It’s what we all want, isn’t it?
A loving and caring relationship. A lasting partnership. A bond that gets better and stronger over time.
If we only knew how.
While having a better relationship requires effort, it isn’t rocket science. There are actions that build loving relationships and actions that all but guarantee unhappiness.
The good news: it’s easy to tell the difference.
More good news: there’s no shortage of healthy moves you can make.
Here are 25 of my current favorites:
1. You know that thing you do that drives your spouse nuts — the wet towel on the floor, the way you sneak a peek at your phone? Why not make a commitment to stop doing that and see what happens?
2. It’s easy to be committed to your marriage when things are going well. True commitment means keeping two feet in when the going gets rough.
3. We all have those chores that no one wants to do. Put one of them at the top of your to-do list, rather than waiting for your spouse to do it. (Yes, even the dreaded call to the cable company.)
4. Say please and thank you. (Your mother was right.)
5. While you’re at it, I’m sorry also goes a long way.
6. Pay less attention to your partner’s role in your difficulties and more attention to your own — it’s the only thing you can control anyway.
7. Generosity may well be the key to happiness. Be loving and generous whenever possible.
8. Know when to shut up (such as, when you’re about to say something critical or mean, or you’re hell-bent on having the last word.)
9. Know when to speak up. Forget about suffering in silence about issues that need to be placed on the table. Never mind settling or making do with conditions you can’t stand. No one is a better advocate for you than you.
10. Practice the three Cs: Compassion. Courage. Curiosity.
11. Accept the fact that truth comes in versions. (As in: It was Tuesday…No it was Wednesday…What do you mean I was angry?) Spoiler alert: you’re likely to fight a lot less.
12. There may be times that one of you is more optimistic about your relationship than the other. Be grateful to your spouse for being optimistic when you aren’t. Sometimes the only thing that gets couples through hard times is that they never wanted to get a divorce on the same day.
13. As the saying goes, we can either be right or free. As far as I’m concerned, being right is overrated.
14. Turn. Off. Your. Phone.
15. One of the advanced skills of marriage is learning to tolerate being disappointed in your partner and learning to tolerate when your partner is disappointed in you. The sooner you accept this, the happier you’ll be.
16. Date nights are great, but not always easy to arrange. Try “speed dating” — as in taking ten minutes to sit down together and give each other your undivided attention. Tea, wine, candle light optional.
17. Long hard day? Too tired to talk? Why not just sit together on the porch and look at the stars?
18. Give up the notion that marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition. Sometimes it’s sixty-forty. Sometimes it’s ninety-ten. Why not put in your best effort no matter what your partner does?
19. When there’s a winner and loser, both partners lose.
20. Feel free to ask for what you want as long as you’re clear that you’re not entitled to get it just because you asked.
21. Be willing to take risks. If we want to grow we have to step out of our comfort zone. Without growth and change everything stays the same whether we like it that way or not.
22. Find as many ways as possible to say I love you — with words and without.
23. Sex doesn’t stay hot and exciting all on its own. Use your imagination. Change things up.
24. Set a high standard for yourself as a partner and then strive to attain it.
25. Relationships are hard. When things are difficult, lean in to the challenge rather than give up or feel defeated. When things are going well, open your heart and appreciate all that you have.
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First appeared on speakingofmarriage.com