In my practice as a couples’ therapist many patients wind up on my couch not due to a shortage of love, but rather unfamiliarity with smart relationship strategies that can greatly help you get through the rough patches. Incorporate the following tips into your marriage routine and help ensure the health of your union.
Love your mate the way he/she wants to be loved
Your spouse and you are separate people. What you think he will and should like is not necessarily his truth. Although hubby has said on numerous occasions he hates working out at a gym, you might buy him a Bally’s season’s membership as a birthday present because you want him to work out. That’s a present for you, not him. He will resent it, and perhaps start to resent you.
So listen to your spouse’s desires and work to fulfill them, not yours. Of course the reverse holds true. He should give you what makes you happy, not him!
Stop focusing on every little annoying thing
All too often couples get in the groove of picking on one another about what they perceive as ‘flaws’ in their beloved. We nag our partner and/or tell ourselves that he or she would be great if only he or she would stop doing A, B, C.
This mindset is anathema to the long-term success of a marriage. Keep telling yourself only the annoying things and you will forget all the wonderful qualities possessed by your mate. So he always leaves laundry piles everywhere. It’s a drag, but if you remind yourself of the countless loving things your guy does every day like bringing you coffee or that household chore he always gets right. The importance of his annoying habits will be put in perspective rather than seeming front and center in your brain.
Appreciation for the good things goes a long way toward ensuring enduring marital happiness and, again, it should go both ways.
Have weekly relationship check-ins
This is perhaps the most helpful tool a couple can incorporate into their healthy marriage maintenance plan. The two of you come to the ‘meeting’ with an agenda. Each of you discusses couple goals and how to achieve them. (i.e., saving for a vacation); problem-solving (i.e., each of you brings an issue you want to discuss in a collaborative versus combative manner such as feeling your partner doesn’t understand your feelings about extending your adolescent’s curfew), and divvying up chores for the week (yes, write out the assignments)…
The idea of the weekly check-in is both to help the two of you stay emotionally connected and to help you both have the willpower not to impulsively explode when an action of your spouse triggers you, but to wait for the weekly meeting to calmly discuss what occurred.
Keep evolving as a couple
It’s essential for couples to keep growing and learning.
Rather than remaining couch potatoes or eternally being looped in the dinner and movie date routine, keep searching for novel experiences. For example, take classes together (one couple enrolled in university together — both going for a long-delayed master’s degree) and/or encourage one another to embark on a new sport such as skiing or table tennis. And regular joint travel adventures reminds you there is more to life than the day to day, and also provides you with shared memories.
If the activity is something your partner is trying solo — say taking on volunteer work — be supportive rather than threatened that the two of you will have less time together for a while.
Keep life interesting and ever-challenging and the bond between the two of you will be built to last.