A while ago I read an interesting quote attributed to H. Jackson Brown Jr., “Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.” I would, however, paraphrase Mr. Brown and instead say, “Care for your marriage relationship as though your happiness depends on it – it does!” Here are 10 simple ideas that will supercharge your marriage relationship…
Be willing to be vulnerable. Be willing to be wrong. Admit your mistakes, faults and weakness. Take comfort in the fact that you can’t do it all! Not only because you can’t but because you don’t need to. The basis of relationships is that we are there to help and support each other.
Give more to get more. Do more, give more and selfishly pour your life into your relationship. Notice I said selfishly not selflessly. The more we put into our relationship the more we get out and the happier we are. Do something every day to nourish your relationship. Care for your marriage relationship as though your happiness depends on it – it does.
Give up on the idea of 50/50 marriage equity. It’s never going to be a 50/50 relationship. Sometimes it’s 80/20 and sometimes 30/70 but rarely 50/50. Give up on watching what your spouse is doing and STOP counting; there is no quid pro quo in marriage. There will always be an ebb and flow to the give and take in a relationship. BUT that’s not an excuse to sink into a rut where you give 10% and take 90%. Change your outlook to measuring YOUR investment in your marriage not your spouse’s investment. If you’re not wholeheartedly investing in your relationship and your investment is minimal, you’re acting against you own self-interest!
Praise much and criticize little. Become your partner’s cheerleader. Focus on each other’s positive qualities. Commit your outward (actions, words) and inward (thoughts, feelings) focus to the positive qualities of your spouse. When they do something you like, tell them, “Thank you, that was kind. Or - I like it when you do that!”
Let go of expectations. Unhappiness (despondency, sadness, misery, suffering) lies in the gap between expectation and reality. Let go of expectations today. If something didn’t go the way you wanted – let it go. Focus on appreciating what is rather than on what is not. Be gentle and forgiving with your partner and with yourself.
Struggle together. The world can be a tough and unforgiving place. Together, you can not only survive, you can thrive! Face each day as a team. Work together to find solutions to problems instead of fighting to get it your way. Learn to compromise. Tough and independent is over rated.
Talk to your spouse – especially when it’s not easy. Talk to your spouse – especially when it’s not easy! Did I already say - Talk to your spouse – especially when it’s not easy!!! Talk about your emotions, what’s going on under the hood. Understandably, the easiest emotion to access is anger. But recognize this, anger sits at the top of the emotional pyramid. Underneath anger and frustration are a whole list of other possible emotions – hurt, sadness, fear, grief, embarrassment, shame, disappointment, sorrow, etc. If we talk angrily to our spouse about our issues we invite confrontation, but if we talk about our pain, our hurt sadness, we open the conversation and invite support.
Rush to be the first to apologize. The place of honour and respect belongs to the person who apologizes and especially to the person who apologizes first. The first apology breaks through the frozen barrier and begins the thawing process. Chances are BOTH of you are wrong at some level. Think about what you can apologize for and, with a truly humble heart, reach out to your spouse with an apology. You’ll BOTH be glad you did, because the truth is your spouse would like to move forward too but they just may not have developed what it takes to be the first one to break the stalemate.
Listen more talk less. Listen to understand. Let your spouse finish. STOP interrupting and listen, truly listen to what they are saying. We all have an innate need to feel like we are understood. We cannot understand if we do not listen. We cannot listen if we are talking.
Above all else, be faithful. “The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want the most for what you want now” (Zig Ziglar). Being unfaithful is acting against your own self-interest. Looking outside of a marriage to get what you lack in your relationship is a sign that you need to work on your relationship. A qualified couple’s therapist can help. However, if a make a mistake is made, don’t try to push past it and forget it ever happened. Take the time to work through these dark waters with a qualified couple’s therapist.
Over the next 10 days take some time to reflect on these (one each day) and how you can change your relationship for the better.