There are many recipes for creating a happy marriage. Through our work with couples in our relationship coaching practice, we’ve discovered a few “truths” that seem to be universal and what we call “our” recipe for a happy marriage.
Here are 7 simple suggestions to help you create your recipe for a happy marriage:
1. If you want to keep your marriage alive and growing, you have to really want to keep it that way. You have to decide that the marriage is important in your life and give it the time and attention it needs. As we’ve said before, it doesn’t matter what you say or intend about your marriage. Your actions are what speak the loudest.
Tip: Look at your actions in your marriage and make sure that they are congruent with what you say your intentions are. Are you spending enough time and energy on the relationship?
2. Focus on what you like and love about the person instead of what you don’t like or gets on your nerves. We truly do get more of what we focus on. If you want to prevent infidelity, flirting with others outside the relationship, affairs, and even divorce and a relationship breakup, begin focusing on the positive in your relationship and not the negative.
Tip: Stop when you start to criticize your spouse, with words or even in your mind. Turn your thinking to what you like about them and begin to see how your marriage gets better.
3. Kindness matters in marriages, so be kind. Very often, people in relationships treat the people closest to them worse than they treat acquaintances or even total strangers. Several years ago we attended a presentation by Wayne Dyer and in it, he told us that if you are choosing whether to be “right” or to be kind, always choose kindness. We think that’s great advice.
Tip: This week, do something kind for your spouse that you wouldn’t normally do and without expectation of anything in return.
4. Show appreciation for your spouse and what they mean to you.You may be thinking that you need to say “thank you” and just haven’t taken the time or energy to do it. We urge you to make a habit of expressing appreciation. If you do, we think you’ll find your marriage to be filled with much more happiness and joy.
Tip: Look at what your spouse does for you or what they mean to you and say a word of appreciation about it to them. It might be something as simple as “I like your smile” or “Thank you for cooking dinner last night.”
5. Ask for what you want. Most people expect the people who are in relationship with them to be mind readers. If you’re expecting others to be psychics, you’re in for a painful ride if you’re in relationship with them. If you want your needs to be met, you have to tell people what these needs are.
You also have to tell them in a way that they can hear them. Sometimes this takes courage, but we know that when you clearly ask for what you want, you bypass assumptions, resentments and miscommunications.
Tip: What desire have you been putting off communicating with your spouse? Whether it’s a desire to have more “dates” alone, more romance, or more help around the house, the only way you’ll get any of these things is to ask.
6. Listen without judging or getting defensive. Be open to the possibility that someone else’s opinion or way of doing things may be just as valid or important as yours. Just because their way is different, doesn’t make them or you wrong.
If you’re constantly judging, being defensive and building walls, you’re not open to possibilities and to the love that is possible between two people.
Tip: Choose something about your spouse that always makes you angry or you always judge them for saying or doing it. During one conversation, just listen to him/her without judging them with words or even in your mind. What did you discover?
7. Be willing to risk opening your heart and letting your spouse in. We can be in a relationship for many years and still not allow another person to penetrate our walls of protection. If you want to have a marriage that is alive and growing, being willing to risk is a prerequisite.
Tip: Examine what walls you’ve built to keep out your spouse. It might be that you “close down” and retreat when there’s conflict between the two of you. It might be that you are afraid to ask for what you want. We invite you to choose one situation where you are fearful or get triggered easily and exercise the courage to take a risk and say one thing that is real and true for you to him/her.
This free love advice in the form of a recipe for creating a happy marriage are not the only ones that help keep a marriage alive and growing but this is a good place to start.