I came across some very interesting research the other week. It was about one of these theories that says it can tell how likely a couple is to stay together/get divorced based on two key factors. I think these things are never fool-proof, but they can offer so much insight into what makes a healthy relationship and something we can all learn from. 

I was listening to this very short podcast episode from Relationship Matters (Ep. 70) a while ago, and the presenter and co. were discussing a piece of research that looks at creating healthy and happy long-term marriages, and what were strong predictors of relationship success. 

One phrase they used to describe marriage was ‘it’s a training ground’, which I really liked. 

It stresses that traits need to/can be learnt and improved. It’s not like some people have them and the rest are destined to have bad relationships forever. Or that some ‘lucky’ people are able to demonstrate them all the time. 

We all need to work on getting/keeping these traits, and they can help build the stable and enjoyable relationships we crave.  

#1 Forgiveness

The first trait they spoke about was forgiveness. Married couples that forgave/learned to forgive each other were the ones that were much more likely to stay together long-term. 

This may be unsurprising as it’s something that is spoken about or hinted at a lot. But what does it actually mean?

For example, I know I need to forgive friends when they let me down, but I can find myself holding grudges or talking negatively to others about them. Sometimes it’s because, without ignoring the fact I have been really hurt, I’m not really trying to forgive. 

Forgiveness allows us to get back in sync with each other

I find forgiveness isn’t a one-off event but actually a frequent and often daily thing in my marriage. Whether my wife needs to forgive me for something ‘small’, like when I leave the dirty dishes on top of the dishwasher instead of putting them inside it, again! 

Or big things that lead to arguments, like when family traditions clash and cause problems and one of us begins to act unreasonably. 

When we choose to forgive, we’re choosing to not let negative events/problems define our relationship. Forgiveness may be a process and may take time and is often hard, but forgiveness allows us to get back in sync with each other. 

We need to actively choose to foster the trait of forgiveness, and not allow mistakes and bad choices to define the relationship. 

I think communicating about everything, big or small, acknowledging when we have hurt each other, and actually saying the word ‘sorry’, are vital. Otherwise, the grudges, anger and negative emotion will cause a barrier over time, that will make it harder to foster connection.  

#2 Self-Control 

The second trait of self-control was one that may seem obvious to some of us, but it wasn’t one I would have thought of before hearing about the research. However, when you break it down it makes a lot of sense.

Self-control essentially allows people to approach marriage in a healthy and respectful way. It means they will resist the urge to flirt or cheat, and won’t be aggressive or violent, and will be more likely to make sacrifices for each other. 

Self-control allows us to stop, or resist doing it in the first place

All of these things are, I would say, part of the minimum requirements needed to make a relationship strong, long-lasting, and mutually fulfilling. (Read How Successful Relationship Avoid Letting Anger Win)

When my wife and I are stressed, it’s easy to shout and be harsh with each other, but self-control allows us to stop, or resist doing it in the first place. It allows us to focus on the other’s needs and not just focus on ‘me’ and what ‘I’ want all the time. 

Good To Know 

We don’t marry perfect people. We marry people who are willing to learn

Whether we’re married, or want to get married one day, this research can help us to remember what it takes to build and keep building a good relationship. 

The research also pointed out that the process of being together also increased these factors. Which is why I like the phrase ‘training ground’. No one is perfect, we don’t marry perfect people. We marry people who are willing to learn to foster healthy habits. (Read Quick Guide: Discover What All Good Dating Relationship Have In Common)

Imagine If…

Imagine if we tried to forgive more and forgive quicker. Yes it takes time, yes we may need to discuss things first, but it’s something we need to work on to help our relationships. Imagine if we practiced self-control too, by stopping and thinking about the other person and not just our needs.

I think these things would help make our relationships strong, and help bring/increase the security and enjoyment we crave in our relationships. (Read What 35 Years of Marriage Really Looks Like)

How else could these two traits be beneficial? Comments welcomed below.