There comes a time in every marriage when one or both partners feel like they’ve hit a roadblock and don’t know how to get around it. Whether you and your spouse are facing a small bump in the road or a big one, it’s not too late to get back on track. Consider these nine steps to start healing your relationship and building a healthier, happier marriage.
1. Keep it real
Relationships are of course never as perfect as a Hollywood movie or your favorite pop song. After the honeymoon is over, couples have to face the day-to-day grind. Keep your expectations realistic, accept your partner for himself or herself, and take life’s inevitable changes as they come.
2. Don’t stop dating
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, especially after you have kids. Take time to escape the routine and go on a date with your spouse. Once a week (or at least on a regular basis), you should arrange for a sitter, make a reservation at your favorite restaurant, and have a great night out on the town.
3. Be friends
Friendship and communication are key to a solid marriage. It is important to talk with each other and be each other’s best friend. This type of closeness allows you to build a solid foundation in your relationship and weather the inevitable storms.
4. Let go of the past
Many people find it difficult to trust. Past hurts and disappointments may have left scars. Don’t let old wounds get in the way of your current partnership. When issues arise, be willing to work through them and forgive.
5. Build trust
If you’re the type who attracts a lot of friends of the opposite sex, you may want to consider letting go of those relationships after you’re married. Marriage counselors and coaches believe that opposite-sex friendships are risky. Instead, try to find other married couples who share common interests.
6. Time it out for friends
You don’t have to cut off all of your outside relationships, but limit time with friends. An occasional boys’ or girls’ night out is fine, but too much time away from your spouse can lead to problems at home.
7. Make time for intimacy
It’s common for work and family pressures to put a damper on your love life. Willard F. Harley, Jr., Ph.D., suggests that couples should give their spouse undivided attention a minimum of 15 hours each week. They should take the time to meet each other’s needs for affection, intimate conversation and sexual fulfillment.
8. Kick those bad habits
Couples that find themselves criticizing, blaming complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, or bribing can find their love life in a serious rut.
9. Choose your battles
As they say, don’t sweat the small stuff. Betsy Sansby, MS, suggests that couples try her S.T.O.P. method. She points out that when people are sad or angry, they don’t think straight.
During a conflict, stop and tell your partner you need a break. Time out and separate from him or her for about 30-60 minutes. Own your part, calm yourself down, and analyze your behavior. Offer a hug, kiss, or an agreement after the dust settles.