss out on something. What are we actually missing out on except the company of the person we are with.
- Engage in a sexually satisfying relationship with your partner. In 2006 researchers from Chapman, California State and Sonoma State Universities together with the Kinsey Institute studied human sexuality. They studied the responses of almost 39,000 married or cohabitating heterosexual men and women who had been with their partners for at least three years. The research showed that couples with satisfying sex lives do a lot of communicating. They work at setting the mood, practicing sexual variety and frequently having orgasms and are generally happier in their relationships. The results of the study showed that 83% of respondents were happy in the first 6 months of their relationship but this dropped to approximately half after that period of time. The research indicated that a reason for the potential drop was sexual frequency changing from often to being only once a week. If you want to spice things up a little look at http://www.kindu.us/ and get the app. This provides you with lots of suggestions.
- Find out what your partner wants more of and commit to it. Ava Cadell, founder of Loveology University suggests playing spin the bottle with a wine bottle or drawing on a large piece of paper a circle divided into 12 parts. In each slice of the circle she suggests that each person takes turns writing a romantic or sexual activity which both parties need to engage in. Activities can range from more foreplay through to having a bubble bath together or watching a pornographic movie together. Each time you have sex, pick another activity.
- Don’t stop kissing. Kissing is one of the most intimate things we do. If heading out or coming home a peck on the cheek is just that, but a passionate kiss is wow. It shows you are still alive, passionate and find the other still appealing. It unfortunately is one of the first things that goes when you are in a long term relationship.
- Start a list of things you have pleasure in sharing. Date night once or more a week is a great way to keep the romance going. Day to day life causes our plans to often fade away and if you have children you take second place all the time. Aim for at least once a month to partake in something special together if you have young children. It can be as simple as a walk somewhere together, cooking together or going out to a movie or restaurant alone. Keep it regular and keep the flame burning.
- Keep the communication alive.When we first meet someone new we ask a myriad of questions about them. The longer we know each other the more we focus on talking about everyday issues. There is nothing wrong with this, but what we forget is to question ourselves and our relationship. Focusing on yourself is what makes you aware of how you feel and discussing it with another, allows the other person to know and reflect on what’s important to you both.
- Be honest. This is a big one for some people. I once questioned someone I knew about his relationship with his current wife. He had had a very bad experience with a previous wife and was married only for a short time. It took him a long time to recover. When I asked him whether he was honest with his current wife, his response was she doesn’t need to know everything. This speaks heaps to me about their relationship and proved to be one of the factors that caused them to separate. Sometimes we neglect to tell our partners something out of fear or concern for the other. Better they know than don’t know as eventually the universe conspires somehow to unleash the unexpected and they find out. If this tightly held secret is one that causes pain the outcome can be devastating for all.
- Show respect and care. Keep each other informed about your individual plans. It’s not about asking the other person for permission but shows courteousy towards the other. Joking around is fine but not at another person’s expense and helping out with housework and supporting and caring for the other when unwell, always evens out in the end.
- Keep the spontaneity and surprises going and the romance bubbling along. Flowers, chocolates, tickets to an event show you care and add to the spice of the romance.
- Reinforcement of the words ‘I love you’ can never be said enough as far as I am concerned. No matter the age or how often you say it. Unconditional love tells the person how you feel and they will love knowing you are still love them.
All relationships have obligations attached to them. You may not want to do something or go somewhere with your partner but if it makes them happy to have you with them then it’s a compromise, even when it deals with family. We all engage in compromise one way or another to maintain a long lasting relationship.
Recognise that the longer you are with someone that love changes from passionate to compassionate love. Compassionate love is a more emotional connection to your partner but doesn’t mean it is any less passionate. With time the passion changes its shape to more cuddles, hand holding than sexual romps, sharing the joy of special events, even if you love the person deeply. Romantic love can still be enjoyed by both people no matter the age.
Lastly is this a life sentence or a committed choice? When we first fall in love it is a choice we make but as time passes, people change and what was important to one is no longer important to the other, this then may feel like a life sentence. All relationships take constant work. Like learning a sport or an activity and perfecting it, it takes constant focus, sometimes changing the way you do things and holding on to what is important and the reason you undertook this in the first place.
Watch out for our next post on empathy and compassion
©Kia Haere Counselling & Life Coaching.