November 5, 2018 |Gideon Hanekom

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Uncommon advice for married couples having problems is the notion of emotional fitness. This post looks at 8 traits of emotionally fit couples.

How emotionally fit are you in your relationship?

It might sound like an odd question, but it isn’t, not really.

In the world of sports, physical fitness is the key to the success of most famous athletes.

Their physical fitness begins with a desire to be not only better than other athletes and competitors, but to also be the best at what they do.

And this mindset enables them to prepare their mind as well as their bodies for performing at the highest levels when required.

Being mentally ready helps them to do all the requisite fundamental things, such as working out consistently to fine-tune their skills, maintaining a diet that supports their physical health, and improving their actual performance, skills and output.

But, how does that relate to advice for married couples having problems?

Well, constantly working on our mindset, habits, and application of the fundamentals, are all vital for creating a fit relationship.

As with sports performance, these elements are all similar to the care that should be put into fit relationships.

Emotional fitness in relationships begins with being emotionally mature enough to give your best self, just like in competitive sports.

advice for married couples having problems

And this mental preparedness means honesty and authenticity with yourself and others.

These qualities allow you to be vulnerable and conscious of your emotions.

They feed a desire to love unconditionally in spite of past relationship failures.

In your relationship, your emotional fitness will help you work through the inevitable conflicts that occur from personal differences.

While it may take two to Tango, it begins with the one willing to do so.

This is because we have control over only our own mindset, emotions, habits, and actions.

Just as you can take steps to be more physically fit, you can also take steps to become emotionally fitter in your relationship.

Advice For Married Couples Having Problems – 8 traits of emotional fitness


Every human being craves and deserves respect, including you.

So, claim it for yourself and also give it freely.

A relationship without mutual respect is pretty much doomed for failure in the long run.

A good way to make sure you’re giving your partner the respect they deserve and crave is to ask them when they feel most respected by you.

Ask them to complete this sentence:

“I feel most respected when …”

Then tell them when you feel most respected.

You can also share with your partner when you feel most disrespected, in order to keep your eye on it in the future.

Prevention is better than cure in this instance.

“I feel most disrespected when …”


Developing commitment is another crucial piece of advice for married couples having problems to improve their emotional fitness and ensure the survival of their relationship.

If a partner is no longer committed and loyal to the other, growing that relationship becomes almost impossible.

Dynamics can be changed and behaviours can be altered, but a loss of loyalty is much trickier to fix.

So, if you want to keep growing your relationship and deepen the levels of connection with your partner, it’s important to be a true team player and “have the back” of your partner.

They need to feel at all times that you are a team – an “Us versus Them”-situation, so to speak.

You have to show your partner that your support is unwavering.

When they start feeling that you’re no longer on their team, the team starts falling apart.

Ask yourself, therefore,

What can you do to strengthen the sense of team and commitment in your relationship, right now?

Be a friend first.

Many people credit their life-long relationships to the fact that their partner is their best friend, which is great advice for married couples having problems, in my opinion.

Friendship is fundamental to emotional fitness in relationships and a key ingredient of long term relational happiness.

Now, what’s interesting is that many couples I’ve worked with in coaching have lost that sense of friendship.

In fact, many end up treating their friends far better than their spouses.

How insane is that?

Here’s a simple little test you can do:

  1. Think of any good friend you have (not your partner)
  2. Think about how you speak to them
  3. Think about how you treat them (even when upset)
  4. Think about your general feelings towards them
  5. Now, compare that with your partner
  6. Is there a difference (be honest!)
  7. If, yes, what and why?

If your partner really is your best friend, chances are you’ll treat them that way.

But, when you catch yourself treating them any less than you do any of your good friends or colleagues, you need to fix that!

Oftentimes when we start treating those close to us in a very flippant or matter-of-fact way, is because we’ve started taking them for granted.

And that’s always dangerous for the growth of any relationship.

Your spouse deserves your best – not what’s left over after you’ve given it to everyone else!


None of us is perfect; we come with our own unique flaws.

And, in saying that, your partner’s uniqueness is one of the reasons you fell in love with them.

But, it is also very common for someone’s initial uniqueness at the start of a relationship to become a reason for frustration and annoyance later on.

I’ve seen it happen so many times – a characteristic of a partner that was very cool or attractive at the start becomes a major reason why a couple ends up fighting all the time after a few months.

A piece of advice for married couples having problems you need to seriously consider is that to create emotional fitness in your relationship, you have to work very hard at understanding and accepting your spouse.

Sometimes they will do things that drive you nuts, while other times they are one big mystery and you don’t know what’s going on.

But in these moments that one has to remind yourself of why you are attracted to your partner in the first place, as well as all their positive and awesome qualities.

When there is frustration in a relationship, wanting to understand our partners usually goes out the window, and we end up treating our partners from a place of bottled up emotion and reaction.

Emotionally fit couples in healthy relationships, conversely, work very hard to remain patient and be understanding.

And they usually do this through what is known as empathy. To put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

This is the only way for you to have some understanding of their perspective, and treat them accordingly.

This leads to the next point …


Remaining patient and being understanding is often difficult, as it requires tolerance of the other, but therein lies the beauty of who we are.

Relationships tend to be great because we are different and unique in so many ways.

But, again, this uniqueness can also become a source of frustration and division.

Learning how to stay tolerant of your partner’s differences, ups-and-downs, habits, emotions, perspectives etc. is perhaps one of THE most important elements of creating a healthy relationship.

The moment you become increasingly intolerant of your partner, your view of them becomes equally clouded with pessimism, criticism, and even condemnation.

That is also usually the beginning of the end.


Let me ask you a question:

How kindly do you treat your partner most of the time?

Especially when you don’t feel well or are going through your own stresses and issues.

A little kindness goes a long way into creating and sustaining healthy relationships, but it’s also very easy to neglect.

Like with the friendship issue, we oftentimes treat other people with more kindness than our own partners.

It’s almost like we are expecting them to always understand when we don’t.

But that’s no excuse for treating them with less kindness than we do other people.

In fact, them being the most important person in your life demands that you always reserve your best for them – not just your worst.

Yes, our partners see the best and worst of us.

That’s normal and part of being in a relationship.

They even welcome it.

But, only reserving our problems and challenges for our partners when we need the support, at the cost of treating them with kindness, is a mistake.

Long-term, you will pay the price.

As people, we tend to avoid the things that cause us more pain or make us feel bad.

That can include our partners.

If all your partner is experiencing from you is negativity, pessimism, being down all the time, constantly having problems, and on top of that, very little kindness – chances are they will eventually look for ways to escape.

Maybe not physically, but definitely in other ways.


No conversation about creating a healthy relationship is complete without talking about trust.

But, without making this overly complicated, the key to creating more trust is to trust first and give your partner room for making mistakes.

In this sense, you need to be trustworthy first, in order to be trusted.

If your partner feels that they cannot be vulnerable or 100% themselves around you, you are breaking their trust in you and the relationship.

Any emotionally fit relationship is characterised by this type of mutual trust.

Each partner can be whoever they want to be, and feel certain that their partner is there for them – unconditionally, 100%, no questions asked.

Now, that doesn’t mean that one can abuse this privilege, but it does mean it’s a given.


Most healthy relationships are characterised by healthy space or distance between partners.

Maintaining some sense of individuality and independence (even) is crucial for the overall fitness and growth of your relationship.

Therefore, avoid depending on your partner to provide your whole life.

It’s important to spend some time alone and with others.

Develop some separate hobbies and build friendships outside of your relationship and away from your partner.

That doesn’t mean that your partner is completely unaware of or oblivious to any of these.

It simply means that you’re acknowledging and embracing both your individualities and uniqueness.

It might even sound counterintuitive, but nurturing a sense of independence in your relationship will benefit both you and your partner.

Sometimes, spending time away from our relationship makes us want to come back to it even more.

If, however, you do find yourself wanting to spend more time away from your relationship than actually with your partner, something else might be going on.

Because that’s not what we’re talking about here.

We are talking about acknowledging and celebrating our individuality, uniqueness, and differences, in service of our relationship.

And our partners cannot be our only source of fulfilment.

It’s unfair to them, as well as unrealistic.

Take Away

Emotional fitness in your relationship takes courage to demonstrate your better self.

It isn’t always easy holding yourself accountable to a higher standard in your relationship when things aren’t all that great.

But that’s part of being in a relationship.

In fact, that’s part of life.

And it sometimes means pushing past the hurt(s), miscommunication, and self-love that are often misguided and damaging to the relationship.

An emotionally fit relationship exercises inner rules and standards that push you to make wise choices most of the time and be purposeful in building a better you and a relationship that lasts.

It’s not for the faint of heart.

Live and love fully my Friend!

About the author

Gideon Hanekom

Gideon Hanekom is the creator of, a popular relationship blog that ranks among the top 50 relationship blogs in 2024. The website helps couples to create happier, healthier, and more intimate relationships. Gideon is a trained professional counsellor and holds post-graduate degrees in Theology and Psychology. His articles have also been featured on respected platforms such as and The Good Men Project.

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