You've been working really hard on your relationship. At least, it feels like hard work because it's so draining and takes up so much time and energy. The bad news is you were probably working on trying to fix the wrong things. The good news is that no matter how bad it seems now, it's not too late to use these life hacks to get back the relationship -- the fulfilling one you set out to have when you first fell in love. That's true even if you're separated, there's been an affair or the divorce is already started.
Of course, if the affairs are chronic, your partner is actively addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling or you're with a physical abuser, it is not worth saving your marriage because you're not safe.
But, if none of that applies to your situation, here's what you can do to restore the peace, passion and connection you once shared:
1. Duct Tape
Not only does it hold the universe together, duct tape can also keep your relationship together -- if you put it over your mouth whenever you're tempted to tell your spouse how to cut an onion, to eat more leafy greens or how to ask the boss for a raise. If your goal is connection and playfulness, consider trusting your partner to figure it out, even if he sometimes seems clueless.
You might be wondering, "What if I'm better at those things than she is?" or "What's so bad about helping him improve by teaching him what I know?" The answer is right there in the question: Nobody wants to be improved. Trying to improve your partner creates distance and defensiveness.
You probably don't feel all that good hearing yourself giving orders like the third-grade teacher who told her boyfriend to "Go sit down," or "Put that away." It's not attractive or conducive to intimacy. Why should being efficient take precedence over faith and trust in your partner's ability? You wouldn't have picked him if you didn't think he was capable to begin with.
If you're anything like me, giving up trying to control your partner cold-turkey is like trying to stop thinking about elephants. It's a hard habit to break, unless you start with these next two life-hacks. They will give you the reserves and the perspective you need to keep the duct tape on when you need it the most.
Think napping is only for babies? You're more likely to act like a baby when you're overtired, including overreacting to your partner's loud phone conversation or the dishes left in the living room again. The world just doesn't look right when you're depleted, so when your spouse is getting on your very last nerve it could be -- and often is -- that your energy account is simply overdrawn.
Your level of tolerance is directly proportional to how much rest and relaxation you've had. Think your relationship problems are bigger than just sleep-deprivation? Go lie down for an hour and let's find out. Sometimes the most important thing to do next is to rest.
When you're well-rested and rejuvenated, you might appreciate that the loud phone conversation that had you gritting your teeth was him taking care of the health insurance so that you don't have to, and that the dishes in the living room are there because he made his famous chili for everyone while you were out.
3. Coffee Klatches
Relying on just one person for all your social and emotional needs is just not a good set up. That's why you need a knitting circle, poker buddies or a running club to save your marriage.
That's because you need more than one person to meet your emotional needs. In my case, it takes two sisters, three friends and my husband to make me feel better on a bad day.
You also need friends, perhaps with coffee cups. You might explain to them how much better you are at cutting an onion than your partner, for example. They might remind you to take a nap.
You might also talk about how stressed you are at work, or challenged by your kid's poor grades or your mom's forgetfulness. Sure, you can tell your spouse these things, but why not tell more than one person? We humans need several other humans to bear witness to our experiences.
You social community can help uphold your marriage by doing some of the witnessing. You'll feel nurtured instead of needy by the time you get home to your spouse, and that happy grin from all the knitting, poker, running and talking will not only make you more attractive, it will go a long way toward creating a good mood at home.
Sure, you still wish he'd clean up more, or she'd spend less or not indulge the kids so much. You'll still be frustrated at times because your partner doesn't listen, or doesn't pay attention to you. But the more you use these three life hacks, the smaller those problems will seem. The more emotionally safe, well-rested and supported you are, the happier your marriage will be. And unlike your partner's behavior, all of these hacks are well within your control.
For more unusually effective life-hacks for saving your marriage, and to find out how good your Intimacy Skills are, take the free quiz here.