Below are 10 little things you can today to improve your marriage, according to marriage counselors.
1. Focus on the positive.
“It may be easy to look at your partner and find things that they do or say that are irritating, annoying or even hurtful to you. You may even think that it is part of your responsibility as a spouse to point out or correct those issues. However, criticism is rarely received well and usually does more harm than good. As a spouse, one of your primary duties is to be supportive and encouraging of your partner. So, stop criticizing them and focus on the positive things that they do.” ― Nari Jeter, marriage and family therapist
2. Apologize if you’ve done something wrong.
“If you’ve done something wrong, big or small, bite the bullet and give a clear, honest apology. No, ‘I’m sorry you’re upset’ isn’t an apology. Nor is ‘I’m sorry you heard it that way.’ Not only is that not an apology, but you’re also calling them an idiot for not deciphering your words or intentions correctly. When you take responsibility for telling a lie, conducting a misdeed or even just contributing to a misunderstanding, you’re saying that the health of the relationship takes priority over your competitive need to be right.” ―Ryan Howes, clinical psychologist
3. Try your hardest not to blame your partner.
“When couples fight, they tend to criticize and blame each other, which causes the same reaction in return. Make a personal commitment to using no blame in your communication. Instead, think about your feelings and needs and speak in terms of ‘I.’” ― Gal Szekely, marriage and family therapist
4. Look up from your phones ― and at each other.
“No, it’s not a staring contest. Spend a few moments gazing at your spouse. We rarely take the time to stop and look at our partners, so it’s easy to miss their nonverbal cues. When we pause and gaze at one another, this creates a pathway for connection, and it can be calming and deepen our relational experience.” ― Anne Crowley, licensed psychologist
5. Appreciate each other’s differences.
“I’m currently working with a young couple who came to me at the brink of divorce. The wife feels like her husband is often distant when they argue and wants to get to a solution immediately. He, on the other hand, often needs time to be by himself to sort things through before talking about it. When he steps away, she feels abandoned. When he comes back to talk with her, she has checked out because she feels alone. Ultimately, they never resolve any conflict, and become more and more distanced from each other. I have coached them on how to find ways to really understand and appreciate their differences in handling emotional conflict, rather than judging and shaming one another for these differences. They now practice naming what they are feeling.” ― Jennifer Gauvain, licensed clinical social worker
6. Check in.
“One thing that can greatly damage a marriage is a lack of communication. This can be the result of hurried schedules or even lingering resentment from a disagreement. However, communication is a building block of intimacy, so it is critical to communicate in a healthy and consistent manner. When you make checking in a part of your daily habits, you are letting your partner know that they are important to you.” ― Nari Jeter
7. Actually listen.
“People don’t often admit it, but we all like getting attention. One of the quickest ways to let your spouse know that you care and that they matter is simply by listening to them. How do you prove you’re listening? By dropping your electronics, giving full eye contact and occasionally reflecting their words back to them. If your spouse says, ‘I had to do so much running around today, chauffeuring the kids all over town,’ you could respond, ‘you were behind the wheel all day. You must be exhausted.’ This way your spouse feels heard and understood, and the two of you are connected.” ― Ryan Howes
8. Show your spouse you appreciate him or her.
“Showing appreciation goes a long way to help build a good connection with your partner. Think about something your partner did, or something you like about who they are, and let them know you appreciate it.” ― Gal Szekely
9. Think before actively pushing your spouse’s buttons.
“You know your spouse, yet still push his or her buttons. This creates conflict and distance in the relationship. Predict how your spouse will respond and anticipate their reaction. Let that influence how you choose to approach your spouse.” ― Anne Crowley
10. Practice the golden rule.
“This should be easy, but I can’t tell you how many couples I have seen who are just not nice to each other. Somewhere along the way, people forget the golden rule. Speak to each other with respect. No name calling. No intimidation. Absolutely no physical or emotional abuse. Of course, none of us are perfect. When you notice yourself being mean, always ― always ― own it and apologize to your spouse.” ― Jennifer Gauvain