It’s no small feat, spending 18,000 days with another human being. And be able to do so happily? Marriage isn’t the honeymoon on a remote beach—it’s day five of vacation #19 that you take together.
Marriage is not a celebration for buying your first house—it’s having dinner in that house for the 3,285th time. And it’s certainly not Valentine’s Day or a barbecue party for your birthday.
Marriage is Forgettable Tuesday. Together.
So I’ll leave the butterflies, the roses, your heartbeat chanting your loved one’s name, the kisses in the rain, and the three-times-a-day sex to you—you’ll work that part out, I’m sure.
This post is about the best way to make Forgettable Tuesday (and all others that follow) happy ones.
1 – Be Great Friends First
Did you know that the determining factor in whether couples feel satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is 70% determined by the quality of their friendship with each other? Therefore, before seeking to feel connected, close, and intimate, you need to be friends first.
If you think about it, this is why good friends are good friends. Spending time together, doing small favors for one another, keeping up with each other’s life, and having fun together is the stuff that good friends do. As a result, their ties grow stronger by the day.
It isn’t any different in marriage.
If you’re great friends with your spouse you are much more inclined to be understanding, forthcoming. You are more likely to give each other the benefit of the doubt.
This is because, on a regular basis, you give your partner proof that you think about them, that you care how they feel, and that you genuinely want them to feel good.
Successful couples know that. Here’s what they do.
- They pay attention to the little things. They seem small and meaningless, and yet they matter the most.
- They give priority to their relationship and make sure to block off quality time to spend together.
- In spite of their jam-packed schedules, they plan having fun and trying new things together.
- They keep up with each other’s lives. In other words, they carve out the time to connect the dots.
- They touch each other—even without sexpectations (as a primary motive). Touching releases oxytocin, which makes us feel good. (Oxytocin is also released through eating fatty foods. Think about that the next time you finish that second bag of salty chips!)
Most importantly, successful couples have turned the above-mentioned activities to habits.
We call these loving habits The 5 Little Love Rituals because they are special. They are simple to do and yet so they mean so much.
2 – Listen Up!
Successful couples are good listeners. Admittedly, being a good listener takes practice. Being a lousy listener, unfortunately, comes all too easily. Successful couples know how to listen, not only in their marriage. They also listen carefully to other people, such as their children, friends, and coworkers.
Here’s what they do:
- They ask lots of questions.
- They encourage, by frequently using phrases like “Go on,” “I understand,” and “Tell me more.”
- They get to the bottom of things by avoiding this question and using the five magic questions instead.
- They empathize. “You must be feeling…” is their way of telling the person talking that they care about their feelings.
- They avoid closed-ended yes or no questions. These are conversation breakers.
- They like to summarize. They say “So, what you’re saying is…”, “Okay, let me see if I understand. I heard you say…”
- They avoid using buts. Instead, they pitch in with their opinion in a more inclusive way that doesn’t invite resentment (especially when used often).
3 – Speak to Invite Listening
Successful couples know how to speak their mind in a non-threatening way, while inviting insight, cooperation, and understanding. Here’s how you can do it too:
- Talk about yourself. Talk about how YOU feel. Focusing on the other person invites resentment because “you” sentences imply criticism and blaming. Not-so-good approach: “You didn’t pay the bills again!” Good approach: “I feel bad when you miss paying the bills because…” See the difference?
- Avoid using destructive words such as “always” and “never,” especially with “you.” They lead to criticism and as they tend to attack the personality, rather than addressing the behavior. Criticism and blaming will only make your spouse start defending themself, which is the opposite of what you wanted.
- Talk about what you do want, instead of saying what you don’t want. Our brains are not designed to deal with negations very well. If you have kids, then you already know this.
It really does pay to think ahead about how to talk to your loved one—before you open your mouth.
4 – Have No-Big-Deal Conflicts
Call it what you will. Every couple, even the happiest ones, have conflicts. Most often, they are short-lived, minor skirmishes. Sometimes they are not. If you’re not fighting fairly, those little skirmishes become deep bruises that never go away. They become memories of past battles, littered with emotional wounds, bitterness, and no resolution to the problem.
Here is how successful couples handle conflict:
- They know how to receive complaints and criticism gracefully. If it’s your spouse that starts with criticism, remember that this is a defensive reaction to something they perceive as a danger. It’s their amygdala talking.
- They speak up in a non-threatening way that focuses on the issue and not on their mate’s personality.
- They know what to do to prevent a meltdown.
- They are looking for a win-win solution.
- When they screw up, they know how to apologize the right way (and not like a jerk).
5 – Stay Away From the Toxic Stuff
Successful couples consciously refrain from some of the really bad and toxic behaviors. Such behaviors are like a cyanide for any relationship. If you recognize any of these behaviors to be present in your relationship, you must stop them immediately—even if it’s only you who stops.
“Why can’t you ever remember anything? I told you a thousand times to lock the doors and you didn’t. Are you trying to get us robbed?”
How about this: “When you leave the doors unlocked, it makes me feel unsafe in our own house. I would like you to check the doors before you go to bed, will you?”
See the difference?
The difference between a complaint and criticism is that criticism is aimed at the other person’s character or personality as a whole. More so, when you’re criticizing, you’re training the other person to behave exactly the opposite way than you would like them to. That’s because criticism is hypnotic. Here’s why.
Often disguised as humor, sarcasm has no place in a healthy relationship. That’s because at its core it conveys disrespect. When you lose respect for another human being, your relationship with that person is in big danger.
Here’s why sarcasm hurts so much.
This one is often used to “punish” the other person (your spouse). If your common way of showing discontent is giving silent treatments to your spouse, you should stop now. That’s because with stonewalling you’re sending the wrong message.
That being said, these are only some of the bad behaviors that can damage your relationship.
6 – Appreciate the Good Stuff
Lastly, successful couples focus on the good stuff. Here’s what they do:
- They don’t take each other for granted.
- Every day they are looking for ways to share joy, love, appreciation, and positivity with each other.
- They remind themselves often to be grateful for the many beautiful things in their relationship. If you ask them, they can name these without hesitation.
- They focus on what’s working and take it from there. They learn how to pick the flowers, not the weeds.