‘ve been a divorce attorney for more than 35 years. I have seen good relationships go bad, bad relationships get worse and relationships on the brink of self destruction heal and become strong. I have read books and articles regarding the do’s or don’ts of marriage, create and maintain strong relationships and how to avoid damaging a relationship.
However, in the end, we are all beings of routine and creatures of habit. We have a tendency to lapse into patterns of behavior that are familiar to us, whether they serve us well or not. Most of us are familiar with the basic rules of developing and maintaining a strong marriage or relationship with a significant other such as: being faithful, being good listeners and communicators to our spouses, trusting our spouses, and loving our spouses the way they want to be loved — not the way we want to be loved. Nevertheless, we often find ourselves failing in more subtle ways to maintain marriages and to make our relationships stronger. I am reminded of the old expression; people in glass houses should not throw stones. Keeping that in mind, I provide you the following pearls of wisdom that I have learned over the years:
- Say “I love you” every day. These words are especially important when you may not be feeling deeply in love with your spouse, at that moment. Marriages and relationships have ups and downs. During the down times, there may be a need to actively generate the feeling of love for your spouse. Saying these three little words and performing loving gestures may warm both you and your spouse’s hearts and help you get over any bumps in the relationship;
- Spending time apart. We all know it’s important to spend time with our spouses and significant others. However, we often forget how important it is to spend quality time away from those individuals who are most important in our lives. You may take a pottery course while your spouse goes paddle boarding; you may play mah jong and your spouse plays tennis; you may love to read and your spouse likes to crochet. You don’t have to love or enjoy all of the activities in which your partner frequently participates. But, you do have to permit your significant other the freedom to pursue cherished and important hobbies and activities which are important to him and her. This time apart can provide an opportunity for renewed energy and interest in each other.
- Take care of your appearance. Try to look your best for each other more than just once a-month or once a-year. Don’t think because you’re married or have been in a relationship for a long time that you “have got it made” or that your spouse or significant other is a “sure thing”. I know that I am one who likes old comfortable clothing — even to the point where there may be more holes or patches than original cloth. However, don’t be afraid to lose those ratty old shorts or frayed sweater about which your spouse or significant other has made negative comments or has made clear that he or she does not appreciate. You can find other articles of clothing that aren’t such a complete turn off for your partner. Besides, most of us can “dress up” or “clean up” and look pretty darn good. Doing so unexpectedly can cause your spouse to appreciate you more and appreciate these gestures of love and support.
- Compliment your partner regularly. Doing so shows your appreciation. Sometimes, we get in a rut in our relationship and take each other for granted and failing to express appreciation by complimenting your spouse can be sometimes as hurtful as an intentional insult. Failure to act this way may seem to be insignificant. But remember, a person can die from a thousand small cuts just as easily as from one large cut. So, compliment your spouse, both in private and in front of others. And do it even if your partner seems embarrassed or shrugs it off at first. The internal glow from sincere praise will last a long time.
- Remember to communicate properly. The people of my generation remember the famous book: Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars. When having crucial conversations about issues in a relationship, keep in mind that men and women have different styles of communication. Women are emotional communicators and men are more logical communicators. Consequently, learn the difference between the two forms of communication and attempt to decipher what your spouse is actually saying rather than interpreting through the prism of your emotional or logical communication style.
- Have the same financial goals or at least be on the same page financially. If both spouses aren’t involved in and aware of the financial realities of their marriage, this is a big indication for trouble in the future. In most marriages (as in most relationships), one or the other person will take charge of the finances. After all, someone has to take responsibility to make sure that the bills get paid. This is all well and good but there should be an understanding as to who spends what and what it is spent on. If not, then the marriage can soon come under financial stress. It is not unusual that this failure to communicate can result in financial difficulties, which can send a loving marriage tail spinning into a divorce.
- Kiss and hug each other every day. Studies have shown that a 20 second hug can release serotonin and other chemicals in our brains which make us feel good and happier with each other, our spouses and the world. Frequent exchanges of gestures of affection and appreciation can help resolve many problems and may help relationships last the distance.
I don’t assert that the above relationship advice or tips are a complete encyclopedia on all of the actions that one should perform to maintain a strong relationship or marriage. But I do know that if you follow most of these “do’s and don’ts”, then you will have a better relationship and a better marriage.