Relationship expert Mike Lindstrom recalls the top 10 secrets to an excellent relationship that he discovered after seven years of research.
Seven years of research, thousands of men and women -- married, single, divorced -- and asking the question, “What are the ten secrets to successful marriage?” And what we found was somewhat shocking at certain times, other things not so surprising but number one above all was open and consistent communication. It’s one thing when people say open communication. Oh we talk about everything. Okay, that’s great when you talk about everything once a year, you know, when years rolls around you want to talk about your new years resolutions. I am talking about open and consistent.
The marriages that were successful; people that have been married years and years, decades, and we met some elderly people literally that we’d ask, “What does it take to be successful to be married for 65 years?” And the thing that you always heard with these older couples was open and consistent communication, and when you talk to the marriages that had failed, that’s exactly what was missing. They weren’t talking about the issues.
We came up with this whole concept of taboo. What is taboo in a relationship? What is taboo in a marriage? And we literally would go through with men and women, “Tell us, what is taboo in your marriage?” You know, so of course research is all confidential and the men and women will tell you ‘we don’t talk about this; we don’t talk about…’ here are the obvious things like ‘we don’t talk about finances. We don’t talk about our common goals. The sex life is completely changed from seven years when we started married or we got married.’
So the lack of communication is an important thing so when you keep the communication strong but consistent – that was the one thing that we really found.
The second thing is keeping the intimacy, and I don’t mean just sex. Intimacy is the handholding, the kissing in public, cuddling when you wake up in the morning, kissing your partner before you go to bed. These are little things that just start to diminish and we call this the law of familiarity, become too familiar with each other and you get yourself into a comfort zone.
So what we found with successful relationships was that they were doing things, I wouldn’t say religiously because to keep things fresh, spontaneity is a good thing. You know, being able to surprise somebody in the middle of the day with a nice message. Being able to swing by the office and give somebody a hug, you know, they didn’t least expected. Bring your partner’s lunch. These are acts of intimacy and what you found with successful relationship, one of the secrets was keeping those things happening, but where it didn’t become like clockwork.
It’s one thing when you give flowers every Friday, some from flowers, you know the flower center – you start to expect it. It becomes familiar. It’s not the same. So when you have fresh and you can reinvigorate the relationship through your intimacy, obviously the sexual part of it is important too. If you are doing the same rituals all the time in the bedroom you’d become familiar. So it starts to lose its power, but with these two key principles – these were the things that were at the top of the top ten list was really keep that communication open and consistent and the second is keeping the intimacy really fresh.
The third is really, really important with both couples to communicate about. We talked about open and consistent communication being number one but what about it, okay? Obviously intimacy and the sex life, that’s important but goals, and this is the third thing that we found very consistent with successful relationships.
Now that’s the beauty of the research that we did. We would talk with successful relationships and find out what’s working, what are the secrets. On the flip side, we would talk to people who had failed relationships or divorces and said, “What happened? What was missing?” And again, they mirror each other. When people are both talking about their goals and what happens obviously in a marriage is both people are getting older, people change, you bring kids into the mix.
Kids are a game changer. We call kids literally game changers in our seminars because it’s a complete game changer, and not only does it affect everything from the finances to the daily rituals of the home, how you communicate with each other. So it’s important throughout the year to have benchmarks, sit downs. Just sit down and talk. Go on a date night maybe once a quarter, at a minimum once a quarter and just say, “Hey, what do you want to do the next quarter? We got some places we want to travel to? What do we want to show the kids?” So a third thing that was very important for us was the setting of the goals.
The fourth secret is having a life outside of each other. You spend so much time with each other, studies have even shown with married couples you spend literally 90% of your time with other people, it’s with each other or your kids if you have kids. It’s not with your friends, not with your bosses, in your place, I mean you sleep together at night, I mean do that, do the math – 10 hours a night, you wake up in the morning, virtually all of your rituals throughout a given day in a 24-hour period you are doing with your partner. So it’s important that successful relationships have a relationship outside of each other.
So you’d hear things like you know it’s important for me to go away on my girls trip, whether it be to the spa, go away to Napa for the weekend and for the guys of course guys want to go to the beach or golf or go do the Vegas trip. Whatever is important in that relationship you’ve got to have trust in each other, but you have to create those lives outside of each other because you could drive yourself absolutely crazy because you spend so much time with each other. Even though you love each other, you’ve got to take a break from each other just the same.
The fifth secret is important – having fun things to look forward to in the relationship. It’s something as simple as having a trip planned with each other maybe six weeks in advance. It could be a big trip that you do with the family. Maybe at the end of the year you want to get the whole family together for a family reunion, but you are doing things together but things that are fun because it becomes so ritualistic in a relationship, especially if you are married, if you live together and you have kids you become extremely structured. When you wake up; when is nap time; when do we go to bed. So when you have things to look forward to we call it a compelling future. You have something compelling to look forward to.
There’s this concept between push and pull. If you feel like you are literally pushed out of bed every day in your relationship it’s almost driven by pain, but when you feel like you are pulled out of bed every day because you are excited about something, you look forward to things, not just in your day but in your week.
The sixth secret is addressing what we call the 800-pound gorillas. The 800-pound gorillas, this is how the metaphor goes, are the things that are in the relationship that no-one wants to talk about. Some people call these the taboo subjects. Think of things that are difficult like finances. Finances are tough, especially when there’s tough economic times whether it be in this country, in the household, somebody loses their job, things change around finances, budgeting.
What we found in our research is most couples don’t budget. They don’t sit down and lay out of budget on how they are going to spend the money. Okay, that can turn into a problem if you have one person who is a big spender and the other person is not. So that’s an 800-pound gorilla or taboo subject you have to address.
However, we are going to co-exist around of conversation religion, especially if you have kids and maybe we have someone who is Catholic and somebody who is Jewish. How are you going to raise children? Another 800-pounder gorilla you have to address.
The third big role that comes up a lot is what we just call natural change. You are getting older. Things are changing. You are not as in shape as you used to be. Maybe you have gained a little bit of weight. Maybe your sex drive isn’t as high as it used to be, you know, ten years ago when you first got together. So these are some of the gorillas that people aren’t talking about, but when you can take those taboo subjects and bring it to the forefront it brings the communication so much stronger together.
The seventh secret is creating marriage rituals and keeping them consistent. A lot of times you see successful marriages where or they are in a success pattern we call it, where these are going great. Things have been fired for a few months. They have these rituals. They are on the same schedule. They are communicating well, sex life is great, but then they fall off.
It’s important that you have certain rituals that you put in place not just throughout your days and your weeks but throughout the year. So you have things that you cannot just look forward to as we’ve talked about in some of the previous secrets, but there’s things that you become ritualistic in the relationship.
I’ll give you an example is every Sunday sitting down for 20 minutes and laying out your weeks. What do you got going on this week? What do I got going on this week? How can I help you? How can I help you? So you are really creating a 50:50 dialogue around that ritual called just sitting down and mapping out the week called weekly planning.
The eighth secret -- variety in the bedroom. I think it goes without. I don’t need to belabor this point. It kind of speaks for itself but it’s important to have conversations around what variety means. Then what we found in the successful relationships is they talk about it very openly. There is no judgment and people don’t worry about being, you know, what the other person is going to think if they bring a new idea to the bedroom; so being open to that.
The ninth secret is empowering trust within each other. Now this comes through reinforcement. Communicating that you love that person, that you trust that person, that you care for that person – something as simple – sounds silly but something as simple as going to the store and buying a $2 card, a blank card and writing in it and letting that person know how much you love him, how much you care for him and how much that you trust him.
So you are constantly reinforcing trust and the more you give trust, the more you’re going to get trust in return. Again, this is what we found with successful couples. You sit down with, we call them the success couples, there was cheeriness; there was happiness. They would laugh and say, “Oh, that’s just what he does. Oh yeah, he goes on that trip with his friends; I don’t really care,” because there’s trust. But trust doesn’t just happen, has to happen consistently because there’s positive reinforcement; it’s a human behavior.
So the tenth secret is an obvious one, but it’s to have fun in the relationship and to get over your arguments quickly. You know, the old saying is ‘you don’t go to bed mad at each other,’ there’s a lot of truth in that. Successful relationships we found, they give meaning to the arguments in a positive way. “How can we learn from this? What can we do to make this better?” Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with me; how can we continue to fight – asking the wrong questions.
When you ask the right questions and you do it in a fun way you are always geared towards the future and always thinking about the future and the success of the relationship.
If you follow these top ten secrets to a successful relationship you are going to create a long-term fulfilling relationship where you truly do have a partnership, a friendship, and soul mate that you’ll have for the rest of your life.
About Mike Lindstrom:
Dan Lier & Mike Lindstrom have been coaching and speaking about success for a combined 30 years. Dan & Mike are well-respected success coaches and have studied the behavior between men and woman as it pertains to sex, love, communication, intimacy, loyalty and finding the partner of your dreams. As proud parents and loving partners, they are passionate about the relationship secrets set forth in "Dan & Mike’s Guide to Men". They have been featured on several media outlets including Fox News, ABC News, HLN, CNN and the Howard Stern Show.