Did anyone ever warn you that being married is a constant effort with great reward? Being married takes time, work, validation, communication and intimacy. My clients laugh at me when I tell them to set up an “appointment” or date with their spouse. I tell them “if it’s not set or written down, it won’t happen.”
Putting the time aside for one another is so important for a happy marriage. We all get caught up in our day to day lives; it is easy to put your marriage on the back burner. One way I tell my clients to gage their relationship/marriage is to ask themselves if they are feeling connected to their spouse. We can all do this on a weekly basis. If the answer is no, put the TIME aside for a date night with one another. The date night can happen right at home if you can’t go out with candle lit dinners, nice conversation and even slow dancing afterwards.
Putting the time and work into a relationship/marriage will pay off. All relationships take work, even friendships. To have a good friendship/marriage requires love and nurture. Creating a happy marriage can start with working on the friendship between partners…the stronger the connection, the more we have in common with our spouse, the more time we spend with them and the more we feel validated will contribute to happily ever after.
No matter how short or long we are married to someone, everyone loves and needs to be validated whether they admit it or not. Feeling needed and heard are two important keys to a happy long lasting marriage. Sometimes just acknowledging that your spouse/partner had a hard day, is tired, and needs a hug does wonders. Thanking your partner on a daily basis for chores around the house shows them you notice and appreciate what they do. It shows that their time matters and that they are important. Validating someone is not trying to come up with a solution, it is showing them you understand what they are feeling. When we validate, we empower.
My tips on improving communication:
- Talk directly to one another, face your partner and have eye contact.
- Timing is important when you want to talk to your spouse. I always tell my clients, “you can’t bombard your spouse the minute he/she walks in from work.” Give him/her five minutes or even set up an “appointment” to talk.
- When talking, try and use “I” statements, “I feel…I think…” instead of “you are, you do, you think.” Use your feelings to explain your frustration, “I feel sad when you don’t kiss me goodnight,” not “you never kiss me goodnight.”
- Give positive feedback when your partner is helpful. If you have negative feedback, say “I feel…” (it shows no blame), do not blame your partner for your disappointments, he/she doesn’t know your expectations or how you feel unless you tell him/her.
- Use reflective listening skills – repeat back in your own words what you heard.
- Stay on one problem or issue at a time.
- Respect each other’s point of view – work towards a solution to satisfy both.
- Your partner does not have to feel the same as you.
Here is a helpful game couples can play often throughout their marriage. Tell each other 3 things you like about your partner/spouse and 3 things you want him/her to work on. Also tell each other on a scale of 1-100 where you think your relationship falls. This game can open the door to improving your relationship and communication. It may change from time to time and may also surprise you, but it will help to show you when to work harder on your marriage.
Intimacy …Sharing your secrets
The more you work on intimacy with your spouse, the more you will perfect your marriage and stay happily married. There are many different levels of intimacy…
- Recreational – sharing an experience together like running, walking etc.
- Social – having some shared friendships with other couples and spending time with them i.e. pizza night on Fridays, rotating nights out at friends’ homes.
- Aesthetic – sharing beauties like books, sunsets, sunrises on the beach.
- Intellectual – talking about current events or sharing work related issues.
- Emotional – sharing your dreams, fears and expectations with one another.
- Spiritual – finding some kind of connection through prayer, meditation, grace or church.
- Physical – non sexual touch, affection; sexual touch, being able to talk about sex before, during and after will create a greater connection.
One of my male clients wanted me to add the male perspective of “happily ever after”… good sex, lots of sex and laughter.
All of these thing will give you what it takes to stay happily married and have your “happily ever after.” I didn’t say it would be easy, it takes work.
About the author
Amy P. LaRoche, LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Fairfield, Connecticut for over 17 years. She herself is married to her best friend/partner/husband for over 13 years and understands what it takes to stay happily married. She specializes in couples communication, interpersonal relationships, family dynamics, marriage counseling, divorce issues, substance abuse, grief and loss, depression and anxiety, children and adolescents.
To know more about Amy, visit her website, www.amylaroche.com.