It’s important to let your spouse know you care about them. Here are some simple ideas of how to do it.
Some few years ago it was very hip in the fast paced world of industrial psychology to make frequent use of the word proactive. Its brief life flared somewhere after the earnest use of the word relevant and before the ever popular expression work smarter not harder.
It does make sense to be proactive and engage in activities that will keep us mentally or physically strong and healthy rather than have to engage in remedial activities once you’ve allowed things to deteriorate. Think of watching what you eat, learning to cope with stress and getting some exercise as opposed to recovering from a heart attack (if you are fortunate enough to recover from one.) Well, the same holds true for your marriage.
Research indicates that couples who have made gains through consciously working on their marriage are able to maintain those gains by devoting only five extra hours per week to it. These are the little things we often take for granted but that are shown to have a powerful impact that far exceeds their humble appearance. I present them for your consideration.
1. Partings: Make sure that before you say goodbye in the morning you’ve learned about one thing that is happening in your spouse’s life that day, from lunch with the boss to a doctor’s appointment to visiting with an old friend. This helps keep us present and involved with the day-to-day life of our spouse and communicates our ongoing interest in and respect for them.
Time: 2 minutes x 5 working days = 10 minutes.
2. Reunions: Engage in a stress reduction conversation at the end of each work day. Talk about whatever stressful circumstance or event that is on your mind outside of your marriage and use this as an opportunity to debrief and support each other emotionally concerning these areas of your lives. This not only vividly demonstrates mutual support and understanding, but allows for an effective transition from events outside of your marriage to things that affect your marriage directly.
Time: 20 minutes x 5 working days = 1 hour 40 minutes.
3. Admiration and appreciation: Find some way every day to communicate genuine admiration and appreciation toward your spouse. Use specific examples from your daily lives together to support your statements. It may sound challenging at first, but once you begin to think along these lines, you’ll find that examples will come easily. It is the antidote for taking our spouses for granted and no, you won’t spoil them.
Time: 5 minutes x 7 days = 35 minutes.
4. Affection: Kiss, hold, grab and touch each other during the time you’re together. Make sure to kiss each other before going to sleep. Think of that kiss as a way to let go of any minor irritations that may have built up with your spouse over the course of the day. Lacing your kiss with thoughts of forgiveness for any perceived slights or offenses that may have taken place during the day helps put a tender note on the end of the day and prepares you to begin the next day on a positive tone.
Time: 5 minutes x 7 days = 35 minutes.
5. Weekly date: This is the quality time, essential to maintaining the spark and fun in your marriage. Engage in fun talk, where concerns, issues, problems and housekeeping conversations are excluded. Talk about happy things, light things, news, gossip, movies, books, TV shows, etc. Focus on keeping the conversation light and enjoyable, like it was when you were dating. Share a glass of wine or cup of coffee/tea, go for a walk, a bike ride or drive out to the ice cream stand like when you were kids!
Time: 2 hours x 1 week.
Grand Total Time: 5 hours.
Even though you may be tempted to roll your eyes when you hear me suggest devoting five hours a week to maintaining your marriage, if you apply yourself to the task you’ll soon discover its time well spent. If you have kids, you’ll begin to notice the positive effects of caring for and nurturing each other rubbing off on them. In fact, with a little appropriate modification you can apply these same techniques to your children as well; see if it doesn’t make a positive difference in your relationships with them and in their sense of self-esteem and self-confidence.
You’ll need to apply yourself consistently and not become discouraged if things don’t change right away; the effects of having felt being taken for granted are dense and it may take some time for these light but powerful techniques to get the system running smoothly again. It is a simple but powerful way to maintain a happier, healthier and more resilient marriage. Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.