1. Want It
The number one tip for saving your marriage is that you, and your partner, have to WANT to save the marriage. It sounds counterintuitive, and you may even say, “I wouldn’t be reading this article unless I wanted to save my relationship”. The truth is, we’re human and we lie. We lie to others and we lie to ourselves. Sometimes, couples and individuals enter marriage counseling as a way to say, “Well, we tried to overcome this but even counseling couldn’t help!” Marriage counseling sessions usually last one hour a week. While helpful and beneficial, the real change in your marriage comes from implementing the techniques you learned in therapy and putting them into practice. What good is it to score a three point basket in basketball practice only to choke in the game? Likewise, what good is it to calmly express how you feel in your counseling session only to blow up at your partner the next time he/she forgets to do the dishes?
2. Find Your Love Language
Everyone expresses love differently and chances are if you’re like most couples, you and your partner express love differently. Once you determine your love language it can make figuring your partner out a little less complicated. TheLove Languages is a great place to start, if you’ve often found yourself wondering, “What was my partner thinking when he/she did this?”. This simple online quiz allows you to explore how you show love and how you like to be shown you’re loved. Some people feel loved when their partner does something for them and they show their love in return by giving their partner a gift. It can be especially devastating when we perceive that our love is not accepted or returned.
3. Make Time to Connect
Couples who connect more find greater happiness within the relationship. Recently, I wrote a blog post titled “How a Quick “Smoke Break” Helps You and Your Love”. In the post, I talk about a couple I worked with who realized their relationship developed out of the small, five to ten minute smoke breaks each day and getting back to their small connections throughout the day strengthened their relationship.
4. Ignore Other People
What works for one couple may not necessarily work for you and your marriage. Self-discovery and discovering your partner, will make more of a difference in the quality of your relationship than trying to implement any number of techniques or tricks other couples may have told you. If you are looking for concrete directions on what you can improve or change, using an evidenced based therapeutic approach like the Gottman Method or Emotionally Focused Therapy can provide practice tips and techniques to utilize with your partner and help your marriage.
5. Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude
In 2011, Harvard Health Publications wrote a piece titled In Praise of Gratitude in which it provided an overview of the science behind gratitude and health. The article is not directly tied to marital happiness but it sheds some insight on how gratitude can influence happiness. An individual who practices gratitude for his or her partner may find that it changes the interaction between them, leading to a happier and healthier marriage.
6. Take Your Relationship on a Diet
Major changes require major work. Just ask anyone who has ever stuck with a diet or exercise regimen and reached his/her goal. It won’t be easy but you can change your thoughts about yourself, your partner, and your relationship. What is more important about the diet is the maintenance. Once you reach your goal you have to continue to maintain.
7. “Let It Go, Let It Go”
It’s hard to let the past go, especially if there are strong unresolved emotions associated with the past. Individuals who harbor negative feelings towards another find it difficult to develop positive feelings for that person in the present.
8. Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
A professor of mine in his Trans-Atlantic almost Kennedy sounding accent saying, “Good fences make good neighbors.” While the class scoffed at this statement, my time as a professional counselor has shed some light on this seemingly contradictory statement. After all, don’t fences keep people apart, not bring them closer together? What my professor was talking about was boundaries and boundaries are not a bad thing. Boundaries allow us to clearly make sense of our world and our relationships. Some boundaries are unspoken; for many couples the boundary of no extramarital sex is huge and when broken causes serious turmoil in the relationship (CLICK HERE to read more about my blog on affair recovery). Other boundaries must be explicitly stated, such as, “Please put the dishes in the dishwasher and not leave them in the sink.” If you and your partner can set clear boundaries with one another it leaves less room for misinterpretation and unmet expectations.
9. Laugh a Little
Laughter is good for the soul and your relationship. If you’re finding yourself struggling to find something funny find a way to incorporate laughter or fun activities into your daily routine. Don’t overthink it though! There’s nothing worse than gritting your teeth and saying through clenched jaw, “We’re going to have fun today.” Forcing the fun and laughter will only feel contrived and can ultimately lead to more stress. Instead, take a moment to reflect on what makes you and your partner laugh and do that activity together. While you may not always find the same things funny there’s a good chance you’ve found a little common ground in what you each find funny. One of my favorite, WATER BALLOON FIGHTS!!!! Check out more of ways to have fun in a relationship CLICK HERE.
10. Be Honest
Honesty is key in saving a marriage; without honesty, your relationship is going to be a lot harder. Honesty is not meant to be hurtful, like admitting that your partner’s weight gain leaves you feeling less attracted to them than in your early years together. Honesty in relationships is about being truthful and respectful. This includes honesty with yourself. It’s easy to view ourselves through rose colored glasses and take a superior stance to our partner but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Being honest with ourselves about our own faults and how we’ve contributed to the problems in our marriage can make a world of difference in our acceptance of the situation and empower us to solve the problem. If we brought ourselves to this place, we can certainly bring ourselves out.