1. If your goal is to have a satisfying marriage with longevity, make sure you are accountable for the part you play in the relationship — good or bad. When you are in denial about your part in the relationship then you are no better than a child-flinging sand at another child in a sandbox. When you take responsibility for your part in the marriage, only then will you be able to connect with your partner in a mature, intimate way.
2. Research consistently shows that touching more creates a stronger bond by releasing oxytocin. Hold hands, rub shoulders, hug, kiss, give high-fives or even fist-bumps or bottom pats. When you give a quick hug or kiss, try to lengthen it to at least 5 or 10 seconds for more effective results!
3. Learn how to agree to disagree. No two people agree on everything, and that’s okay, but it’s important to be okay with each other’s differences.
4. Sometimes it’s not about the amount of money you spend on a gift; it’s about the thought that goes into something. Take the time to write a thoughtful note every so often saying what you love and appreciate about him/her. Drop it in his/her briefcase or purse so he/she will find it unexpectedly and it will brighten up his/her day.
5. For men, it’s important to understand that women want to be listened to. Men don’t need to solve or fix everything; listening to itself is an exceptional gift. For women, it’s important to understand that men need time for themselves. By giving him space to pull away and not taking it personally, you allow him to reconnect with his desire for you and his commitment to the relationship.
6. The biggest waste of effort in a marriage is trying to change your spouse since the problems you have with your spouse are generally problems you have in yourself.
When you try to change your spouse you come across as a nag and wind up sending the message that ‘who you are is not enough.’ Nobody likes getting that message, and it leads to distance and polarization. Let your spouse be who he or she is and focus on changing yourself.
7. See problems — boredom in the bedroom, lack of conversations, resentment — as symptoms and treat those symptoms just as you would treat a chronic illness that seemingly has no cure.
Throw at it every possible remedy you’ve got, no matter how alternative or weird it seems. Chances are one or more of them will actually work and your marriage will get stronger and stronger.
8. Next time you argue with your partner, drop the shaming, blaming, needing to be right, and really listen without interrupting. Then communicate how you feel, using “I” statements. It’s not your partner’s job to read your mind, guess what you’re thinking, or put words into your mouth. These are huge obstacles to open, honest communication and will guarantee resentment, anger, and frustration in the relationship.
9. In order to strengthen your marriage, learn to recognize that most arguments have shared responsibility, that both people have valid points and valid reasons for their feelings.
10. Fair is not a four-letter word. You may have forgotten about fairness, but now’s the time to bring it back into your relationship. Are you both being fair when it comes to divvying up chores, communicating your needs, expressing dissatisfaction, dealing with finances, parenting, and supporting one another? If not, how can you improve and bring fairness back to the relationship?
11. Nothing is more important in a marriage than the relationship between husband and wife. When other things become more important, such as careers, children, and personal pursuits, trouble sets in. Make the relationship your top priority. When you do, the marriage flourishes.
12. Are you creating more pleasurable interactions in your marriage or are you making it painful or unpleasant for your spouse? If your spouse treats you with kindness, gentleness, patience, and self-control, it’s easy for you to respond kindly. If you are treated badly, with anger, impatience, etc., it’s difficult to be nice in return. Focus on how you can be a blessing to your spouse and, in turn, you will be blessed and so will your marriage.
13. Never begin a sentence with the word ‘you’. Instead, start with the word “I” and then share your feelings instead of your thoughts. This is not as easy as it sounds because we all disguise a lot of thoughts as feelings, as in “I feel like you are avoiding me.” Genuine feelings are sad, angry, happy, lonely, frustrated, etc … and sharing your core feelings creates better communication, and more connection and compassion.
14. Change your focus to one of learning to appreciate your partner.
15. Let go of criticism and blame. Focus on what there is to appreciate about your mate, then honestly and spontaneously express your specific appreciation to them. It’s also good to do this for yourself.
16. Never lose the fine art of dating. Setting aside a romantic evening on a regular basis can rekindle the magic of a long-term relationship. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just special time for the two of you to remember how and why you first fell in love.
17. Have regular times, even if it’s just for 15 minutes, to check in on your relationship and what you appreciate about each other. No talk about kids, schedules, etc. allowed.
18. Love your marriage by first taking care of yourself. So many of my patients say the reason their marriage fell apart is that they became depressed and disinterested in their partner. If you keep working on you, your marriage will stay fresh and vital. Start today by adding a new wedding vow to your list: Promise to take care of yourself so you will continue to age with grace and confidence by your partner’s side.
19. Recognize that your husband or wife is mirroring back to you who you are. So take whatever you’re upset with him/her about and use it to help yourself look squarely at what you need to do in order to grow and evolve—the relationship will thrive!
20. Take time to have some fun together every day! With today’s hectic schedules, it’s easy to find your marriage at the bottom of the priority list. Take a walk and hold hands (nature calms), couple-cook (food fight!), exercise together (tennis or dancing maybe?) or just collect a “Daily Joke” to share. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but if you make the commitment and effort to laugh together as often as possible, it can sweeten your connection and cement your relationship for life.
21. Before you get mad or assign blame, take a breath and ask your partner for his or her perspective. For instance, it’s your spouse’s job to walk the dog in the morning, but you discover dog poop on the kitchen floor and cleaning it up makes you late for work. Instead of immediately placing blame, saying something like, “I’m puzzled about what happened with Spot this morning,” is a gentle way to start a conversation.
22. Make a list of three of the happiest moments in your marriage. Spend a few minutes each day briefly reliving those moments in your mind. The results will amaze you.
23. You can change your relationship for the better by increasing the use of the following statements: “I love you”, “I’m here for you”, “I understand”, “I’m sorry”, “Thank you”, “I really appreciate all that you do”, “It’s so nice to see you”, “That was quite an accomplishment!”
24. Appreciate your partner at least five times each day. Appreciate them from your heart about who they are at their essence. Leave gratitude in love notes, hide them so they will find them, or look deeply into their eyes and tell them. Be creative!
25. In order to keep the spark alive and avoid “roommate syndrome,” couples have to understand the notion of spending “time” together versus creating “sacred” time together. Spending time at social events, time with family and doing “chores” together does not count as sacred time. Instead, carve out special time to not only be intimate, but also ensure that you continue to share new experiences together such as hiking, exploring someplace new, or arranging a stay-cation in your own city.
26. Compliment your spouse everyday! A compliment is a sign of acknowledgment and appreciation. Make an effort to affirm your spouse’s value in life, and in love.
27. Create a clear vision of your shared future together. Sit down, listen to each other and write out how you want your future as a couple to look. It’s much easier to create your best relationship together if both people’s needs are voiced, heard and supported by their partner.
28. Censor every impulse to blame or criticize your partner. Do everything you can to support your partner’s well-being, and respect your partner as you would your best friend.
29. You need to date your mate. Date night is sacred and special and should be on the same day of the week every week. One week the wife should suggest the date idea and the husband should come up with the date night plan for the opposite week. This encourages both the husband and wife to be invested in date night.
30. Learn and practice Tantra.
31. Communication and time together are the keys to strengthening your marriage. Impossible to imagine one without the other!
32. One of the most important factors in a good marriage is respect. Respect each other, avoid verbal abuse, and keep insults to yourself. Bad words are just like squeezing toothpaste out of its tube — once it is out you can never get it back in again.
33. Set aside 10 minutes a day to talk to your partner. Ask what her favorite movie is and why, ask him to recall a happy memory from childhood, ask her what she’d like to be remembered for, ask him to name the three worst songs of all time. Do it at dinner, before bed, or anytime—as long as you do it for 10 minutes every day. This simple change infuses relationships with new life.
34. You can have control or you can have connection with your partner, but you can’t have both. Pursue connection!
35. Every week if possible, go out on a date just like you did before you were married. Select an activity where the two of you can interact, talk, and just be together enjoying each other’s company (not a movie!). End your date in the bedroom. Works like a charm!
36. Couples often lose each other because of their busy lives: work, children, computers, and separate male/female activities. A healthy marriage is one that has a mix of individual, family, and couple time. The amount of each may be different for each couple, but the mix is necessary to keep a functional marriage.
37. Our brains are the only organ in the human body which do not self regulate, but need to be in connection with another brain for healing. Sit face-to-face and gaze into your lover’s eyes in order to allow the limbic system to relax. This will bring you closer and create the deepest sort of intimacy.
38. When you first see each other at the end of your respective days, before you do anything else, hold each other without speaking for at least 60 seconds. By doing so you remind each other’s old/reptilian brains that you are a source of pleasure and comfort. It’s simple, it’s easy to do, and it will make a world of difference.
39. Preface important communication with a simple yet effective introduction. Try: “Honey, I’m confused about your response to my plans for a weekend hunting trip with the guys. When would be a good time to talk further?” My relationship coaching clients have found that prefacing their remarks encourages a better, more accommodating reaction from their partner.
40. On those ever-important date nights, remember to be a wife first and a critic second. Every time you open your mouth to complain about something — whether it’s the food, the service, the movie, the weather, whatever — some part of your partner feels he’s failing because you aren’t having a great time. Men are happiest when they can please their woman! Save the full critique for your girlfriends and in meantime, let him see the best in you.
41. Lean in. When it gets hard in a relationship, our tendency is to protect ourselves, to retreat, to “lean out.” Leaning out when your partner reaches out creates distance and dissonance. If instead you “lean in” to the uncomfortable feelings, to the unknown and your own vulnerability, and meet your partner, you can actually strengthen your relationship through the struggles you face together.
42. Accept your partner exactly as they are today. Don’t try to change him/her.
43. When your partner tells you something (about you) that is bothering him, reflect back what he is saying. When we “mirror”, this helps us not feel as defensive and allows us the opportunity to better understand what he is trying to communicate.
44. The best way to strengthen a marriage is to support and assist each other in being the best you can be. A strong marriage is one in which both people understand that the other person needs to have outside interests and activities which help them to feel happy and fulfilled. A strong marriage is one where both people understand that it is more important to be happy than it is to be right.
45. Have you lost that loving feeling? Step 1: Write down 10 qualities you loved about your partner when you first met and read it to each other. Step 2: Brainstorm a list of 10 fun things you did together when you first met; do one date per week and enjoy bringing back that loving feeling!
46. You’re entitled to the occasional bad mood. You’re not entitled to make your partner the whipping boy.
47. A strong marriage is a partnership in trust. Trust your partner in everything, including purchases and financial decisions, and to bring up things with you that need a joint decision. If you can’t do that, the two of you have a problem.
48. Always remember that life is long. In the heat of the moment, what feels super-important will likely fade in importance as time goes by. Before you react by yelling, tossing insults or unkind words, remember that “This, too, shall pass”. In fact, recent studies have shown that even the most unhappiest of couples report being very happy five years later. So don’t let one unfortunate incident, difficult argument or challenging moment destroy your lifetime of happiness.
49. A woman needs her partner to spend time giving her his full attention and looking directly into her eyes. When she receives this, she can easily get in touch with her feelings of love for her husband and becomes much more receptive to his needs. This is how intimacy can be fulfilling for both people … magical even!
50. Use character-related words that honor your spouse for such qualities as patience, helpfulness, courage, or kindness. Create regular opportunities for fun, laughter, and positive experiences. Figure out what communicates love to each other and do that. Be observant and thoughtful with little things and even do chores that the other dislikes. Consciously doing what opens and softens your spouse’s heart will benefit you both in the long-run and keep your marriage happier.