By Tanner Wisniewski
Picture From unsplash.com Taken by Drew Coffman
In today’s world, where the divorce rate is reaching new heights, building a healthy and long-lasting marriage seems almost impossible. But is it really impossible? To get some insights on what it takes to make a marriage last, I asked a couple who have been married for decades and a person with a communications Ph.D. Their perspectives are bound to give you valuable tips on creating a strong and happy partnership that stands the test of time.
First, we will start with Dr. Surdyke, the Program Coordinator and Instructor of Communication Studies at Niagara County Community College. I asked her about steps to a healthy marriage, and she responded, “Well, this is a tough question because there are entire books that have been written about ways to maintain a healthy relationship, specifically from an interpersonal communication perspective. I know you are likely looking for something brief, though. Competent communication is essential for a healthy relationship. Scholars Stafford and Canary developed five relational maintenance behaviors that are discussed frequently in the field —
- Positivity (being nice and optimistic)
- Openness (self-disclosure and transparency)
- Assurances (affirming commitment to the relationship)
- Social networks (spending time with common friends/family)
- Shared tasks (doing household tasks/chores).
There have been other maintenance behaviors added to this typology over the years, such as computer-mediated communication and conflict management. It’s important to note, though, that these strategies are highly dependent on culture and context, and not all of these maintenance behaviors are equally important to every relationship. For example, some relationships may need more “assurances” than others, and some rely less on computer-mediated communication, etc. However, the quality of communication in a relationship generally correlates to the level of relational satisfaction. If both partners are competent communicators, utilize relational maintenance behaviors, and are committed to the relationship, it is likely the relationship will be successful.”
Next, I interviewed Robert and Linda Mueller, a couple who have been married for 55 years, to gain insight into the secrets of their long-lasting marriage. Robert Mueller talked about how communication has been vital to navigating the ups and downs of their marriage. “We also make a point to show each other respect and appreciation,” he said. “We try to never take each other for granted and express our love and gratitude regularly.”
These are foundational practices. However, the Mueller’s also prioritize laughter and fun in their relationship. “We love to joke and tease each other, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” said Linda. “We try to find the humor in situations and laugh together as often as we can.”
While the Mueller’s admit their relationship isn’t perfect, they believe these practices have helped them to maintain a healthy and happy marriage. “It takes work and commitment, but the payoff is worth it,” said Robert. “We’re still in love after all these years, and we’re grateful for each other every day.”
These examples serve as a reminder that healthy marriages are not just the result of luck or chance but rather the product of intentional effort and commitment. By prioritizing effective communication, relational maintenance, mutual respect, and maybe even a sense of humor, couples can build relationships that last a lifetime.