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.
A recent article in Psychology Today identified the best and worst ages to get married. Apparently the worst ages to marry are either in your teens or after your early 30’s. Does age really determine the success of your marriage? If you get married outside of the ideal age range, does your marriage stand a chance?
Nicholas Wolfinger, a professor at the University of Utah, conducted research on the relationship between the age at which couples marry and the likelihood of divorce. The findings suggest the ideal time frame to get married is when you are in your mid twenties to early 30’s. Couples who marry during this time frame tend to be less likely to divorce than couples who marry in their teens and those who marry in their mid 30’s or later.
If you were married either earlier or later than the ideal time frame, don’t worry; there are steps you can take to increase your chances of a successful marriage.
We can speculate about the reasons why marriages that take place outside of the ideal window tend to falter.
How marrying young may impact the success of your marriage
Couples who marry at a younger age may lack the maturity and patience needed to go through the learning and growing process that is a part of every marriage. Younger couples may also be less prepared academically and professionally for the financial stressors of life. Their situation could potentially become increasingly stressful if the couple has children before they are fully ready for the responsibility.
How marrying at a later age may impact the success of your marriage
Couples who marry at a later age may be entrenched in their own habits and mindset; they may be reluctant to make the adjustments necessary for the marriage to be successful. Couples who marry at a later age are also likely to have been previously married and to have children. The creation of a blended family presents some special challenges. Couples in blended families do best when they practice patience with each other and with the children. It takes time to establish trust and to develop authentic connections in blended families
How to address struggles that may impact the success of your marriage
To have a lasting relationship a couple must go through the growing pains of learning how to work together. This includes learning how to communicate effectively, how to solve problems and how to take care of each other.
Communicating effectively means respecting your partner’s right to his or her perspective, even when it differs from yours. This is particularly difficult if you have strong feelings about the issue you are discussing. It is helpful to make a conscientious effort to listen to your spouse. Listen to the words and beyond that, listen to the emotions underlying the words. Acknowledge what you have heard by recapping what has been expressed before you share your perspective.
When you and your spouse face a problem that needs to be resolved, remember you are team players. The approach of viewing each other as playing on the same team helps you avoid seeing and treating each other as the enemy when you have a disagreement. Manage any strong, negative emotions by using strategies such as taking a time out to cool down. When you feel calm, you think and communicate more effectively and you are able to make rational decisions.
More than likely when you got married you and your spouse believed taking care of each other would come naturally. Isn’t that what you do when you love each other? To your surprise you may now realize it’s a lot more complicated than you thought. However, learning to take care of each other requires stepping outside of your limited perspective, learning about your spouse and adjusting to meet his or her needs.
For example, you tend to show your love and caring in the manner that you like to be shown love and caring. If your primary way of feeling loved by your partner is when he or she acknowledges you and expresses appreciation, you are also likely to want to show your love in the same way. Yet, your partner could prefer to be shown love in another way such as physical intimacy or taking the time and effort to do something special.
Although Wolfinger’s data suggests an ideal age of marriage to lessen the likelihood of divorce, marriage at any age can be successful. No matter what time in your life you decide to marry learning how to successfully communicate effectively, how to problem solve and how to care for each other can positively impact the success of your marriage.
Are feelings of insecurity coming from a habitual pattern of overwhelming fear that your partner will cheat on you? Or is your partner acting in a way that leads you to feel insecure? Or is it both? Would you like to know how to break free of these fears so that you can experience all that your relationship has to offer? Let’s dive in.
The first step to break free of insecurities that plague your relationship is to figure out where the feelings are coming from.
Previous Relationship Problems Can Contribute to Insecurity
Experiencing infidelity in previous relationships may cause you to be fearful that it will happen again. Without realizing it you may anticipate that your partner will be unfaithful and may search for evidence to confirm your expectations.
Take a moment to honestly assess your thoughts and feelings about your partner’s likelihood of being loyal to you. Consider these questions:
- Have you been in a previous relationship where your partner cheated?
- Have you always had a fear or belief that your current partner might cheat?
Childhood Issues Can Contribute To Insecurity
Sometimes feelings of insecurity stem from even earlier hurts; perhaps during childhood the impact of your parent’s infidelity affected you and your family. Those wounds may have left you fearful that it might happen to you.
The instinct to protect yourself from physical and emotional pain is so powerful that your mind will assume the worst when triggered by something that seems suspicious. It helps to realize this, calm yourself and address your concerns when you are calm.
Your Partner’s Attitude and Behavior Can Contribute to Insecurity
Problems such as poor communication, frequent arguing and fighting, and feeling stressed may cause emotional distance in a relationship. Feelings of insecurity can arise when a partner is disrespectful and fails to maintain appropriate boundaries with other people. If you are experiencing emotional distance in your relationship, it’s important not to ignore it Express your concerns to your partner.
A valuable exercise to practice with your partner is clarifying your relationship goals. From there you will need to figure out the changes that you need to make. During this conversation make an effort to listen to your partner with an open mind. When expressing your thoughts and feelings, try to do so in a respectful manner.
If You Have Discovered Infidelity
If you and your partner have decided to repair a relationship after discovering infidelity here are some additional steps. In order to rebuild a relationship based on trust, the partner who has committed the breach will need to make an extra effort to be open and transparent. This means volunteering information that will help to reassure you of their commitment to the relationship. Rebuilding trust also requires that the partner who strayed accept responsibility for the behavior, genuinely express regret, and verbalize reassurance that it will not happen again.
When you have been wounded by infidelity, it is normal to experience anger and fear. However, if you have decided to mend your relationship, you will need to work through the process of forgiving your partner and choosing to move on. This is a challenging process and you may find it helpful to seek the counsel of a skilled couples’ therapist.
While insecurities in a relationship can be caused by any combination of past and present experiences, it is important to address them in order to experience all that your relationship has to offer. Once you identify what is causing your insecurities, using the tools above can help you to manage your feelings and work toward mending your love relationship.
At the start of a new year many couples have great hopes and dreams for things they want to accomplish. Frequently they set goals and make resolutions that simply do not materialize. Here are three essential steps to get you on track as a couple in the New Year.
Create Attainable Goals
Setting goals and making plans are important steps towards accomplishing your hopes and dreams. Too often couples set such lofty goals that before long they lose momentum and interest and their intentions and efforts quickly fade away.
Set small goals and take small steps as you work to accomplish your dreams. Instead of saying, “We are going to pay off all our credit cards”, it may be better to start small. Instead you may be more effective if you promise yourself, “Every pay period we are going to pay down on each card until they are all eventually paid off”. Also it would be helpful to make the decision to curb spending so that new debt does not accumulate.
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
Afteryou and your partner have established your goals, you will need to work together as teammates to accomplish them. It’s a good idea to periodically discuss how well you are progressing towards your goals. This gives you an opportunity to determine what is working well and what you may need to change.
As you work towards your goals, you and your partner will likely have moments of disagreement. Bear in mind, your team is stronger when you make an effort to hear and respect each other’s perspective. A healthy dose of patience and consideration is important. You will also need to effectively manage your emotions during moments of frustration.
Protect Your Goals from Dream Stealers
In order to stay on track towards your dreams and your goals, you will need to avoid falling into the rut of past disappointments. Every couple experiences failures and struggles at some point in the relationship. If you’re not careful those failures will impede your progress towards your goals if you allow them to.
As you reflect on past failures, you may begin to doubt that you can attain your present goals. This concern is understandable. Accept it for what it is, your mind trying to protect you from future disappointment. However keep striving anyway. You are much more likely to arrive at your goal if you just keep moving, even if progress is slower than you want it to be.
Stoke the fire of motivation by keeping your focus on what you are trying to accomplish. Encourage each other and celebrate the accomplishments that you have made so far. Don’t allow any missteps to bog you down, instead view them as an opportunity to adjust what you are doing and keep moving forwards.