Having a healthy relationship is easier than you think.
For better or worse, marriage is about compromise. The highs are great, but the lows are sometimes unbearable. When my marriage was hitting a rough patch, I didn't realize that I was fixated on the wrong issue. I would try to fix her problems. I would think to myself, she is the one who has to change, not me. How could she not see it my way? I felt that I must make her understand that I am right, and she is wrong.
This is the wrong mentality.
Forget about changing your spouse and focus on changing yourself. At least in my relationship, I had my head in the sand. I didn't realize that I was the problem. I just didn't get it. I'm not here to tell you husbands are bad and wives are good. What I am saying is that in order to work on a relationship, you must first look at yourself.
You must change how you deal with situations in order to elicit a different response. I felt depressed and physically drained. Our relationship wasn't where I/we wanted it to be. One day, I thought to myself, What can I do to make this better?
I decided to take action. That's all it was. This is a work in progress, but I do feel our relationship is better and getting stronger. The key word is action. If you don't do anything, nothing will change. I chose action -- to do something for my wife. To always think how I can make it easier for her. To serve is always better than to receive. Here are the five tips that helped me.
1. Listen and ask questions
The clues are there if you just listen. You may think it's a riddle, but just focus on what they are trying to convey. The answers will be there. If you don't understand, ask questions, try to continue the conversation. Most of the time, we are hearing, but not understanding, what our spouse is talking about.
You're not engaging in the conversation; you're just looking to get it over with. Try not to move on to what you want to talk about. Try to understand your partner's point of view by listening, questioning and finally, understanding.
2. Don't buy stuff, create memories
Yes, most women love jewelry, but they also love taking pictures and creating memories. Instead of buying her love with a necklace or a ring, go on sites like Groupon and book an activity that both of you can enjoy together. My wife and I have enjoyed salsa lessons, cooking classes and even a trapeze workshop! It didn't matter what the event was; it was the fact that we were doing it together that made it special. The accomplishment of doing something together will form a greater bond than any item you can buy.
3. Leave them alone!
We sometimes forget that everything doesn't revolve around us. Your wife may be upset about something and it has nothing to do with you. Really! Your wife may be stressed from watching the kids, work, school, whatever. What should you do? If it's the kids, take them to the mall or the movies. If it's work, pour her a glass of wine and go for a jog. If it's school, buy her an hour massage to relax her.
The most important thing is for her to clear her mind and relax. Just give her space and she will appreciate the gesture.
4. Think before you speak
If we just waited that half second, we wouldn't have said it. We get too comfortable and lose sight of the other person's feelings. Just wait. I can't tell you how many times I received the silent treatment because I said something insensitive. I knew it was bad, but I didn't think before I spoke.
There are things we all know that we can or can't say to our spouse. We try to walk this line, especially when we are upset. When you're about to say something, particularly in an argument, just take a deep breath. Ask yourself, "How will this benefit the situation?" The answer will always be obvious. Think, speak and be merry.
5. Take action
This is the most important step. Do the dishes, take out the garbage and hang that picture. Do it before being asked. Don't procrastinate. So many arguments and issues can be resolved by just taking action. If you pursue to be better, you will be. Once I started to take action, my wife saw me in a different light. She said to me, "Something is up. What's the matter? Did you lose all our money?" I laughed and said, "I am tired of just being. I want to make you happy." In the beginning, she just rolled her eyes. But after a couple of weeks, she began to appreciate what I was doing. She began to do more things to show her appreciation. It's a great cycle to get into.
Are these the end-all, be-all steps to a happy marriage? No! But I guarantee that your lives will go in the right direction by applying these steps into your daily life. You will feel much better about yourself and your relationship. This is not an overnight fix! You need to make a commitment to your wife and yourself for a better relationship. Just because you did this for a couple of days, don't think you won't revert to bad habits. Keep at it. Remember to listen, think and take action!
This article originally appeared on The Good Men Project.