So easy you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
By Lindsay Tigar
It’s easy to roll your eyes at marriage advice and suggestions. After all, you’ve been married to this person for how many years now? And you know the things you should be doing. Like being more patient when he forgets for the 100th time to pick up his socks. Or scheduling a monthly date night.
But who has time for it all? You do, actually. The benefits that come from prioritizing your marriage make the effort more than worthwhile. And these low-maintenance tips prove that it’s actually doable.
Whether it’s a new habit to adopt or a simple tweak you can make in everyday conversation, here’s how to save your marriage in just a few easy ways.
1. Throw a party.
“When you’re tired, being fun can feel like a chore,” says life coach Elaine Beth Cohen. “Getting yourself excited might seem like the antithesis of what you want to do, but it may very well be exactly what you need.”
So pull together a just-because party — it doesn’t have to be anything fancy or elaborate. Even just inviting a bunch of friends over for pizza will get you out of your routine, and will create warm and fun memories that you and your spouse will look back on fondly.
2. Start a spouse gratitude journal.
It may sound a little hokey at first, but “start a gratitude journal of all the things your spouse does for you, and write down one thing every day,” suggests Rebecca West, design psychology coach and author of Happy Starts at Home.
And think small. From tiny things like saying “excuse me” when he burped at dinner (seriously, start that small), to big things like taking your mom to her doctor’s appointment, the more you pay attention to the things your spouse brings to the marriage, the happier your marriage will be.
3. Leave your phone in the car.
“Looking at other couples while out to dinner the past few years, I’ve noticed how one spouse will be looking at their phone, while the other eats in silence,” says Dawn Michael, PhD, clinical sexologist and author of My Husband Won’t Have Sex With Me. “Talk about lack of respect. This is a nonverbal way of saying, ‘You’re not important enough for me to focus on.'”
So when you go out to eat, leave the phones in the car. Or on your entryway table at home. You get the picture. It will feel weird at first, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you get used to it, and how much more able you are to focus on your partner.
4. Don’t ask “how was your day?”
Instead, try “How do you feel about how your day went?” Says couples therapist Marni Feuerman, “This changes the question from a fact-finding mission to one that digs into your partner’s heart and creates a deeper connection.”
When your spouse talks about a meeting with his boss or the new assistant messing up at work, “ask about the impact it’s having on him.” Does this leave him scared, unhappy, angry?
“This offers the opportunity to empathize and show that you are there for him in an emotionally supportive way. It also gives you more of a glimpse into his inner world,” says Feuerman.
5. Take a day off from being a wife once a month.
Or just an afternoon — whatever you can manage. You’ll probably feel guilty, but it’s going to help your relationship. Schedule a massage, enjoy a hobby, read a book at the park, or just take a bath.
“We live in a society where men and women receive messages that we need to protect or take care of others,” says Courtney Geter, LMFT, a sex and relationship therapist. “When we get in this habit, we neglect the most important person: ourselves. Constantly putting your spouse, kids, coworkers, clients, and family first depletes your energy.”
6. Drop your expectations.
No, we aren’t suggesting you lower your expectations. “People often bring to relationships a set of assumptions about what their partners should do to make them happy, but their partners don’t know about these expectations,” says Pam Bauer, certified life coach.
One example she gives: My partner should remember my birthday, send me flowers, and choose the perfect gift. Well, the minute your partner doesn’t do these things, you get frustrated and upset, and the relationship becomes an exercise in scorekeeping.
“Your partner is not a mind-reader,” she says. “Talk to him so you can build a shared understanding of what each of you wants and can realistically provide.”
7. Put your relationship before your ego.
So many arguments are about one person being right, instead of doing what is best for the relationship.
“The latter takes maturity and the ability to humble yourself,” says Michael. “Proving your point in an argument often outweighs the negative effect that it can have on your relationship. Ask yourself: ‘Is it really worth the stress on our relationship just to prove I’m right?'”
8. Go to bed angry.
“The reality is that when we are overly emotional, our common sense gets buried and our tongue gets looser. You’ll have better results if you take a breather to calm down and regain your wits,” suggests marriage and lifestyle coach Midori Verity.
Of course, the issue will still need to be dealt with, but waiting until you can talk with a clear head will be far better for your relationship.
9. Learn the difference between a criticism and a complaint.
A criticism is a deliberate attack on a person’s character with the intent to inflict emotional pain. It’s meant to be a jab. A complaint, on the other hand, is a request for a change in behavior.
“Most people interpret complaints as criticism and take them personally, and when this happens they miss the opportunity to connect with their partner,” says psychotherapist Crystal Bradshaw.
When you hear a complaint from your partner, try to hear the request and try to help your partner articulate what he or she is struggling to share. “Try not to get defensive and make it about you; instead, focus your energy on what’s hidden in the complaint to help your partner get their needs met.”
Here’s an example: “You used to help me work in the yard on the weekends. We used to enjoy doing this stuff together and planning projects. Now I do it all myself.” The hidden request: “I want to do yard work with you. I want us to do it together like we used to. We used to enjoy spending time together doing this, and now I do it alone and it’s not as enjoyable to me without you.”
See the difference?