“Happily ever after” is a great ending for Disney but in real life marriage takes work and commitment. It isn’t just Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt who argue (the only difference is that when they argue paparazzi peddle photos to celebrity magazines); every marriage has its ups and downs.
Here are 10 habits every couple should integrate into their home in order to build a strong, happy and enduring marriage.
1. Stop picking on your partner
It’s easier to blame and put responsibility on your spouse than acknowledge that marriage is a partnership. Husband and wife are a team. A healthy marriage means we support one another-in both words and actions. This is the definition of commitment. When something goes wrong stop trying to figure out whose fault it is. It’s a pointless exercise that just causes pain. Speak about solutions instead of looking to accuse. Be careful not to use put downs to feel better about yourself. There is no room for meanness in marriage.
This goes for the little moments as well as the big ones. Instead of looking to blame when there’s not enough gas left in the tank, give empathy. Allow your partner to unload and show that you care. Talk about finding a way to work this out for next time instead of defending yourself by attacking your spouse.
2. Express feelings in a mature way
There’s a difference between whining and being constructive. Constant complaining feels as if you are living with a two year old who falls into tantrums. Talk about what you want using a positive approach. Instead of saying “I feel as if I am a single mom; you’re never home,” say “The kids and I love spending time with you. Is there a way we can make this happen more often?” A healthy relationship means we speak about what we want instead making our partner feel that home is a place of criticism and nagging.
3. Stop being passive aggressive
Resentment builds when we say we are fine, and ‘whatever’ but inside we are feeling spiteful. You may think you are being nice and giving in but your eyes and body language speak volumes. If you are upset, communicate your emotions respectfully instead of bottling up your hard feelings. Don’t keep saying “Do what you want” and then freeze on your spouse with an icy silence. You do not want to become a bitter partner.
4. Stop trying to prove that you are right
You can be 100% right but your attitude is all wrong. If you keep bringing up the same thing over and over to prove your point, you have lost your way. In a healthy relationship, we make a choice to create peace instead of trying to always have the final word. Choose tolerance and compassion to replace the attitude of arrogance and being a ‘know it all’. There are some people who need to prove that they’re right even when they apologize. When you apologize, be sincere. Don’t clarify your apology by saying “I am sorry, BUT…” Being happy is better than being right.
5. Be receptive
We all make mistakes. When your partner wants to make things better, don’t make him suffer. If your spouse extends an overture after an argument, it is not wise to keep the argument going for days. Some people find it most difficult to forgive. After an argument they carry hard feelings and cannot even give a smile when their spouse reaches out and attempts to make things right. A thriving relationship requires a spirit of acceptance. This means that you are approachable and make reconciliation possible. Live your life moving toward each other instead of backing away.
6. Stop using threats to manipulate your spouse
If you value the self-esteem of your partner, you will be careful to avoid threats as a way to find control. When we intimidate the ones we are supposed to love, we lose our connection with them. We create an environment of fear as rage grows within. True love means that we nourish one another as we share a vision for our future. We support each other and don’t bulldoze our partner to get what we want. We never use threats to overcome turmoil. Your partner needs to feel cherished not controlled.
7. Set clear limits
It is easy to love when all is good. The question is how do we make it through a disagreement intact? In a healthy relationship, couples decide together where they will not go. Saying things like “I never want to see your face again,’ “I want a divorce,” or using cruel and shaming words are simply off limits. (Of course physical aggression is also never allowed). Slamming the door and walking out, disappearing for hours, being flirtatious to get back at your spouse, using the children as chess pieces in your battle are all actions that will hurt you and never help. Deciding what to do when a situation gets ‘hot’ instead of screaming and yelling is also crucial. A fight does not mean that the relationship is over. But things said and done during the disagreement can be the start of unhealthy pattern that will unravel the bond you have together.
8. Be proactive in your love life
Instead of complaining, start creating. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Be the one to take the initiative. Becoming a parent or being married for years does not mean that you should neglect your partner. You may need to decide to make more time for your spouse, be spontaneous, get creative, and infuse new energy into your relationship. Take care of yourself and ask: how can I make some small changes to help the situation? It may mean a haircut, losing the baggy clothing, or getting into better shape. Look at your lifestyle and make sure that your spouse feels cared for. Express your love every single day.
9. Keep your friendship alive
Being married means acknowledging that we live with our best friend. Focus on the one you love and reach out to your partner, not just your friends. A healthy relationship creates a life based on mutual trust. We share intimate details, fears and hopes without being afraid that we will be laughed at. We make time for each other and share experiences, not just problems, bills, and carpool schedules.
10. Stop expecting
When we give because we expect in return, we set ourselves up for disappointment. For love to endure, we need to invest in our relationship. This means we give and don’t measure how much we have gotten back. Our question must be: What can I do today to make my marriage better? We are all capable of giving. When we express appreciation, give a compliment, an encouraging hug, a thoughtful gesture, we are showing our spouse that we are committed and care. Concentrating on what our partner does for us becomes a selfish way of giving. Give because you want to create a home filled with love.
Marriage requires thoughtful contemplation. Happiness is a choice we make through our daily decisions and responses. When we realize that we have within our power the ability to build a life together rather than destroy, we will renew the spirit of love and acceptance in our homes.