As a marriage and family therapist, I've worked with many couples and I've noticed some key characteristics that tend to show up in the most remarkable ones: the couples who are happy, insightful, loving, and caring towards one another while their relationship continues to thrive. They seem to share some common ideas that shape their relationship in special ways. These insights help a couple – any couple – be remarkable.
Giving grace means giving someone a break. Remarkable couples choose to be patient, calm, and forgiving when the occasional misspoken word or lapse in judgement befalls their partner. Even when feeling upset or hurt, they're able to pause, take a deep breath, and act with care.
You’ve probably heard the classic line from the movie, "Love Story," “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Erich Segal is the author of these romantic words, but the problem is that they're totally wrong.
Love means learning to say you’re sorry and meaning it. Couples who say "I'm sorry" to each other are humbling themselves by saying, "I can be vulnerable with you, I know I have been wrong. I have hurt you, and that is not okay." Being able to acknowledge our own faults and mistakes in a relationship is crucial for reciprocity, trust, and intimacy.
It's so easy to get stuck fighting about any number of things. Big or small, a fight is a fight, and it can sometimes get ugly. Couples who stay calm and don’t get mean are able to remember that no matter what the fight is about, above all you are fighting for the same thing – a remarkable life with the person you love.
Just a few minutes of connection through eye contact can convey feelings of respect, understanding, attention, appreciation, and trust with your partner. I’ve heard many remarkable couples say that they make it a point to sit on the couch together every night for ten minutes to look their partner in the eye and talk. Eye contact is not just about looking at the other person, but really wanting to see them too.
Remarkable couples hold hands and touch one another. In our culture, we're conditioned to think of touch as purely sexual. Sex, while an important part of a loving healthy relationship, is not the only intimate touch. Small gestures like putting a hand on a back, touching an arm, or meeting elbows at the dinner table are remarkable ways that couples build trust and connect to one another. Humans need touch to thrive, and so do relationships.
Remarkable couples show up for each other in every way they can. They go to stores they don’t want to, they help out with things when they would rather relax, they attend extended family functions they would prefer to skip, and they do it because their partner wants them there. They do it to be together.
Humans are creatures of habit. We get settled into habits that are comfortable and we stay there. It's natural, but it's boring too. Being a partner who keeps up with the times, tries new things, adopts new skills, and who continues to work on their mental, emotional, and physical health, is exciting and interesting and makes for a great partner. When both partners engage in the world in new and healthy ways it's truly remarkable.
Relationships are the most important things we'll ever have in our lives. They nurture us, feed us, connect us to the world, and give importance to our existence. They also create a beautiful life. Any couple can be remarkable when they open their hearts and eyes, grab each other’s hand, and jump in.