Most of us will say that our marriage is our most important relationship. Yet we often let things get in the way of making it great and our marriage gets put on the back burner. Whether that is kids, work, hobbies, or church callings, we don’t put enough into our relationship. And that relationship is barely surviving instead of thriving. And when our relationship suffers, often so does our sexual relationship. So in this episode, let’s talk about 11 ways to make a marriage thrive. We’ll discuss how these strategies can help both your marriage relationship and your sexual relationship because we often talk of sex as a need, but it’s not a need like air, food or water is a need. But it is a need for the thriving marriage that we want.
Most of us will say that our marriage is our most important relationship. Yet we often let things get in the way of making it great and our marriage gets put on the back burner. Whether that is kids, work, hobbies, or church callings, we don’t put enough into our relationship. And that relationship is barely surviving instead of thriving. And when our relationship suffers, so does our sexual relationship usually.
I came across a post on Instagram by Diego Perez who goes by @Yung_Pueblo. He’s written a few books that I have and love. Most of what he has to say is short and sweet but very profound. This post I came across was called Eleven Attributes of a Thriving Relationship. And so I wanted to share them with you along with my own thoughts on them.
1 You work as a team
You both know that you have different strengths and you let them shine as you solve problems together. Depending on the situation, you let each other take the lead because what you want most is a process and an outcome that the both of you feel good about.
Creating a collaborative marriage is one of the best things we can do to help our relationship thrive. I talked about this a little bit in last week’s podcast. Valuing both people’s ideas, wishes, desires and working together to come up with solutions that benefit both. It’s not my way or their way, but it’s our way. Both people feel seen and heard and know that they aren’t always right even if they have more knowledge on something.
In the sexual relationship, I think it’s really important to work as a team too. I think one of the blessings of men having testosterone and the physiological drive for sex, is that they really take the lead when it comes to the sexual relationship. But it still takes teamwork. It takes the woman (typically) wanting to be part of that team and be willing to figure out her sexuality and engage.
2 You understand that every day won’t be a great day
Part of love is letting go of perfection; you know that it is natural to have ups and downs and that joy is not an ever-flowing constant. You own the down moments as opportunities to support each other.
I think that one of the things that really gets in the way of our happiness as humans is that we think we should be happy all the time. And when things are hard and we aren’t happy we make it into a bigger problem than it is instead of being present in the situation and working to move past it. A concept that I teach my clients is that life is 50/50. About 50% uncomfortable and not great and maybe even terrible sometimes, and 50% comfortable, good, and sometimes really good. And it’s not just life, but every aspect of life, including marriage. And so when you’re in that negative 50%, reminding yourself that this is normal and everything is ok and it will get better can help that 50% be not so bad.
In the sexual relationship, there are definitely going to be periods of time or experiences that aren’t great. And if we can remember that this is a normal part of life it will make things better. Often couples go through years of not great and it takes figuring out a new way to be sexual with each other that changes things.
3 You both embrace growth
Love is the clearest mirror that will reveal your strengths and the qualities you need to keep cultivating. You don’t fear your own imperfection, instead you embrace the challenge to take your evolution into your own hands. You know the more you grow, not only will your personal happiness expand but you will also be able to love your partner better.
I really love this one. Dr. David Schnarch said that marriage is a people growing machine. Marriage is the greatest challenge to help us see ourselves more clearly, even the parts that we don’t like. It often makes us face the parts of ourselves that are hard and work to change them. I totally believe that to have a thriving marriage, both partners need to work on growing themselves and growing the marriage.
That growth is essential when it comes to sex and intimacy. Without it, we will stay stuck and we will not be able to create the intimacy that we want in our marriages but intimacy requires that we know ourselves and share ourselves with our partner. If we are unwilling to look at ourselves then we can’t know ourselves and we can’t grow.
4 You understand that the deepest happiness comes from within
You both have enough wisdom to not give the responsibility of your happiness to another person. You know that your partner can certainly add to the beauty of life but that ultimately your personal perceptions and reactions are the biggest factors that impact how you see the world. You know that your happiness is a puzzle that only you can solve.
So many of us grew up and married with the notion that our partner was there to complete us or to make us happy. And if you’ve been married for any length of time, I think you begin to realize that your partner can not only add to your happiness but they can also contribute to the greatest frustration and stress. If we give our happiness over to our partner then we will constantly feel like a victim. When we understand our happiness comes from within, then we feel more empowered.
This is true for our sexuality as well. While it’s harder to understand this concept because sexuality is typically thought of as a two-person event, when our sexual happiness and fulfillment is based solely on our partner, we can often feel victimized when it doesn’t look like we think it should. Again, we have to understand our perspective and take ownership over our own happiness and fulfillment to feel more empowered.
5 You are both intentional about being present with each other
Life can get really busy, but you make sure to create space for the two of you to reconnect and share honestly and openly about how you have been. You always make it a point to keep developing your connection.
Being present with your spouse is so important to the marriage and sexual relationship. We spend a lot of time focused on the past and maybe time thinking about the future and how things should change. But when you can focus on what is happening now, where you are, where your partner is, this is where connection is truly built.
6 Conflict is an opportunity to understand each other
Disagreements are natural. You do your best to not make it about winning, instead you try to understand each other’s perspective. You practice selfless listening so you can really take in how the series of events occurred in your partner’s mind.
It often sounds counterintuitive, but conflict is the path to intimacy. When there is conflict you are not in agreement with what is happening, so you have to take the time to see each other’s perspective. When you can know your partner better, even if you don’t agree, even if it doesn’t reinforce you, then this creates intimacy because it’s about knowing and being known.
This holds true in sexual intimacy as well. There’s going to be conflict, over desires, preferences, frequency, fantasies, you name it. Can you take the time to understand each other? This will create a better sexual experience overall.
7 Vulnerability and honesty are welcome
You understand that lies create distance that limit the strength of your connection. One of the ways you love each other is by letting your truth come forward and by putting your guard down so you can deeply know each other.
Again, honesty is one of the key ingredients to intimacy. Lies or hiding things from each other isn’t intimate or connecting. It creates mistrust and distance, which is not what we want or need for a thriving marriage or sexual relationship. Safety and trust are paramount in a healthy sexual relationship and honesty is an important component for that. And it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable with people. This also creates more intimacy and trust in the relationship.
8 Laughter and rest are a central part of your union
Your connection is so vibrant and you enjoy each other’s company so deeply that it is easy to make each other laugh. You are good at slowing down together by letting each other know what your energy levels are. The same way you take on the world together, you also close the doors to it so you can fully recharge.
One of the things I love talking to couples about is creating the playfulness and joy between the two of them. So many times we get caught up in the business of life and marriage and we forget about having fun together. And sex is the perfect place to have the ease and playfulness in your relationship. A place to find solace and recharge.
9 You let each other change
The reality is that who you both were when you fell in love and who you are now is quite different. You accept the fact that your likes and dislikes will evolve over time. You use this truth as a way to remain curious about each other.
Things are bound to change over time. With life, with circumstances, and even thoughts and belief systems. Hopefully that change comes from the maturing and growth that happens as individuals and in marriage. Sometimes those changes can be scary because this person is no longer the same person you fell in love with and married. Maybe their changes no longer reinforce you and validate you. But, one of the major reasons why we came to earth was to grow and progress and change. Can you stay curious and embrace the change and find more and more things about this person that you love. Can you be honest with them when the change is hard for you and why? Can these changes bring further connection and intimacy as you grow and change separately and together?
10 You don’t control each other
You know that freedom is the centerpiece of love, and that control creates friction that can fracture a beautiful connection. Instead you talk to each other about what you can voluntarily commit to. This will make how you function as a unit clear to both of you.
While you often feel safe when you are in control, being controlled is never fun and contributes to harmful dynamics within a marriage. This is why growth and understanding our own happiness is important. When we don’t have to control people or the situation in order to feel what we want to feel, it opens up the opportunity for people to be who they are, feel safe with us, and create more intimacy. Control is always driven by fear and fear never leads to good outcomes.
11 You don’t take each other for granted
As time moves forward, you don’t let the busyness of life make you forget to appreciate your partner. Within your mind and in your actions, you intentionally rekindle the gratitude that you have to be with one another.
Dr John Gottman talks about in his work and books how important an environment of appreciation is in a marriage. Gratitude and appreciation are essential in a good relationship. Often when we take people for granted, we become complacent and don’t continue working to create a good marriage and grow as individuals.
We often talk about sex as a need, and it’s not a need like we need air, water, sleep, food, etc. But sex is essential to thriving in marriage. So when we can work on all of these other aspects of life and marriage, we are more likely to thrive
in all areas of life, marriage, and our sexual relationship.