Appreciation and encouragement are the nutrients that make love grow. Your spouse must have had many wonderful qualities to attract you in the first place. Here are some points to contemplate in your relationship.
1. Appreciate your partner – “…if you want joy in your relationship, an enduring sense of it’s specialness, the feeling that you are loved by (and are loving) a most extraordinary human being, be accurate, consistent, generous and extravagant with your praise.” – Daphne Rose Kingma
Unfortunately these qualities often become taken for granted and then covered by a mask of discouragement and hurt. Look for those things you first fell in love with. They are still there and if you expect and acknowledge them they will shine through. Tell your spouse how much you appreciate him/her for something and notice how much more often he/she does it. The more specific you are with your appreciation the better.
• “I love watching how gentle you are with the children.”
• “It makes me feel so loved when you call me during the day just to say hi!”
• “I enjoy it when we cook together.”
• “You always make me laugh!”
• “What a treat to come home to a clean house!”
• “Thank you for being such a good provider.”
End each day by telling your partner one thing you love about him or her. Make it a lifetime habit.
2. Put yourself in your partners shoes – “The body travels more easily than the mind, and until we have limbered up our imagination we continue to think as though we had stayed home. We have not really budged a step until we take up residence in someone else’s point of view.” – John Erskine
To understand how your partner feels about something askyourself, “How would I feel if my partner said (did) that to me?” “How would I feel if that happened to me?” That will give you the best understanding into the reactions you get. The old “Do unto others” adage is very important in relationships and we need to remember that we all feel and react to things in pretty much the same ways. We will learn far more about each other if we focus on all the ways we are just alike instead of the minor differences.
3. Choose closeness over being right – “To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the loving cup, Whenever you’re wrong, admit it; Whenever you’re right, shut up.” – Ogden Nash
Most of us think that if we acknowledge that the other person is right it means that we must be wrong and most of us really resist being wrong. However, if we change that paradigm and allow that it is possible and usually quite likely that whenever there is disagreement both parties are right AND both parties are wrong – depending on which street corner you are on. Each person is viewing the situation from their own unique perspective. Be willing to say “You’re right!”
4. When there is conflict, talk about the problem not about each other – “Nobody can keep an argument going like two people who aren’t sure what they’re arguing about.” – Oprah Winfrey
All too often we try to resolve our conflicts by judging and criticizing our partner and the arguments become more about our dissatisfaction with each other than the original issue. This is ineffective because when our partner feels judged or attacked they will become defensive and blame us instead. This takes all the focus off the problem because we are both more invested in protecting ourselves from blame than creating a solution. When discussing a problem it is most valuable to avoid accusations and instead talk about how you feel about the problem and how it affects you.
Use this simple format: When ______________ happens, I feel ___________ and what I want is___________. Will you please do that?
Words are really only useful at friendly times. If either of you is not feeling friendly take some time out and wait until the anger is gone to discuss a problem. The I suggest that a couple begin by holding both hands, making eye contact, and telling each other at least one thing they love about them. It is very hard to attack someone who has just told you what they love about you, and when you are making eye contact you will immediately see the effect of any unkind or hurtful words.
5. Romance each other – “What comes from the heart, touches the heart.” – Don Sibert
The simple little things like a love note in the briefcase or on the bathroom mirror, a tiny little gift for no reason at all, the unexpected “I love you” call can go a long way towards keeping passion in your relationship. I also highly encourage couples to have regular date nights — even if the date just consists of a long walk in the park, holding hands and talking. It is virtually impossible to nurture a relationship without these little vacations away from the house, the job & the kids so make playing together a priority.
6. Keep the passion in your relationship – “Women complain about sex more often than men. Their gripes fall into two major categories: 1) Not enough, 2) Too much.” – Ann Landers
Choose to have sex often, even if you are not in the mood. Making that special effort will pay off by both of you feeling more loved and cherished. Waiting until both busy partners are in the mood could mean very little sex – the first sign of drifting apart. When the sex life is wonderful all the problems of sharing a life seem smaller. When the sex life is not working well or is nonexistent even the smallest problems can seem huge.
7. Instead of continually fighting over money, parenting, etc. get help! – “The aim of an argument of discussion should not be victory, but progress.” – Joseph Joubert
In this day and age there are experts in everything. Don’t look at it as a sign of weakness to get help. Instead look at it as you would fitness training or playing a good game of golf. We all know that we will be more successful staying fit and our golf game will improve if we get advise and coaching from fitness experts and golf pros.
8. Use humor, but make sure it is not cutting or sarcastic – “Humor is something that thrives between man’s aspirations and his limitations. There is more logic in humor that in anything else. Because, you see, humor is truth.” – Victor Borge
Laugh and play a lot. Seeing the humor in daily challenges and frustrations enables a couple to make their relationship safe for mistakes and their individual imperfections. Be aware though, that if your partner is hurt by your humor the laughter can quickly turn to tears. Ask yourself how you would feel if your partner made the same joke about you. Laugh with your partner not at him.
9. Remember that a good marriage takes work – “Home life as we understand it is no more natural to us than a cage is natural to a cockatoo.” – G.B. Shaw
Along with parenting, creating and maintaining a healthy, loving relationship is one of the most difficult jobs we will ever have. We go to school & take lots of course to learn how to do just about everything else. Why do we think we don’t also need relationship education? Unless we were among the rare fortunate souls to have had parents who actually had that kind of relationship we must learn it somewhere else. Otherwise we will probably follow what they modeled for us, because they were our primary teachers about relationships. If you want to know how your husband will most likely treat you, check out how his father treats his mother. Make your marriage your highest priority. That will be the greatest gift you can give your children and will do the most to ensure that they also have happy marriages.
10. Choose love and forgiveness over fear and revenge – “Love waits on welcome, not on time.” “Forgiveness is the key to happiness.” – A Course in Miracles
Revenge always creates more revenge. Love and forgiveness create more love and forgiveness. It is a spiritual law of the universe that if you want something, especially love, all you have to do is give it away and it will come back to you. However, you cannot give love for the purpose of getting love in return. That is not clean & pure love, but love with a hook and hooks stick and hurt. So when you are feeling alienated from your partner, ask yourself whether you are choosing love or revenge. Only when you are aware of what you are doing are you going to be at choice about it.
11. Learn to ask for what you want.
“I believe you can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar
If you are not asking for what you want in your relationship, you probably aren’t going to get it. If you are not getting what you want you will get resentful and out of that resentment you will not be willing to give your partner what he/she wants. To not ask is to be mean. It is putting your partner in a no win situation and expecting him/her to read your mind. When asked what they want more than anything, most people will say “I just want my partner to be happy.” This is because the most joy comes in giving to the one you love — not getting from the one who loves you. Often the most loving thing you can do is allow your partner to give you a gift especially if it is exactly what you have asked for. To give is to receive, and to receive is to give. A relationship really only works when it works for both parties.
12. Love your partner, change yourself – “To dream the person you would like your partner to be is to waste the person your partner is.” – Anonymous
How many people find the perfect person to marry and then after the wedding set about trying to change them only to be met with a wall of resistance? It is all about love and control. We all want to be loved for who we are and no one wants to be controlled by anyone else. It is impossible to change someone who does not want to change. They may agree to try to change but that agreement usually falls by the wayside the first time you don’t do what they want you to. However, there is real power in focusing on changing yourself. A relationship is like a mobile and if you change one part of the mobile the other part has to change. Never underestimate the power you have to influence someone else’s behavior by changing yours. Everything in a relationship is action and reaction. Change your action and you will get a different reaction. Change the way you react to your partner’s action and they will act in a different way the next time.
13. Do not quit! – “Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe
Therapists, counselors and divorce attorneys often hear “We love each other but we just are not right for each other.” What that really means is that even though they love each other they just have not figured out how to have a relationship that works for both of them. The idea that there is a right person for anyone is questionable. If the attraction was strong enough for them to marry, the same qualities are usually still there. A man found the perfect woman for him, sweet and loving and yet after a couple of years she turned into a nagging witch. They divorced and he was fortunate to find another perfect woman whom he married. The same thing happened. After a year or so she also became a nagging witch. After this happened a couple of more times he realized that he was the common denominator. He decided to figure out how he managed to keep turning sweet and loving women into nagging witches. With his last wife he changed some of his behaviors and she did not become a nagging witch. He had been creating the same dynamics in all of his relationships, even though the women all appeared to be very different in the beginning. Unless you figure out how you create the dynamics of your relationship and take action to change your behavior you will most likely keep creating the same thing over and over. Changing partners seldom works unless you also change patterns. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!
We have found that these tips work well for us and have made a profound difference in the wellness of our marriage. We hope that you will find these pointers helpful in your relationship as well. Please remember that a relationship only really works when it works for both of you.
Kim and I value the wisdom and guidance in this article that was written by one of our wonderful teachers, Tammy Cox of the Redirection Connection in Austin, TX.