Over the years as a Matchmaker and Science-Based Dating Coach, I’ve worked with many singles who invest a lot of time, energy, and money to find the right partner. But, unfortunately, once they are in a relationship, they often don’t know much about navigating it for success. People repeatedly get divorced to find out later that the divorce rate goes up as you get married again and again. It’s part of the reason I’ve dedicated my life to help singles learn the skills and the science of love.
It all starts at the beginning stage when meeting someone. The interaction and vetting you do in the beginning will take you in the right direction. Avoid the kind of thinking that will steer you in the wrong direction, such as:
- Thinking you’ll know just by seeing them (love at first sight) if they are right for you. While we do have a 7-second rule where our gut kicks in and we can discern a lot about a situation; looks, chemistry, and attraction are a bit more tricky and can send you down the wrong path.
- Everything will work itself out if they are “the one.” Sometimes a person can tick all the boxes: attractive, good job, well-mannered, and other qualities on the surface. But if you’ve not done the work to know yourself and what makes a good match that aligns with your core values, you may be doomed for failure.
- Unrealistic expectations such as good partners don’t fight, or they’ll know what you want without you having to communicate your needs, is a sure recipe for disaster. Those are just a handful, since I’ve heard so many unrealistic expectations to list.
Relationships sometimes end, not because you’ve met the wrong person, but because of self-sabotage, lack of self-awareness, or a lack of knowledge about coexisting in a partnership.
Here are eight keys you should know about relationships before you say “I do”:
- Make sure you share the same core life values. Even though many believe that opposites attract, it’s not a good formula for longevity. Studies show that couples with similar values and similar outlooks about finances, work ethics, and family goals to name a few, are most compatible. I might also add that individuals of an equivalent attraction level also make for a better pairing than those disproportionately matched in the looks department. Five distinct areas you should align with your future spouse include the following: your beliefs about money and finance; family and children; the role of spirituality and faith; the importance of your jobs and careers; and health and fitness.
- Couples should have a positive outlook on marriage. According to a study published in the Journal of Family Issues, if both the wife and husband believe in marriage, there is a higher commitment to one’s spouse and the general relationship. In addition, they found significant indirect effects for husbands and wives, such as higher relationship satisfaction, less instability, and higher reports of positive communication.
- Relationships are not supposed to be “hard.” Building a great partnership takes a genuine desire to make it work, i.e., commitment. Every day you should remind yourself of the qualities you love about your partner. By focusing on their positive traits, your love grows. Know upfront that marriages take effort and have ups and downs, but as long as you’re committed and value the lessons that life together will bring; you’ll be fine.
- Prioritize your marriage and be a united front. Even when you have children, it’s essential to prioritize the marriage and relationship. Your healthy relationship is one your children will model when they leave the nest. Often, mothers prioritize motherhood and forget to nurture their partnership, only to find themselves getting divorced once the children go off to college. Couples need to jointly develop a marital culture where the institution of marriage is valued and prioritized. A relationship that prioritizes and values the spousal role as essential and meaningful, appears to grow hand-in-hand with a relationship that creates a joint sense of stability and commitment.
- Fight fair with the goal of getting to an agreement. Healthy relationships will face challenges and disagreements. Two individuals will not agree on everything, and that may cause some friction. But conflicts in marriages and relationships are opportunities to grow. It takes a lot of love to remove your ego from the argument. But it is what you need to do. You should take turns hearing each other out and agree, even if it sometimes means agreeing to disagree. When you go into a fight wanting to be correct, you lose the purpose of the interaction in the first place. We all desire harmony in our lives. When we get curious about where our partner is coming from and why they do or say something, we are more likely to understand their perspective. Never hit below the belt, name call, curse, or cross a line that you can’t recover from later on. If you get upset over something they do, don’t be critical of them, instead address the action. Finally, if the moment is too heated, research shows that you should call timeout. Some couples use a code word that means we need to walk away from this discussion because we’re too fiery and emotional. Come back to the conversation later on when you’ve had a chance to calm down.
- Trust is the number one factor people look for in a partner. Be sure to openly discuss what you consider to be a breach of trust related to monogamy. When there is a solid mutual connection, commitment, giving, and respect, the trust partners have for each other is solid. Trust also comes from predictability and knowing that someone will do what they say they will do. Being able to count on someone in times of trouble and knowing that you have support available to you from your partner is one of the keys to peace and longevity.
- Negotiate your roles and responsibilities based on your lifestyle and not by societal norms. Too often, people think they should do things a certain way because that’s what society dictates. Successful marriages do best when they discuss what works best for their particular lifestyle. Going through a list of household responsibilities and dividing them up based on what you’re good at and what’s equitable, rather than coming into the marriage with set expectations, is a great way to avoid discord. Asking and getting help without reproach is also key to feeling supported and loved.
- When the going gets tough, please don’t call it quits! Unless you’re experiencing abuse or other intolerable behavior, give yourself the chance to try to work things out. There are remedies for many inevitable issues in a marriage—the times when there is boredom in the union, you might resolve with creating a marriage bucket list. The sexual excitement may fluctuate, which can be addressed in many ways, primarily if the intimacy still exists. You can avoid going in different directions or growing apart by having regular check-ins where you discuss life, what matters to you, your hopes and dreams. Those check-ins are critical to not growing apart and staying attuned to each other.
Take time to learn about compatibility and relationship success practices so you can avoid a painful and often expensive divorce. Get marriage advice from someone who is knowledgeable and who has a successful marriage. Just as the saying goes, “The grass is greener where you water it” likewise is your marriage.
About the Author
Arlene Washburn is a Master Executive Certified Matchmaker & Science-Based Dating and Relationship Coach. Arlene created the Get REAL, Get Love Coaching Platform and Founded AVConnexions Premier Matchmaking over a decade ago. Ms. Washburn is the former CEO of the only state-licensed school for matchmaking in America.
“I curate and share science-based, research-based information and techniques to help people struggling with love and relationships that they can implement straight away.
What makes my practice unique is my authentic style, a combination of compassion yet candid feedback and support. The coaching process includes mindset work. Clients experience a transformation through our exercises, elevating their vibration and lowering their stress. We help them increase their self-love and self-care, which gets them closer to their relationship goals.
I’ve trained hundreds of practitioners worldwide, and now I teach singletons to be their own matchmakers. I walk my talk and have achieved personal success, and so have my clients.