Sometimes marriage tips are so obvious, yet we find we are not doing enough of them. My husband and I are as guilty as any couple on these. For example, business travel often separates us. Often, it takes a little while to re-acclimate to our routine and to each other.
I read these three tips in an article about keeping your marriage strong with kids, which pulled from authors Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz, of Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage. Their not-so-surprising (in my opinion) tips are things we still may not be doing, even though we know we should. Just like I know I shouldn’t be eating chocolate chip cookies, but I had two today.
- Time in — Whether it’s a date night or going for a walk, “you have to spend time together to keep the flame alive,” Elizabeth says. “You have to allow time for each other.”
In our case, we have lots of time in, but it’s surrounded by kids, work and home responsibilities. When we go out, we often feel rushed. We aren’t prioritizing time alone together as much as we should be. How are you doing here?
- Time out — Conversely, time apart is also key. “In the best marriages, spouses allow each other time for solitude, so they can think private thoughts or just get things done,” Elizabeth says.
We’ve done a little better here with both of us taking up tennis with friends. He frequently works on home projects on his own, while I do my own thing. Spouses should be able to spend this alone time as they wish (within reason, of course).
- Touchy, touchy — Successful couples use the “Morse code of marriage,” Charles says. “It’s called touching. It’s a substitute for talking about feelings. You are saying, ‘I love you so much I have to touch you.’”
I’ve frequently written about the tremendous effects of touch shown in research. (Read Little Touches Make Big Impact.) In my house, we probably touch more than we used to, but it’s still a surprise when one of us stops to hug or kiss during the day. We’re more used to rushing than being deliberate about that, but when he reaches over to touch me in the car, it’s a nice feeling. At first, you may have to force yourselves to touch more if it doesn’t feel natural. Eventually it will feel more normal, and you will feel more connected and unified.
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T–Respect (for your partner or yourself) is one thing I’ve noticed can be lacking in many relationships. Treat your spouse with at least the same level of respect that you would treat your friends and coworkers. Use your manners. (Yes, you still have to say please and thank you, even if it’s your mate.) Don’t speak poorly about your spouse behind his/her back. Be respectful. Be patient and kind. You know that feeling you get when you spend time with friends who are interested in what you have to say? Try to project that same level of support and interest with your spouse. The couples I know who say they are best friends seem to have a strong element of respect and kindness for one another.
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