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September 30, 2013

The Habits of Happy Marriages

by guest blogger Alicia Lawrence

Happy couple
We've all seen them, those happy couples who are still just as in love on their 50th anniversary as they were on their wedding day. But sadly, in an age where 50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, those blissfully happy couples are becoming increasingly harder to find.

If you want to take your marriage from one that just gets by and survives to one that thrives, following the habits of happy couples listed below is a great place to start:

1. Start the Day Smiling. When you smile at your spouse first thing in the morning, you set a positive tone for the rest of the day, and there's nothing like a genuine smile to get your day going in the right direction.

2. Pick Your Battles. Don't attack your spouse for everything they do or say. Think about what really matters to you, and save your confrontations for those issues. If he forgot to unload the dishwasher, ask yourself, "Is this really that important?" and let it slide. But if it's a recurring issue that really bothers you (for example, you feel like he's been distant lately and you want him to communicate with you), speak up and tell him so.

3. Set Aside Intentional Couple Time Every Day. Whether it's talking over a cup of coffee together in the morning, going on walks together after dinner, or praying together before you turn out the lights, find a way to have quality time and connect with each other on a daily basis.

4. Have Weekly Date Nights. Just because you're married doesn't mean you have to stop dating! And if you have kids, that's even more of a reason to hire a sitter and get some together time. You could hit up your favorite restaurant, share a picnic dinner and watch the sunset, or light some candles, play some romantic tunes, and cook together at home. You could go out dancing, stargazing, see a concert, watch a movie…the possibilities are endless. And the little bit of money these dates require will be totally worth it because you can't put a price on the cherished memories and stronger bond you will come away with.

5. Notice the Little Things. Pay attention to the small details like how your spouse likes their sandwich, their go-to order at Starbucks, and their favorite players and sports teams. When you notice the little things and act on them, like say watching Sports Center to get the stats on how their team did in last night's game, you show your spouse that you care.

6. Be There for the Other Person to Vent. If your spouse is frustrated because they had a rough day, listen to them vent and validate their feelings. Now is not the time to point out where they went wrong and identify things they should have done differently. Simply be there to listen, and they will appreciate it.

7. Shower Them With Praise. You typically notice whatever you look for, so if you're looking for the bad, that's what you're going to find. Rather than always trying to catch your spouse making a mistake, be on the look out for the good things they do, and acknowledge and praise them for these actions.

8. Frame Requests as Favors. Instead of saying, "It's your turn to do the laundry tonight," try another approach. What you might say instead is: "You do such a great job with the laundry, and I'd love it if you could help me out by folding tonight." One woman I know told her husband how sexy he looked when he was out there mowing the lawn, and you better believe, that afternoon their backyard was mowed.

9. Don't Complain About Your Spouse to Friends or Family. Obviously, if you are in an abusive relationship, then you would certainly want to speak up. But if you're annoyed because your spouse is always leaving wet towels on the floor or you feel like he has no clue how to dress himself, bite your tongue. You wouldn't want your spouse trash talking you with other people, so show him the same courtesy.

10. Fight Fair. Fighting fair means that whenever you argue, as you are bound to do, you abide by these extremely important rules:
  • Don't Use Absolutes. Don't say things like "You never…" or "You always…" because those statements are rarely true and often exaggerated.
  • Don't Dig Up the Past. Stay focused on the issue at hand without digging up something your spouse did wrong three years ago.
  • Use "When You…I Feel" Statements. This kind of message targets the specific behavior you want to address, and it lets your partner know how this behavior affects you.
  • Listen With an Open Mind. Your partner may bring up a point that you hadn't considered, so keep an open mind and listen while they are talking. Both of you should have the chance to talk and to feel that you are being heard.
  • Remember That It's Not About One Person "Winning". In a marriage, you are a team, and when you disagree on issues, you should try to reach a compromise.

Couple talking
11. Love Your Spouse in Their Love Language. Relationship expert Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a phenomenal book entitled The Five Love Languages that describes the five different love languages people can have. According to Dr. Chapman, people have different ways of giving and receiving love that speak more strongly to them, and what makes one person feel loved might not necessarily come across as love to someone else. The five love languages Chapman describes in his book are:
1. Acts of Service
2. Quality Time
3. Gifts
4. Words of Affirmation
5. Physical Touch

Check out his book to discover your partner's love language, and also your own, so that they two of you can start giving and receiving love in ways that will be most effective for you.

And, above all else, remember this:

12. Laugh!

Before I got married, a family member, who has been happily married for over sixty years, told me their secret for a happy marriage. They said laughter is the key to staying happy together. Marriage is an exciting journey with a whole lot of mishaps along the way, and that journey will be much more fun if you can be lighthearted and laugh together.

Successful marriages don't just happen; they require careful work and cultivation. Choosing to love your spouse (and yes, I say choose, because real love in its most mature form is a choice) is one of the greatest, and also one of the most rewarding, disciplines you can ever undertake.

So stop making excuses and writing off your marriage because you think it's too late or you don't have what it takes. It's never too late to repair a broken marriage, and regardless of what you and your spouse have been through, it's possible to make your marriage great. So stop those bad habits of negative thinking and nagging and start putting these good habits into practice today, and you and your spouse just might find that "happily ever after" can be real after all.


Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for an SEO company and blogs in her free time at MarComLand.com. Her articles have been published by Engaged Marriage, Ask Miss A, and Examiner.com.

 
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6 fabulous comments:

  1. Alicia!!! A great list of suggestions. My fave is #12, but they're all great. We are about to celebrate our 16th and we are more nuts about each other than when we first married!! Have a fun day!

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    1. Congratulations, CJ!! That's awesome! Glad you enjoyed the list!

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  2. Hi Alicia! I really love #1 and #12. Smiling is contagious first thing in the morning. I dare anyone to try it. To feel that warmth first thing is the finest of ways to start the morning.

    The ability to laugh and laugh at yourself has sustained us through many years. We act quite ridiculously sometimes, and I hope we can one day boast 60 years like your family member! Thank you for writing!

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    1. So true! Thanks, Tammy! I didn't mention in the article but I actually gave my wedding bouquet to them instead of tossing it to the single ladies. I figured what better way to honor marriage then to give it to the longest married couple :)

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  3. Those were positive habits and all that needed to keep a happy and long lasting marriage. Sadly, many couples these days found hard to implement such habits even the simple one like smiling for our partner. Thank you for sharing Alicia.

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  4. Most of the marriages fail due to some unreasonable disputes or extramarital relationships. It is certainly going to be intolerably painful for anyone to accept indifferent attitude of the life partner, instead of loving and caring relationship. Therefore, it will be extremely necessary to try rekindling the love bonds with your spouse, and stay happy forever.

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