I do a lot of work with parents, that’s true, but I also see a lot of couples looking for marriage advice. Sometimes people come to see me specifically because their marriage isn’t where they would want it to be; sometimes, they’re struggling with a parenting issue, and as our work goes on, it becomes clear to all of us that there are some gaps in their marriage too. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so if you’ve got a high-needs kid or a challenge at work or school, that can block out everything else. It can be easy to overlook that there are things we can do to improve our marriages to make them happier – and that we should. Everyone in the house benefits when Mom and Dad are happy. Could you be happier in your marriage? Then let me give you my top three pieces of marriage advice, with some ideas you can try today.
- Spend time together. I know, I know, between work and the kids, it can be next to impossible to carve out that time, much less have the energy to enjoy it. But if you don’t invest in your relationship now, it’s too easy to drift further and further away from one another, until you feel like you’re living with a stranger. Don’t let that happen to your marriage. Think of some things that you used to enjoy doing together, or some things that you’d like to try, and make a point of putting them on the calendar. While now might not be the time to take up a new hobby (then again, maybe it is…), at the very least you can commit to sitting down with a cup of tea or a glass of wine a couple of times a week, just to chat, maybe laugh, and reconnect. It’s well worth it.
- Don’t take each other for granted. Really notice the little things that your partner does that makes your life easier or happier, and acknowledge them. It’s easy to get resentful when you feel that your hard work isn’t even being noticed, or when it’s being taken for granted. Nothing in this life is a given, and it’s a small but powerful action to say “thanks” or “it was really great that you did that”. Becoming aware of all the small ways that you work well as a team and the little things that are good between you, helps you to shift the focus in your marriage from what’s not working, to what is. It might all be small stuff, yes, but even enormous trees started out as saplings at one point, so don’t be put off by the fact that these actions are small. We tend to find what we’re looking for, so if we look for the ways that things are working, we’ll build on that positive point of view and see more and more of what’s going well.
- Really listen. If your partner comes to you and says that s/he is unhappy, don’t gloss over it. While you might have a big discussion tonight and then it seems as though it’s back to business as usual in the morning, don’t fool yourself into believing that just because your partner isn’t constantly discussing it (or nagging you) that it means that the problem has magically gone away. Really hear what he or she is saying, then take that information to heart. Put yourself out there and make some changes, do something different. If your marriage is that important to you, then show that through action. Don’t wait until you’re so distanced from one another that reconnection seems impossible; do it now. You’ll be glad you did.