dr-jane-rosen-grandon-small.jpNot long ago, I did research on over 200 different marriages. My goal was to identify the relationship ingredients
necessary for couples to achieve marital satisfaction. Below are six behaviors that can help you and your spouse make your marriage more rewarding.

Expression of affection
Affection is a relationship is expressed two ways – words and actions. When relationships are new, most couples pay a great deal of attention to each other and behave thoughtfully in many ways, no doubt a major point of attraction for both parties. While affection in a new relationship is easy, the real trick is to develop and sustain a genuine level of affection over time.

Early in relationships, partners often describe how easy it is to talk endlessly about almost anything. But over time, communication needs to involve more than interesting dialogue. Communication becomes a matter of listening to one another’s thoughts, ideas, feelings, and opinions. Communication should involve trust, a desire to confide, and an ability to express one’s self without fear of harsh judgment.

While it is actually quite dull to agree about everything, partners in a relationship must have a basic level of agreement on certain matters. As relationships develop, they establish understandings between them about issues such as money, recreation, home environment, parenting, and relationships with others. While it may not be necessary to agree on all matters of politics and religion, it is exhausting when every discussion results in conflict. A certain level of agreement is necessary for a relationship to function well, which usually requires willingness to compromise.

Sexuality and intimacy
Among the most important ingredients in a marriage are the elements of sexuality and intimacy. Sexual love is a crucial and binding force in marital relationships. Sexuality and intimacy reassure partners that they are loved, valued, and attractive while providing security by satisfying a basic human need. Over time, these two elements create deep personal bonds or convey the height of personal rejection.

Conflict management
When partners disagree, the disagreement itself is usually not the biggest problem. The greater problem is usually the fall-out from the tactics partners use in a struggle to get their way. In general, people hate the feeling of giving in and seek revenge when we feel like we’ve lost face. It’s wise to consider how conflicts are handled in your marriage.

Some spouses manage conflict by habitually giving into the wishes of their partner, regardless of their own feelings. While at face value this seems like a strategy for peace, it usually results in built-up anger, which often surfaces in some other destructive way. Others resolve conflict by resorting to bullying behavior, which often turns from verbal to physical violence. When conflict escalates into domestic violence, it leaves permanent scars on a relationship.

Distribution of roles
Marital satisfaction is related to the satisfaction spouses have with the roles they play in the marriage. The challenge is that roles can change quite a bit over time due to finances, work schedules, children, and the needs of other family members. Over a period of years, spouses will play a variety of roles. Sometimes roles change in ways that are less than desirable because of circumstances beyond our control. At other times, roles evolve because of a personal desire to grow and change what we do in life. The trick to maintaining happiness is to learn to work well together by being supportive and remaining flexible. When change is supported, marriages typically become more solid and loving. Life is just not as predictable as it once was, so we must all be prepared to take our turn washing dishes and cleaning bathrooms!

In short, marriage is teamwork and when team members take good care of each other, the rewards are great. Take a few minutes and talk about these categories with your partner and see how you can strengthen your marriage.