If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you’re keenly aware that happily married couples are an endangered species. You probably know the divorce statistics (50%) and when you go to the grocery store, you see the magazine covers highlighting the breakups of politicians, athletes, singers, and actors. Chances are, these relationships started out as yours did — blissfully happy. So, what went wrong? More importantly, how can you prevent this from happening to you?
What makes or breaks relationships doesn’t have to be a mystery. After counseling hundreds of couples, I’ve witnessed first hand how relationships fall apart, and I’ve been able to help many of them put the pieces back together again. I can help de-mystify the relationship process so you’ll know how to nurture your own marriage and create the type of relationship that makes your neighbors and friends envious.
I. Invest in your marriage on a daily basis.
Like exercise, romance is cumulative: You may not have time to exercise for an hour every day, but even if you get moving 15 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at lunch, those small efforts pay off. Experts give advice like take the stairs or park further away, building little efforts into your day to accomplish your goal. It’s the same with romance. You may not be able to escape for a long, romantic weekend very often, but you can show small amounts of appreciation and display affection daily, and those efforts really add up.
When your husband calls you at work, take two minutes to stop what you’re doing and ask about his day; show him support for something that matters to him.
Take a few minutes at the end of the evening to update each other and share the news of your day.
Watch a fun show together, like “Modern Family,” that appeals to both of you.
II. Beware of Facebook (and other cyber-social connections) as a “Gateway” to emotional and physical affairs.
Know the danger signs of bad behavior related to Facebook so you can protect your marriage. Beware of looking up exes on Facebook, especially high school sweethearts. Here are signs that you’re crossing the line:
If your partner comes in the room, would you be fine letting him read over your shoulder or do you close the screen quickly? When you are talking on the phone with an old high school acquaintance, would you change your tone of voice if your spouse entered the room? If so, you need to examine your behavior and its effect on the relationship with your spouse.
Confiding more on Facebook than with your partner.
It’s often easier to share personal information when there is a level of anonymity so people tend to be less self-conscious when communicating through the internet. It’s important to keep communicating with your spouse with whom you are in a “live” relationship, even if there are tensions. Make sure you continue to reach out and touch your loved one, literally.
We tend to romanticize high school and people we knew from long ago. Over time, with blurring of memory, friendships are changed in our minds to romances. Recognize infatuation is temporary and doesn’t have anything to do with a healthy intimate relationship, which takes time to develop and mature in the light of day. Facebook can artificially and harmfully accelerate a relationship’s natural course of intimacy.
III. Be more like the family dog.
No one is happier to see us walk through the door than our dogs. They greet us, look us in the eye, and show us how happy they are to see us without saying a word! They accomplish this with wagging of their tail and a wet, sloppy kiss. When your spouse comes in — try to do the same.
Stop what you are doing for a moment to welcome him or her home. Look him in the eye. Tell him you are happy to see him. It’s a small effort that will make a big difference over the years. Wagging your tail takes some specialized training (check out a Zumba class near you), but husbands wouldn’t mind being greeted with a sloppy kiss and a happy dance. Showing that you are focused on your spouse, even if it is just for one moment during the day, can foster intimacy and trust in a relationship.
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