Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years. ~Simone Signoret
I am not a marriage expert. This list is from my own experience. Obviously there are big deep seated issues such as not fighting well; over controlling; passive aggression; or lying that the following suggestions would not fix. But I do think a little extra attention in these areas would make any marriage stronger.
Above all marriage is about putting the “we” at the front of our minds and it’s easy to get lazy about this. What really matters, as with all important things in life, is not so much the “knowing” as it is the “applying”.
- Be of good cheer. It’s all too easy to be grumpish and tired toward a spouse. After all they love you and the charade is off. We let our guard down. But this can be taken advantage of too. Your spouse doesn’t deserve to always get the side of you that is tired and grouchy after a whole day of being upbeat with a world of people you care less about. Make an effort to put your best foot forward with your spouse on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean fake it. This means hold something in reserve for those that mean the most to you. It’s part of conscious prioritizing.
- Touch each other. Hold hands occasionally. Give a pat as you pass in the hall. Go out of your way to show affection. Occasionally just pull your spouse close in an affectionate protective hug. These little regular displays go a long way in keeping the spark alive. Keep in mind the more noticeable each of these is means you need to do it more often. Giving your spouse a hug should not startle them. If it does you’re not doing it enough.
- Do your part. And be very acknowledging and thankful when for whatever reason someone is doing it for you. There are jobs in the home and there are jobs outside of the home. But even when you are working a full time job you still have a certain amount of responsibility to contribute to the home. Think about it, if you were single and working would someone come in and make your bed every day? Pick up your clothes? Plan and shop for your favorite foods? Cook for you? No. You would have to do it or pay dearly for the luxury of having someone else do it. Pitch in and pitch in willingly.
- Keep your word. Your spouse deserves the best of you and if you establish a pattern of being unreliable your marriage will pay for it in hurt feelings, nagging, and in really unhealthy situations, retaliation. It’s easy to forget that every time you don’t follow through you create doubt in your spouse that you can be counted on. I believe this is the root of most excessive nagging. Hint: If your spouse is nagging you it is likely they don’t really believe you will do what they asked because in the past you have let them down. When you are always reliable no one nags.
- Share your internal life. Share your thoughts, stories, and dreams. Remember to keep sharing a little something about your life that doesn’t directly involve your spouse. This does not mean come home and vent all your work frustrations (use that privilege sparingly). Share the little pleasures you experienced that day. Let your spouse know the kinds of things you are thinking about. You can do this daily over dinner or once a week have a designated time where the two of you just sit and chat, not watch tv, not check email. Just be together.
- Go on dates. They don’t all have to be fancy. You can even get a babysitter just so the two of you can get out for a walk and a quiet dinner at the local diner. Enjoy each other’s company in peace and quiet. Having fun together on a regular basis should be part of your family life and also your life as a couple. A little romance goes a long way.
Do you struggle with any of these? I tend to have the hardest time with #1 and #6. Do you have other guidelines to fortify your relationship? Please share them in the comments. Thanks for reading!
* A critical issue for harmony in marriage? How about when to leave for the airport.
* I found this post Then and Now over at Ten Dollar Thoughts very touching.