Coupling up is never simple. Even the best marriages will get stuck in too much distance or blame. The natural course of marriage is downstream, unless you are intentional about paddling against the current. The good news is that even a small change on the part of one person can make a big difference.
- Warm things up. Make at least two positive comments every day to your partner and speak to the specifics about what you admire (“I loved how funny you were at the party last night”). Make sure that your positive comments exceed critical ones by a healthy margin.
- Dial down the criticism. Many folks value criticism at the early stage of a relationship but become more allergic to it over time. Get more bite marks on your tongue and remember this: No one can survive in a marriage (at least not happily) if they feel more judged that admired.
- Overcome your LDD (listening deficit disorder). Whole-hearted listening is the greatest spiritual gift you can give to your partner. Drop the defensiveness and listen only to understand, without interrupting, correcting facts or counter-punching. Save your defense for another conversation.
- Set aside 15 minutes every day to schmooze and share. Couples operate in a time famine. Be intentional about scheduling 15 minutes of conversation with your partner, and make this a daily ritual. Rule technology, complaints, high-twitch subjects and the to-do list off-limits during this time.
- Stop the emotional pursuit. Under stress, don’t press. If you pursue a distancer, he or she will distance more. Consider it a fundamental law of physics. Focus less on your partner and more on your own life plan. A distant partner is more likely to move toward you when he or she has breathing room and can see you taking good care of yourself.
- Guys: Think housework, not roses. Flowers may put some women in the mood, but your partner may feel a lot more romantic if you notice that the leftovers in the refrigerator need to be tossed and that the baby’s laundry in the dryer should be folded and put away. An unfair division of labor builds resentment; plus she’ll be too tired for romance.
- Be a mystery. It’s comfortable and cozy when two people know absolutely everything about each other. It’s not, however, a recipe for romance.
We’re more likely to feel romantic toward a partner who has connections and passions outside the relationship. So take a dance class, skiing lessons or join a book group with friends. The more passion you show for life outside your marriage, the more zest you’ll find within it.
Remember that love is a verb, so put one or two of the above tips into action and make it habit. Your marriage thanks you in advance!