In any relationship, even the very best ones, couples will encounter problems big and small ― everything from day-to-day stresses like bills or bickering to bigger ones such as losing a job or a sick loved one.
One thing that often separates the strongest couples from the weaker ones is their resilience, or the ability to bounce back in the wake of a trying situation. Below, relationship experts reveal what the most resilient couples have in common.
1. They don’t play the blame game.
“It’s easy for partners to blame each other when a relationship hits a low point. But blaming almost always leads to counter-blame, which ultimately leads nowhere. Resilient couples, on the other hand, look inward when things aren’t going well and ask themselves, ‘What could I have done differently in that situation’ or ‘What can I do now to make amends?’ Instead of waiting for the other person to extend an olive branch or change his or her behavior, resilient spouses are proactive in terms of getting things back on track. Taking the high road is more important than being right.” ― Michele Weiner-Davis, therapist and author of Divorce Busting
2. They can find humor in tough situations.
“Daily pressures and responsibilities related to finances, childrearing and workplace demands sometimes lead to conflict and tension. A hallmark of a resilient marriage is a willingness to laugh or use humor to halt unproductive communications. A couple I worked with noticed that if their fights were spiraling, it often helped if one was willing to break the tension by smiling, opening their arms and exclaiming: ‘Let’s hug it out!’” ― Elisabeth LaMotte, therapist and founder of the DC Counseling & Psychotherapy Center
3. They ask for help when they need it.
“Every relationship has challenging times, and sometimes they’re just too much to handle on your own. It takes courage to ask for help, especially for men. But often it’s the willingness to get guidance and support from an experienced professional that separates the relationships that make it and those that don’t.” ― Kurt Smith, therapist who specializes in counseling for men
4. They’re not afraid to be vulnerable.
“Resilient couples share their emotions without fear of expressing vulnerability. They confide in one another about fears and hopes, and respond compassionately to one another’s disclosures. Particularly when undergoing stressors, couples need to speak openly and lean on one another.” ― Samantha Rodman, psychologist and dating coach
5. They don’t expect their partners to read their minds.
“Resilient couples use words, not mind reading. They ask the extra question to clarify what their partner is saying instead of making assumptions. Many arguments and hurt feelings are the result of misunderstanding or misinterpreting what the other is saying, and simply putting your reaction on hold to say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t think I understand, could you clarify that for me?’ can help you avoid hurt feelings and pointless spats.” ― Ryan Howes, psychologist
6. They’re committed to solving problems, not ignoring them.
“My favorite guide is the thought, ‘You are not the problem. I am not the problem. The problem is the problem and together we can fix it.’ One example from a couple I worked with: After an unpleasant 10 minutes accusing each other of causing a minor traffic accident that got them cited for a ticket, each partner backed away, said they both contributed to the mishap ― but focused on the larger problem: that they often are inattentive to what’s going on around them because each of them is multi-tasking.” ― Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology and certified sexologist
7. They have a genuine desire to move forward.
“Hardships can bring out the worst in partners. Certain challenges, like cheating, can cause couples to get stuck in the pain, preventing the relationship from being able to move forward. For example, some partners keep a mental list of every time they’ve been hurt by their mate. Then, when in the middle of a challenge, they recite not just their current pain but pile on every past hurt. Resilient couples are able to focus their energy on ways to move their relationship forward rather than looking backward.” ― Kurt Smith