I was once so unhappy in my marriage that I fantasized about my husband dropping dead on a daily basis. I even planned his funeral. We’ve since reconciled and now we’re happier than ever.
Here are the skills I practice nearly every day to keep my marriage strong:
Choose to stay married. Or choose to get a divorce, but make a choice. You are not stuck. No one is forcing you to stay in this situation. Once you see that you have a choice—that you can stay or you can go—you will find an enormous reservoir of inner power. If you choose to stay, wake up each morning and say, “I have made the choice to stay married today.”
Keep Your Marriage Strong By Doing These 5 Important Things
Speak your voice. Most married men tell me that they would love to make their wives happy, but they just don’t know how. “I know she gets ticked off at me,” they’ll tell me, “But I never know what she’s thinking because she won’t tell me.” Ladies: your husbands do not have ESP. They can’t read your mind. Stop swallowing your thoughts and feelings. Stop waiting for your partner to guess what you are thinking. Stop worrying that hurting his feelings is worse than getting something off your chest. Just. Say. It. I’ve yet to find a situation when it’s better to shut up than to speak up. If something is bothering you, talk about it.
When you speak your voice:
Use short, declarative sentences and get to the point. When you go on and on about your feelings, he thinks you sound like the teacher on Charlie Brown. If you want him to help you clean up the house, say, “Honey can you please vacuum the living room?” Don’t say, “Here I am cleaning the house and I’m really tired and I see you over there watching TV and it seems like that’s all you do is watch TV and it really irritates me that I’m the only one who does anything around here and I swear I’m just going to go on strike and stop cleaning altogether…” You get the idea.
Do it when you have his undivided attention. That means you don’t do it while he’s watching Monday Night Football (or, in my case, a Formula One care race).
Try to stay calm. If you lose your temper, take a time out and try again later.
But accept that some things will never change. The vast majority of things that we married people fight about just aren’t all that important. He talks down to you? Important. He leaves his socks on the floor, right next to the hamper? Not all that important.
So what if he’s incapable of folding the clothes correctly? So what if he can’t cook? So what if he’s not exciting? Yes, speak your voice, but also know when to back down when speaking your voice does not make a difference. Ask yourself, “Is this really that important to my happiness? Can I be happy without him making these changes?” If it’s not that important, sigh, say, “Oh well” and move on.
Find yourself. Have you become a chameleon who has blended with her spouse’s likes and needs so much that you no longer remember your true colors? Find yourself. Listen to your music. Discover your own hobbies. Hang out with your friends. Have the courage to be you. Your spouse can’t love the real you unless your spouse knows who that you is.
Forgive—over and over and over again. Spouses are only human, and we all screw up from time to time. Stop holding grudges, as they never help to improve a marriage. If you’ve spoken your voice and he’s apologized, it’s time to let it go.
Apologize. When you are wrong, admit it. Don’t try to justify what you did by giving all the reasons that caused you to do it. Just say, “I’m sorry. I should not have done that [or not done that]. Please forgive me.” That’s it.
Stop retaliating. Just because your spouse hurt you doesn’t mean you should hurt your spouse right back. Retaliating creates a downward spiral that can eventually result in complete and utter misery or a divorce. Rather than lash out, do something nice for yourself. Take a bath. Get a pedicure. Go for a walk. Have a martini. Do whatever works. As you calm down, say the following over and over again to yourself, “He probably didn’t mean to hurt me. I’m sure he doesn’t even know that I’m ticked off right now.” In most situations, that is the case. Then, once you’ve calmed down, SPEAK YOUR VOICE calmly and in a loving way, explaining why you feel hurt.
Be the big person. Someone has to be that person. If it’s not your spouse, then it’s going to have to be you. End the cold war. Hug your spouse. Smile. Hold hands. Do him little favors. Practice random acts of affection. The bigger you are, the bigger your spouse will become, too. Pettiness begets pettiness. Anger begets anger. Bigness begets bigness. Compassion begets compassion.