Many couples experience a turn in their relationship from the excitement and joy of being together to feelings of frustration, questioning, “Is this the best that I can expect from being married?” You may even feel, “I’m not really in love anymore.”
Sometimes the problem may be that you’ve become so accustomed to each other that you feel taken for granted. You can turn things around by developing a rhythm of appreciation in your marriage.
Notice Gestures Worthy Of Your Appreciation
Like most people you may go through your day without paying much attention to typical everyday experiences. Your life may be so predictable that it is as if you have learned to function on automatic pilot. While this may be efficient in some ways, the downside is that you may overlook small but significant things that you should appreciate about your spouse.
Periodically pause and take a moment to look for things that you appreciate about your mate. Usually the negative issues seem to be glaring, and in comparison the positive things get overlooked.
Intentionally Express Your Appreciation
Now that you are looking for things you appreciate, when you notice something, let your mate know how you feel. It may feel odd to you to say, “Thank you”, for something you think is your mate’s responsibility. However doing so will mean a lot to your spouse. It will also encourage your spouse to continue performing the behavior.
Show Appreciation With Action
Many couples find that they are different in how they prefer to be shown attention, affection and appreciation. This is their preferred love language. Figure out what pleases your mate. Would your spouse prefer for you to verbally expressing your appreciation? Perhaps a hug or other sign of physical affection would be better received. Maybe your spouse particularly enjoys your spending quality time together. Or perhaps a thoughtful gift or gesture would be welcomed. The important thing is, take the time to discover your spouse’s preferences and be intentional in showing that you care.
Make It A Habit To Show Appreciation
Many times you may be excited about trying a new idea, only to find that after a short while, you enthusiasm fizzles and so does your idea. To stay on track with your plan to show appreciation to your spouse, make it a habit.
Habits are easier to establish when the behavior occurs at a set time. At a specific time each day, pause to think about what you appreciate about your mate. Choose a time that suits your schedule such as:
- First thing in the morning during your quiet time
- While enjoying your breakfast
- During a routine break in your workday
- While you are eating lunch
- Before you enter your home after you return from work
Bearing in mind your mate’s preferred love language, show your appreciation.
Developing a rhythm of appreciation will bring positive changes to your relationship. Pay attention and tune into your spouse’s positive attributes. Be consistent in showing your spouse that you care.
Like most people in a relationship, from time to time you will try different things to make your relationship work well. You may make changes on a grand scale hoping to see quick results. You may find yourself feeling disappointed when your efforts don’t seem to bring the results you hoped for. If you want the best out of your love relationship, focus on these small steps.
Make Your Relationship Work By Improving Communication
Improving how you communicate is helpful to make your relationship work well. Without realizing it, you and your partner may have developed habitual and unhealthy communication patterns. Despite your desire and efforts to communicate more effectively, you find yourself falling back into all too familiar arguments that leave you thinking, “This is useless, things will never change.”
The first step to changing how you communicate involves ensuring that the atmosphere is right. Specifically, it is important that both you and your partner feel safe and comfortable as you listen to and share with each other. You can accomplish this if you maintain emotional calm and you handle the conversation in a rational manner.
Here are the steps to help you with this:
Maintain your calm by paying close attention to your emotional reactions.
The moment you notice yourself entertaining any negative thoughts or emotions, acknowledge it to yourself. In your mind you may say, “I notice I am thinking or feeling .”¹
Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply
Check your emotions again. Are you at a place that you can listen to and speak to your partner in an open, non-judgmental manner? If so proceed with the conversation making an effort to listen so that you can understand your partner’s perspective on the issue.
If you are not emotionally ready to have an open non-judgmental conversation, then it would be better to take a timeout so that you can calm down. After you are calm, you may try speaking with your partner at a later time.
Make Your Relationship Work By Keeping Your Love Alive
Keeping your love alive is critical to making your relationship work well. By taking small steps to nurture your relationship. It is almost a guarantee that the feeling of love will become stale over time if you do not make the effort to keep it vibrant.
Schedule regular date nights with your partner. Keep it interesting by planning novel activities: take a cooking class together, go mountain biking, or go kayaking. Keep a list of fun activities you may want to try and when it’s time to plan a date, pick an item on your list.
One of the most important ways of nurturing your relationship is to find opportunities to show and express your appreciation to your partner. When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, it’s very easy to become complacent and to take your partner for granted. A small step for showing your appreciation is to pay attention throughout your day and identify at least one thing about your partner that you appreciate. Let your partner know – say it directly, send a text, share an image, write a note or express it in some other creative way.
By focusing on these small steps, you can make great strides in maintaining the love in your relationship. The steps can also help to reignite the spark in a relationship that has grown cold. As Prince Ea stated in his video “Before You Get Married”, it’s the “small moments of our lives that take up the biggest part of our hearts”.
¹Harris, R. (2011). The Confidence Gap. Boston, MA: Trumpeter
It is natural to try to defend yourself if you feel that you are being attacked. In your intimate relationship even though you may trust your spouse, there are times when you may feel that you are under attack. This can happen when you feel that you are being criticized or judged negatively.
Some relationships can get to such a place of mistrust and tension that both people may find that they are in a perpetual state of being on guard. Of course this is extremely stressful and emotionally damaging for both people involved.
How Defensiveness Creeps Into Your Relationship
How do couples get to such a painful place in their relationship? Most couples who are newly in love experience an incredible emotional high. Think back to when you were first in love, quite likely you were convinced that you had found an angel who was fun, charming, considerate and the lists goes on. If you or your spouse experienced a disagreement, it is likely that you were highly motivated to make things right and get your relationship back on track. At that time, the desire to work to resolve issues was not only fueled by the positive feelings of love but also by the instinctual need to win the prize of your spouse’s affection.
However as time passes and the challenges of life unfold, couples may respond to each other with a protective caution that can sometimes turn into an unyielding barrier. This blocks emotional intimacy in the relationship.
If either you or your spouse have been hurt in past relationships, it can adversely affect how you function in your current relationship. Generally you learn from your past experiences how to handle similar experiences in the present. For example if in the past you were in a relationship with a possessive partner, you are likely to be sensitive to any indication that your current partner is trying to keep track of your activities. If your spouse asks, “Who are you meeting for lunch today?” You may find yourself reacting defensively; you may not even realize that your tone is defensive. Your spouse may sincerely be asking just to be cordial.
Building on this example, suppose your spouse experienced infidelity in a previous relationship, your defensiveness is now being viewed with suspicion. Your spouse then reacts in an accusatory tone, very soon both of you are angry. You can see how a simple comment may escalate into a situation where both people have very different interpretations of what happened. If this and similar scenarios play out again and again, you both learn to keep your defensive barriers at the ready.
How To Overcome Defensiveness
In order to reduce the rush to defensiveness it helps to be aware of your triggers. You can begin to understand your triggers by reflecting on past experiences and relationships that you have had. Sometimes the relationship may be as early as relationships in childhood, such as relationships with your parents or other significant caregivers. Think especially of any difficult, or traumatic situations that you had. Those experiences or relationships have taught you how to instinctively react to similar situations.
Identifying the situations that may trigger you gives you an opportunity to be proactive. It is helpful to share your awareness of these triggers with your spouse and vice versa so both of you understand what is upsetting to each of you.
When you are faced with those triggering situations, make a conscious effort to pause before responding to your spouse. During the pause, count to five as you breathe in and out then choose your response.
It takes practice to bring about changes, especially when your automatic reaction is to defend yourself. It is therefore inevitable that there will be some mistakes made. Accept responsibility when you have fallen back into the pattern of defensiveness, apologize and try again.
The inclination to react defensively when you are hurt is natural. With awareness and with conscious effort to change your response, you can prevent defensiveness from becoming a permanent barrier in your relationship.
Have you ever reacted to something that your loved one, a colleague or friend said to you in such a sharp and angry tone that you even surprised yourself? When certain buttons are pushed it can create feelings of anger. In an instant you may find yourself unleashing your emotions as if you were an angry tiger suddenly jolted out of a deep slumber. Such is the difficulty of managing feelings when your instinct to react defensively is triggered.
For some people angry outbursts may be an infrequent occurrence. For others irritability and quick anger occur too often. While the emotion of anger is normal and appropriate in certain situations, when anger gets out of control it creates problems.
The key to managing your emotions including anger; is to be aware of your emotions while allowing wisdom and logic to guide your responses. If you are thinking, “That’s easily said, not easily done.” You are correct, it takes practice but it is indeed possible to gain control of your emotions. Here’s how:
Press The Pause Button
You may have heard the suggestion to count to 10 to help calm yourself. There is something useful about that approach. It allows you a window of time to apply the brakes so you can BREATHE. When you intentionally pause and breathe for a while, it gives your brain and your body a chance to calm down. It allows you to get back in the driver’s seat so that you can think through your next response.
Take A “Big Picture” Perspective
Consider the current situation, how does the reaction you are on the verge of unleashing fit into the bigger picture of your values and your goals? For example if your spouse has just said something irritating and you are now livid, if you explode, does that explosion help or hinder in reaching the goals you have for your relationship?
Use Logic To Guide Your Response
The best way to respond is to acknowledge your emotions while allowing wisdom and logic to guide you. By doing so you will be able to honestly share your feelings in an appropriate way. When you are calm, you are more in control of what you say and how you say it. You are also in a better position to hear the other person in a more objective and compassionate manner.
Sometimes it takes a little while to reach this place of calm. It’s beneficial to allow yourself a time-out. Doing so gives you space and time to get back in control of your feelings. It also allows you the time to refocus your perspective on what is most important in your relationship. It also helps you to avoid getting caught up in petty arguments that in the long run can damage your relationship.
Learning how to manage your reactions when you become upset is challenging, but it is a very important skill that you can master. Pressing pause, looking at the big picture and responding in a logical manner are the steps to achieving this. Undoubtedly it will take time to restrain the natural instinct to lash out defensively. More than likely there will be times when you will fall back into old habits of reacting harshly. This does not mean that you are a failure at this. Just keep working at it. Your relationship is worth it.
Getting married is a significant financial decision. Beyond planning and saving for the wedding and honeymoon you and your spouse are journeying down a road that determines your financial future. Here are 5 financial mistakes you should be aware of that could ruin your marriage.
Postponing Or Avoiding Planning How To Handle Your Money
Conversations about money are tough especially when finances are tight. You or your partner may feel ashamed or upset about the state of your finances, and you may tend to avoid or postpone planning your financial strategy. In doing so you are simply kicking the proverbial can down the road. More than likely failing to face your situation is making matters worse.
Start from where you are. Whatever led you to your current financial situation is in the past. Even though you and your spouse may have some regrets, you cannot change it, you can only learn from the experience. Consequently as you sit down to plan your financial future, avoid dredging up old arguments that will poison your current attempt to come up with solutions. Together identify and discuss your financial goals. Prioritize those goals and then write them down. The act of writing them down helps you to stay committed.
Allowing Your Emotions To Derail Money Conversations
For many couples, the subject of money is often the source of major arguments. How you and your partner manage your money taps into issues of trust. It speaks of character traits such as personal responsibility and reliability. When one partner makes a financial decision the other partner finds objectionable, it can unleash feelings of anger, fear and insecurity. If you are not careful, those feelings will erupt in conversation and will prevent effective communication and problem solving.
Adopt a proactive mindset. Remember you can’t change the past; you can only make changes in the present that will positively impact your future. Decide on a time to discuss your financial situation and approach the conversation with an attitude of cooperation. As you speak with and listen to your spouse, do so with respect. If you or your partner get into a heated discussion, use the strategy of time out to help manage your emotions.
Keeping Financial Secrets
According to a study completed in 2016 by the National Endowment for Financial Education, 42% of Americans interviewed kept financial secrets from their partner. Partners admitted to hiding secret purchases, debt and secret bank accounts. These couples had combined their finances and not surprisingly those indiscretions led to huge problems in their relationship.
Taking the step to combine your finances accentuates even more the importance of being trustworthy. Sometimes a partner may hesitate to share information about their financial choices because of feelings of shame or embarrassment. Admittedly, those are unpleasant feelings and if there is a need to have that conversation with your spouse- it won’t be the comfortable conversation. However, it is much better to face the music and take responsibility for your actions. Doing so opens the door for you to move forwards to resolve the problems.
Not Establishing A Workable Budget
Too often couples struggle to make it from one pay-check to the other and this leaves them feeling helpless and out of control. Some couples feel their primary problem is that they don’t earn enough and certainly this is a factor. However regardless of your income, it is important to intentionally plan how you spend and save your hard earned funds. Establishing a workable budget is the next logical step after you have created your financial goals. Your budget is your plan for saving and spending; following your budget will set you on track towards your goals.
To increase the likelihood of you and your partner following the budget, do not make it too restrictive. It’s best when you both agree on how the money will be spent. A budget is useful to help you plan for inevitable emergencies. Also make sure you each set aside discretionary funds, even if it’s a small amount, so each of you can spend on the fun things. Of course the size of your discretionary account will determine how much you can splurge.
Failing To Join Forces When Managing Your Finances
Even if you and your spouse divide your bills and keep separate bank accounts, managing your finances requires joint effort. Your union as a couple is literally the joining of two parties into one entity. If one of you is experiencing financial difficulties the other person will be affected. Creating a budget that covers your joint expenses is also a necessary step to help you move towards your identified goals. It is therefore still important to establish joint financial goals that will guide how you manage your income.
Knowing you and your partner function as a team with regards to finances reduces any feelings of resentment or feelings of being marginalized. Allowing the space to have the conversation about finances can help prevent financial secrets and disagreements. Although the conversation may be difficult joining forces to manage your finances and budget can help provide stability to your financial future.