After 22 years of marriage Bruce and Kris Jenner call it quits and separate.  The Keeping up with the Kardashians TV stars have been fighting rumors of splitting up for the last few years.  From viewing the episodes, you can see the power struggles, lack of affection, self-centeredness, and the practice of living separate lives have affected their once happy marriage. Divorce seems to be a trend in Hollywood but it definitely affects the entire American culture.  40-50% of marriages will end in divorce and those who have had a 2nd or 3rd marriage the rates are even higher.

Why does this keep happening in our culture?  What things can be prevented and what can be healed and transformed in people’s marriage. John M Gottman, PH.D one of the current leading relationship expert in the country, has found trends for couples that are happily married after an extensive sixteen year innovative research lab he conducted at the University of Washington in Seattle. He has found that friendship is at the heart of one’s marriage shown by a mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company.  Gottman’s research also found that the main determining factor at 70% in whether a husband or a wife felt satisfied with sex, romance and marriage is by the quality of the couple’s friendship.  So men and women not so different in what they find at the heart of a happy marriage.  What are some tips to strengthen the friendship in your marriage to prevent divorce in your relationship.

Tips to strengthen friendship in a marriage

  1. Show mutual respect for one another – Take an authentic interest in your partner’s goals, dreams, likes, desires, and needs.  Actively listen to each other and become one another’s #1 fan.   Help one another to achieve individual, marriage, and family goals.
  2. Spend Quality Time Together – Having a weekly or bimonthly date night alone without your children doing activities you enjoy together.  Also turn toward each other in everyday mundane moments instead of away.  Connect daily in small meaningful interactions.  This helps your marriage stability and can keep the ongoing sense of romance.  Examples such as:
    1. Reuniting at the end of the day and talking about the highlights if it for 10 minutes
    2. Texting throughout the day
    3. Eating breakfast together
    4. Working out together
    5. Watch favorite TV shows
    6. Reading the paper together
    7. Going to children’s events together
    8. Planning a weekly date or upcoming vacation together
    9. Dreaming together about family goals, just to name a few.  You are making emotional deposits in your spouses emotional bank account so when life throws you curveballs you have enough emotional trust stored up to weather unexpected.
  3. Let your partner influence you – Honor and respect one another’s opinions and feelings.  This is essential for a marriage to survive.  You must share the driver’s seat.  Search for common ground rather than insisting on getting your own way.  According to Gottman, “When a man is not willing to share power with his partner there is an 81% chance his marriage will self-destruct.”
  4. Become more tolerant and impatient with each other’s imperfections – When discussing important issues don’t start up with a harsh setup.  That will cause defensiveness to flare up in your spouse.  This can cause your spouse to fight back dirty or completely tune you out.
    1. Complain but don’t blame or criticize.
    2. Make statements that start with “I” instead of “you”.
    3. Describe what’s happening don’t evaluate or judge
    4. Be Clear, Be Polite and Be Appreciative
    5. Don’t Store things up – Don’t take too long to talk about something that upset you or it may become worse in your mind and will cause you to blow-up.
  5. Forgiveness – Many people have misconceptions about the concept of forgiveness.  Forgiveness does not mean that the offense or the behavior was ok or acceptable.  It means that I am choosing to let go of the anger and resentment that is interfering with my own happiness and my relationship with my spouse.  Part of the forgiveness process is to confront the anger, pain, and hurt, and to discuss it openly with one’s spouse.  This will help the healing process and the choice to forgive will be more genuine and fruitful.

These are just a few tips based out of John Gottman’s extensive research on couples and found in his best-selling book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.  If you don’t even know where to find the strength to rebuild friendship in your marriage due to betrayal, lack of trust, or built up resentment it would be extremely helpful and revitalizing for your marriage to seek couple’s counseling with a professional licensed therapist.

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About the author: Dana West, MSW, LCSW is an Orlando Marriage Counselor & Addictions, Sexual Abuse Trauma Therapist with Total Life Counseling Center with offices in Southwest Orlando, East Orlando, Winter Park, Lake Mary & Clermont Florida.