Relationship Unalienable Rights
A relationship is about each one of you getting your needs met. Certain gestures are vital for fostering satisfaction and are closely associated with couples’ long term success. Romantic relationships have unalienable rights.
Fighting is not a normal part of marriage. Couples can disagree but fighting is destructive to a marriage. However, disagreements are nothing more than problems to be solved.
You have the right to your partner’s attention.
Your attention to your spouse will improve your satisfaction in your relationship. A 2017 study on relationship experiences published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that on the days when their partners had supported them or said something that made them feel loved, people reported higher relationship quality.
Couples show each other attention in the little things they do for each other. A spouse may touch her hair as he walks by her or wink at her from across the room. She may hold his hand as she crosses the street. Those little things mean a lot. We feel better when we love our spouse well.
Eli Finkel, who directs the Relationships and Motivation Lab at Northwestern University and is the author of The all Or Nothing Marriage, explains, “Spouses who spend more time together engaged in actual conversation tend to be happier than those who spend less. And spouses who pursue more leisure activities together-including outdoor activities, sports, card games, and travel are at reduced risk of divorce.” When you take the initiative, you will be happier. Like I said earlier, we feel better when we love our spouse well.
You have the right to a partner who will try to work out your differences.
Long-term relationships encounter disagreements and conflicts. However, fighting about them is destructive to a relationship. We need to identify the problem and work out the differences. Ignoring these problems will not make them go away. A relationship cannot thrive when the two people hold in frustrations and don’t share and resolve those frustrations. When these frustrations are not shared with each other, the resentment grows and frustrations tend to leak out as sarcasm, criticism, and our attention to our spouse will diminish.
Addressing the problems and frustrations as they come up improves your relationship. One study of 205 married couples found that wives who believed that their husbands did more emotional work were more satisfied with their relationships.
Once differences are out in the open, they can be addressed and a compromise can be reached. However, some differences may always exist and you can agree to disagree.
As we age, hitting problems head-on can actually lose some of its positive effect and even turn counterproductive. A research team led by Jakob Jensen of East Carolina University proposed that as we age, our marital priorities shift away from conflict resolution and toward maximizing the emotional rewards of maintaining a relationship.
You have the right to a partner who’ll share the load.
When partners share the load, it appears to deliver significant benefits to both partners. A 2018 study, published in Socius and led by Daniel Carlson of the University of Utah, compared national data from the early 1990s and 2006 and found that contemporary couples shared more household tasks than did couples in the recent past. This sharing of tasks improved many aspects of their relationships, starting with their sex lives.
“Sharing housework is associated with greater feelings of fairness, teamwork, and overall relationship quality,” Carlson says. “In particular feelings of teamwork, communication, cooperation, and shared vision. These feelings are important to sexual intimacy.” The feelings foster a partnership based on reciprocity and mutual gratification, which improves the quality of the relationship and lowers the risk of divorce.
A couple is satisfied when the work is divided, not necessarily equally, Carlson says, but in a way they both feel is fair.
One couple struggling with a balance of work around the home decided to post a chore chart on the fridge. “It saves a load of fights,” she says. The day to day chores aren’t split down the middle, since her husband works more outside the home, but she says both partners are happier now. It’s pretty fair all around and everyone agreed to it.
“If a couple sees the relationship’s division of chores is fair,” Carlson says, “they certainly can be happy.”
You have the right to honesty about sex.
What are your rights in the bedroom? Research finds that it’s not necessarily the presence or absence of sexual activity, a specific schedule or frequency, or even the pleasure derived from it that is most associated with relationship satisfaction. It matters that both partners’ expectations are met. That’s why two people can sincerely find satisfaction in a sexless relationship. If neither expects sex, its absence doesn’t affect how they feel about each other.
If one spouse expects more sex, it is where the problems begin. The problem needs to be addressed and the couple needs to come up with a compromise. The couple may need to see a sex therapist to help resolve the issue.
But sexual expectations can and do change over time. It’s crucial that partners communicate shifts in both their desire and their capability with sex.
Partners should never criticize each other during sexual activity (unless something is uncomfortable or painful). If you have problems in your sex life, find a comfortable and private place to begin the conversation. Try a gentle opener, “I have some thoughts about our sex life. Is now a good time to talk about it?”
You have the right to affection.
Anita Vangelisit, a communications professor at the University of Texas at Austin said, “Giving and receiving affection is associated with feelings of pleasure, acceptance, happiness, and a feeling of being loved. Partners who maintain relatively high levels of physical affection tend to be happier.”
Research on the physiology of affection has also shown that giving and receiving it are associated with the release of oxytocin (the attachment hormone). Physical affection regulates stress hormones throughout the day, enhancing well-being and enabling each partner to manage stress more successfully.
How do you get more affection from your partner? “Ask for it,” Vangelisti says. You can start by giving more affection to your partner. “Once your partner sees you giving them more affection, they may reciprocate.” You can try to arrange more opportunities for affection by planning relaxed time together.
And, don’t fear that “manufacturing” affectionate behaviors, will strip them of their power. Physical affection helps people feel more secure and trusting in a relationship, even if they were told that their partner was instructed to do it.
Be clear about the type of affection you seek and make sure you and your partner both understand how you define the term. If your spouse thinks he/she is showing affection by cleaning your car, while you want hugs and a whispered “I love you,” that’s the kind of misunderstanding that can erode happily ever after.