We fall in love and everything is wonderful. But sooner or later, we learn that leaving our marriage on autopilot doesn’t work too well. We need strengthen our marriage by paying attention to what each partner needs and to stretch ourselves to meet those needs. Yes, marriage essentially is asking us to be more and better than what we were before. With that mindset, we have a chance at a long, passionate marriage. Let’s look at some expert advice to help strengthen your marriage.
View your marriage as a work in progress. Many of us have not had parents or other role models that had this mindset. Their mindset was more of an unconscious one that basically said, ”Do what comes automatically to you and stay in your comfort zone.” Healthy marriages require frequent visits to areas of discomfort so that we can have the adventurous marriage we desire. Yes, healthy marriages require us to stretch. Marriage is like yoga; if you don’t stretch to a feeling of slight discomfort, there is no benefit.
Accept that in order for you to be the best possible partner, you need to work on your weak spots (which we all have). For example, if you are a man who has difficulty locating and expressing what you are feeling, you need to practice those skills. If you are a woman who has been sexually inhibited, face your fears and beliefs and be willing to open up in that area. Do not wait for your partner to change. Go for change yourself.
We are creatures of habit. We have observed and learned from our parents and we repeat both their good and bad patterns, so it is easy to get stuck. Going to a counselor does not mean you are deficient in some way; rather it means that you are wise and humble enough (and care enough) to hire a professional to help you get unstuck.
Very few of us are good listeners especially when our partner is giving us a dose of negative feedback. What we typically do as our partner is talking is begin to formulate our own ideas of what we want to say in order to defend, justify or blame. Develop the emotional muscle to put your reaction aside and stay focused and interested in what your partner is expressing.
Romance is simply anything you do that would uplift the energy of your partner. That can include anything from planning a long intimate vacation to Tahiti or texting your partner that you “like her legs” and everything in between. Make it your responsibility or job to be an energy uplifter. Too often we passively wait for our relationship to be more alive. Be romantic consistently. Take 2 minutes a day to think about simple ways you can be romantic every day.
It is easy to pay attention to the negative in your partner since it causes you pain when your partner behaves in those unwanted ways. However, if you stay focused on the negative, the marriage can become even more negative. Don’t suppress your feelings and definitely deal with the negative, unpleasant aspects, but if you develop tunnel vision, you block off opportunities for positive change in your partner and in the relationship. There is often plenty to be appreciative for even when you have reason to complain.
We are all flawed. Even though we have emotional and physical needs, no one will ever be able to meet all of them. We need to calm down our “inner critic;” that part of us that can be hard on ourselves as well as our partners. Accept yourself and do your best to improve. Accept your partner and give up the fantasy of perfection.
It is not a good idea to spend a lot of time and energy comparing your partner to others. First you won’t see other’s; flaws as easily since you do not live with them. (I am sure you did not see all your partner's flaws until later as well). Second, know that if you did go to the other side, you probably would miss the wonderful things you get from your current partner. The grass isn't greener on the other side. It is greener where you water it. Put the necessary energy into your relationship and give up comparing.
Secrets kill relationships. That is the major problem with affairs; the secret is what disrupts the sacred bond between you and your partner. Also, the one who keeps the secret puts himself in a childlike position, which then puts the partner in a parent-like position. It is like the adolescent who is sneaking out of his room at night so as not to get in trouble by his parents. Secrets are poison to intimate relationships and block any possibility of strengthening the marriage. Secrets drain the energy out of the marital bond.
In order to have healthy, alive relationships, it takes consistent attention, discipline and courage. Isn’t this true for any other aspect of your life where you want to be successful? It is not possible to have a healthy body without consistently eating well or exercising. It is not possible to be a successful entrepreneur if you don’t take risks and put in much effort. The same rules apply to intimate relationships. Pay attention to your partner’s needs, flaunt your strengths and work on your weaknesses.
Strengthening your marriage is a necessity, not a luxury. Marriages cannot afford to be in an inert or status quo state. We need to work on ourselves and the relationship to get the most out of it. As you take personal responsibility to make positive change happen as well as seek assistance when you are stuck, you are in the best possible place for creating the relationship of your dreams. As you give up your ideas of the perfect marriage and instead focus on what you can do for your partner (and if your partner does the same) miraculous changes can happen. As a marriage and sex therapist for over thirty years, I have seen it happen over and over again.
More expert advice about Marriage and Couples
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