To build a loving, fulfilling marriage, stop focusing on the details about what's wrong and focus instead on connection. All too often we get caught up seeing the trees (the list of problems you may have with your spouse) and lose sight of the main goal: intimate connection. 

If you’re focused on problems, they’ll continue to mount, and as you solve one problem, another will pop up. Focus instead on connection. When couples are connected they will want to give to each other because deep down they desire to give.

Don't get caught up in the issues. Take a deep breath, shift your perspective and look for the good and remind yourself of the underlying need you have to connect with your spouse. Nurturing love and connection is ultimately the best way to solve specific problems. If your relationship is in a good space, the issues will often get resolved on their own.

It’s essential to learn how to create safe conversations. One of the challenges couples have in getting their needs met is feeling safe. Sometimes a request from our spouse may play on our fears and insecurities. We go into fight/flight mode, relying on our survival defenses. We don’t see a loving wife or husband, we unconsciously see an enemy who is threatening our existence. We often reply irrationally and our spouse is left feeling frustrated that we will never change. We can remove these stumbling blocks by retraining our brain to react differently. We do this by slowing down and having a dialogue in an intentional way, sharing our day to day lives with empathy and support, and no judgment.

Talking and genuine listening nurtures connection and if super busy couples don't carve out the time do this, it's not going to happen. This is not a luxury; spending 10 to 20 minutes of quality time together forms the backbone of marriage. Don’t take it for granted. As the walls come tumbling down, we feel closer to each other and are much more amenable to meeting each other's needs.

Couples need to experience joy together. Have fun again. It's easy to get bogged down in the day to day responsibilities of life. A marriage often becomes an exercise in home management or co-parenting, not a fulfilling loving relationship with your spouse. Make it a point to experience joy together so that you can connect deeply. Go out on a date, share a belly laugh. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as the experience helps you feel more connected. There is a famous Hebrew axiom that simcha poretz geder, joy breaks all boundaries. Utilize this power to allow you to achieve the same sense of connection you had when you first fell in love.

Experiencing connection is one of our deepest needs. That supersedes all of our other request in our marriage. When you stop focusing on what's wrong, learn how to have safe conversations, and experience joy together, you can achieve your ultimate goal for a connected, joyful marriage.

To get a copy of Rabbi Slatkin's New 60 Second Plan to a Happy and Healthy Marriage, click here: