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17 Ideas to Keep Your Love and Marriage Strong Through Thick and Thin

17 Ideas to Keep Your Love and Marriage Strong Through Thick and Thin

Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale? Everyone! And most of us want to believe that when we find our Prince Charming (or Princess) that we’ll easily ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.

But for so many couples, that simply doesn’t happen.

With the divorce rate around 50%, it is clear that most people don’t know how to create and maintain healthy relationships and marriages.

If you think about it, that’s not very surprising. I mean, it’s not like any of us had a class in school called “Love and Marriage 101.” In fact, most of us never learned any life skills at all, let alone relationship skills.

So, it’s no wonder most couples are floundering out there and don’t know how to save themselves.

As a dating coach and communication professor, I hear people complain about relationships all the time. And do you want to know what the top complaint is that I hear all the time is? It is…

“Relationships are so difficult!”

And I always respond:

“Relationships aren’t inherently difficult. It’s the people involved in the relationships that MAKE them difficult.”

So, whether you are embarking on a new relationship, or trying to fix a 50-year-old marriage, here are some tips for you.

1. Know your love languages.

If you’ve never heard of the book, The Five Love Languages, then you should definitely read it.

Written by marriage therapist, Gary Chapman, it explains how there are basically five main ways that a person expresses and wants to receive love. And you and your partner may not do it the same way. Reading it will help you understand yourself and them better.

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You can also take a look at this article to learn a bit more about the five love languages:

Understanding These Five Love Languages Can Reward You With The Perfect Relationship

2. Empathize with each other.

One main problem with relationships is that most people only see their own point of view. It’s inevitable that couples will have disagreements. But that doesn’t mean it has to damage your relationship.

So, in order to really understand each other, you have to listen to and accept the other person’s point of view. Everyone deserves to be understood:

How Loving Advice Turns Into a Weapon That Kills Relationships

3. Have date night.

One of the sad things about relationships as the years go on is that people forget to “date” each other. They think the “work” is done because they’re so comfortable with one another.

But sometimes life, and kids, get in the way of keeping the romance alive. It’s essential that you go out on date nights so you can consistently keep connecting.

4. Learn to work through conflict effectively.

Most people handle conflict the wrong way. They think it’s a “Me vs. You” situation. They think they have to be right and “win” the arguments. This is backwards thinking.

It’s not Me vs. You… it’s US. Think of yourself as a team who are working together to accomplish a goal and solve a problem TOGETHER.

5. Understand each other’s unique quirks.

Everyone has weird things that they do. Whether it’s not liking to share their food or not being able to be spontaneous, you need to learn to accept each other’s quirks.

You may not like them, but you do need to accept them and try not to let it ruin your relationship.

6. Take a Myers-Briggs personality test.

There is a great website called 16personalities.com that lets you take the personality test. It shows you how much of an introvert or an extrovert someone is, among many other personality traits.

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Once you both take this and read about each other’s personalities, you will understand each other better.

7. Talk about finances and plan a budget.

Money is one of the top things that break couples up. Maybe one of you is a spender, and the other is a saver. That’s a problem! It will cause a lot of disagreements and strife.

So, talk about how you handle money. Come to a compromise, make a budget and stick to it.

8. Don’t neglect intimacy.

If you have kids, it’s easy to neglect intimacy. And intimacy means more than just sex (although you shouldn’t neglect that either).

You need to have intimate conversations, cuddle while you sleep, and just do the things that keep the two of you connected.

9. Beware of addictions.

I’ve heard people say that everyone has some sort of addiction. And I’m not talking just alcohol or drugs. People can be addicted to anything from shopping to video game playing.

If you do ANY activity too often, it’s taking quality time away from spending time with your significant other.

So, cut down on that so you can re-focus your energy on the relationship.

10. Don’t be selfish.

It’s easy to focus on yourself and what YOU want. But it’s not so easy to put your needs aside sometimes and focus on what your partner wants.

Any quality relationship involves compromise. You can’t be #1 all the time. And if you want to be, then you shouldn’t be in a relationship. You should stay single for the rest of your life.

11. Have a balance of togetherness and independence.

Sometimes couples fall into one of two different extremes: too much togetherness or too much time apart. Neither is healthy.

Of course, you need togetherness to connect. But too much of it might make you lose your own identity. On the other hand, too much time on your own will make you drift apart.

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So, keep an eye on the balance you have (or lack thereof).

12. Talk to each other.

Most people’s lives are very busy. Work, kids, family, other activities… they get in the way of your relationship. But only if you let them.

Make sure you still talk to each other. And not just about the kids or work. Really talk.

Get into interesting and deep conversations sometimes. If you don’t think you have the time, then make time.

13. Put effort in every day.

After people have been in a long-term relationships for a while, they tend to think, “Ahhhhh. All the work and wooing is done. Now I can be the real me and do nothing!”

But that’s when the real work starts! You have to think of your relationship as a plant.

If you don’t water it every day, it will die. So, make sure you “water” it every day.

14. Put your partner’s needs at least equal to – or before – your own.

This goes hand-in-hand with selfishness. No one wants their partner to feel like the don’t care about their needs.

Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s not fun.

You have to figure out what your partner likes, and then do it. And vice versa. Both people have to put 100% effort into pleasing the other. It can’t be one-sided.

15. Be self-aware.

This is easier for some people than others. But having an element of self-awareness helps you see how your behaviors are affecting the other person.

Playing video games every day? Well, maybe you should wake up at some point and realize “Hey, I’ve been playing for 5 hours straight. Maybe I should stop.”

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You get the idea.

16. Consider how you are contributing to the relationship – for better or for worse.

Most people blame their significant other for the problems in the relationship. But what a crock! It takes two to tango, right? So, it takes two to mess up a relationship too.

You need to look at yourself and see how you are making the relationship better or worse. And that takes some self-awareness like I mentioned above.

If you lack self-awareness, I’m sure that your partner will be happy to tell you how you could change your behavior for the betterment of the relationship. Or, you could seek the help of a therapist too.

17. Always stay affectionate and loving.

I realize that not everyone is a warm and fuzzy person. Some people don’t like touching, hugging, and snuggling very much. But, it really does help a relationship stay strong. It releases good chemicals into the brain the promote bonding.

So, even if you don’t like doing it so much, try to do it so you stay connected – even on a biological level.

Final thoughts

As I said earlier, relationships don’t have to be difficult. It just takes some awareness of what helps keep it healthy, and then some effort to keep it going.

But if you keep putting in effort every day, it doesn’t feel like “effort.” You should actually want to keep your partner happy.

Because remember, the happier they are, the happier YOU will be too.

Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

More by this author

Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

How to Improve Intimacy in Your Marriage and Rekindle the Passion 10 Tips on How to Do Something You Don’t Want to Do How to Stop Being Absent Minded and Start to Be More Attentive How to Beat Your Fear of Rejection and Embrace Failures 7 Hidden Causes of Fatigue And Steps to Prevent Serious Health Damage 13 Things to Remember When Life Gets Rough

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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