How many couples do you know that have been together for longer than a decade and are still passionate, intimate and truly adore one another?
An extraordinary couple can be hard to find! Especially, considering that 40-50 percent of marriages end in divorce, and another 20 percent feel unhappy and stuck.
As a life-long student of relationships, my curiosity was piqued. Why do some couples stay together for decades, building a stronger love each year, while other couples deteriorate quickly?
I wondered if extraordinary couples possessed unique traits or if they were just lucky enough to find and marry their soulmates.
The curiosity got the best of me, so I started observing, studying and interviewing couples. I watched couples who had just been married, couples who had been together for decades, and couples who were on their first, second and third marriage -- and everything in between. I dove into decades of research about marriage and relationships, yearning to crack the code.
As you can imagine, I found that all couples go through struggles and challenges -- regardless of their level of "extraordinariness". I also found even the strongest couples argue, lack communication at times, and feel resentment.
So, what is the difference between couples who grow together and couples who grow apart?
My studies revealed that amazing couples possess these five traits:
Extraordinary Couples Tell 'The Good Story': You can quickly separate happy and unhappy couples by asking them to tell you how they first met. The extraordinary couple will light up with excitement that you can tangibly sense and see in their expressions. They will give you all of the fun, romantic and sometimes embarrassing details. They tell their story with a focus on the blissful moments and chose not to remember or dwell upon the negative.
Action Step: Write a short story about your relationship over the last five years recounting vivid details. Read the story and notice if you focus more on positive or negative experiences. Make a decision to let go of the negative and start rewriting your 'Good Story' today.
Extraordinary Couples Master Positivity: The genius marriage researcher who predicts divorce with 90 percent accuracy, John Gottman, indicates that couples who stay together have five positive interactions for every one negative interaction (even when arguing!) Solid couples adorn themselves, their family members and each other with kindness -- leaving little room for resentment and negativity. They add more positive interactions throughout the day and support one another through gratitude, admiration and laughter!
Action Step: Write down five things you will do today to offer kindness and appreciation to yourself, your partner and others around you.
Extraordinary Couples Are Aware: Smart couples pay close attention to the health of themselves, their partner and their relationships. They recognize when their relationship or partner seems distant or different, so they can quickly address and fix the snag before it becomes an unmanageable tear. They know when they need help and are not embarrassed to ask family members, friends, professional coaches or counselors to give them a hand.
Action Step: Make a conscious decision to be mindful of the needs of yourself and your partner. When you notice a hint of withdrawal, distance or an uncharacteristic behavior -- immediately apply care and nurturing.
Extraordinary Couples Balance Self and Others: There is error in a relationship that has too much "Me" or too much "We". Couples who find and maintain a balance between remaining an individual, while nurturing their relationship and partner have happier relationships and lives.
Only take care of others to become tired and resentful. Only take care of yourself to become lonely and bitter. Take care of yourself and nurture others to become fulfilled and happy.
Action Step: Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On the left side answer the question, "What do you do to take care of your own mental, physical, social and emotional health?" On the right side answer the question, "What do you do to nurture your partner and your relationships?" If these lists are unbalanced, reevaluate today and come up with a plan to balance. Bonus points if you delete activities that drain your energy and replace with activities that boost your energy.
Extraordinary Couples Have Fun and Build Connection: Have you ever met an awesome couple who is boring and doesn't laugh or have fun? No way! Great couples add energy and zest to their lives by constantly creating new experiences, building connection with one another, and creating daily rituals that keep their love and marriage strong.
Action Step: Write down three fun things that will bring you closer (grab this FREE 7 Habits of Passionate Couples checklist for some ideas).
In the wise words of prophet Abu Bakr, "Knowledge without action is futile." So take action today for a better relationship tomorrow!