Do a search on Google or Amazon for books on a good marriage and you will find hundreds if not thousands of titles on the subject. Some are good, some are not so good. One thing that I’ve always been bothered by with many of these books is that none of them are short. In my practice I find that simple is best, and short is even better. Though humans and their behavior can be complicated, how we conduct ourselves, especially in our marriages, doesn’t have to be long, complicated, or even difficult. With that in mind I have compiled a list of four things to try and do in your marriage that can help, especially if you’re struggling a little.
1. Be Consistent
This generally goes without saying, but consistency is important and super helpful in a marriage. Why? Because it lets the other person know what to expect in most circumstances in the relationship. It’s also useful to have a better idea of what you’ve communicated to your partner. If you’re consistent in what and how you communicate, it’s so much easier to remember what has and hasn’t been said between the two of you.
2. Say what you mean, mean what you say
Don’t have a meltdown if you hear something you don’t like. At its core this starts with being clear in our communication to our partners. If you don’t like something, then you don’t like it. If you don’t want to do something, then you don’t want to do it. Now, we have to have compromise in relationships and it will get annoying if one or the other of you is vetoing everything, but the big issue here is to simply communicate the truth to one another. Don’t lie, don’t evade, and don’t sugar coat it. Be open and honest. And for goodness sakes, if you hear something you don’t like, don’t freak out! Not everything is a big deal!
3. Use apologies sparingly
Remember that if you use apologetic language, there’s an implied promise that you either will or will not do something in the future, and we shouldn’t make promises we either can’t keep or have no intention of keeping. It makes the apology empty. I want to be clear, it’s not that I never apologize in my marriage, but I only apologize under certain circumstances. First, I never apologize for something I didn’t do. Period. Second, I never apologize when I’m not in the mood to do so. You want to apologize when you mean it. Third, I only apologize when I actually did something and know that I did something. Fourth, I never apologize for other people’s actions.
4. Set down the cell phone
Engaging in a romantic entanglement should involve good communication and shared experiences. It’s hard to do that when your nose is pointed at the phone and not your partner. Watching a movie together(without phones in hand or in the room), though not my favorite activity, is still better than staring at the phone. Get out and do something. Talk about life and dreams and goals. Take a walk together. BE together.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are common things I say to couples in my office every week. Also know that not everything here is going to apply to every situation, but they might help at least a little. So do your best, and if this doesn’t seem to help, don’t wait on getting more help from a therapist in your area. A big mistake couples make is waiting too long to fix a problem. Fix it before it gets worse.
Taking the initiative to work on your marriage could save it! Don’t give up! It’s worth it!