Sometimes people are looking for the magic pill or the one right answer that will improve their marriage. The successful couples I have interviewed have not always followed the same path to success. Many of them have faced extreme adversity. However, most of them share some common behaviors and attitudes. There are plenty of simple things you can do—this very day, requiring very little time or effort—to improve your marriage. Here are some ideas:
- Perform a very small kindness for your partner. Leave a sticky note on the mirror that says I love you. Send them a quick email with appreciation for something they did. Give them a genuine compliment. Call a babysitter and book her for a future night out. One man I interviewed mails his wife notes from the office even when he is not traveling. He sometimes leaves a note under her pillow if he is going on a trip.
- Find something to laugh about together. Is there something one of your kids or pets did that was amusing? Call and tell them. Rent a funny movie, or tell him a funny story from work. Share a private joke at a party. A well-developed sense of humor can carry you through some tough times together.
- Spend five or 10 minutes during the day or just before bed talking/connecting—with no TV or kids nearby.
- Consider holding back one criticism today, especially if it really isn’t that big of a deal. If something is really bothering you, find the right time and place to have that discussion.
- Touch is important. Kiss him hello or goodbye (a real kiss); hug her after the dishes are done. Rub your partner’s back, or run your fingers through his hair. Hold hands while you take a walk. Sit close while you’re watching TV.
- Plan something fun for the future. It can be in 15 years when the kids are grown or next weekend, but have something you both look forward to. Make a list of places you would like to go or things you would like to do together “one day.”
- Be consciously grateful for the good things in your life, even when you have some very bad things happening. Talk to your partner about what you are thankful for in life in general and in your marriage and family. Many couples found this to be a conscious decision during a difficult time, that they would focus on the good in their lives.
Which one are you going to do today? Make a mental note of your spouse’s reaction and try another one tomorrow. Do you find your spouse is responsive?