By Mary T. Carty, Contributing writer
Couples create their marriage by the choices they make on a daily, minute-to-minute basis about thousands of situations that occur while building a life together. It is the element of choice of actions, thoughts, attitudes and responses that determine the structure and quality of the marriage.
The road to building the marriage that two people dream of having is paved with honesty, collaboration, cooperation and, sometimes, compromise, all based on communication. In marriage, the partners are faced with communicating daily about issues pertaining to time, food, shelter, work, finance and family, to name a few. The patterns and quality of communication styles play a major role in how decisions are made and the kind of marriage that is created.
Tips for better relationship
Poor communications and miscommunication can cause problems in a marriage and may even lead toward the path of separation and divorce. Beginning the marriage with some key communication guidelines that are drawn upon each day can make that journey together much more hopeful, happy and healthy:
- Love, accept and support your spouse. Think of this daily as something top of mind.
- Discuss issues, concerns, dreams and fears. This is what partnerships are made of and requires couples to come together to air their concerns, hopes and dreams regularly.
- Show love through actions. Saying “I love you” is nice, but actions do indeed speak louder than words.
- Share the responsibilities of marriage and the home. If a couple wants to build a strong partnership, looking at responsibilities and deciding how to share them sets a firm foundation and works to prevent the development of resentments.
- Show appreciation to spouse. Sometimes just a “thank you” is more appreciated than you realize and an important way for your spouse to be acknowledged for all that he or she does.
- Communicate clearly and honestly. Since most people do not have the ability to read minds, it is important to share information honestly. Ultimately, this will build long-lasting trust.
- Show respect. Everyone has emotions that can set us off balance. The challenge is to remember that it is possible during a disagreement to do so in a respectful manner and avoid hurtful attacks or sarcastic remarks.
- Share goals of marriage and life. If each partner is clear about the marriage they want and about their life goals, they can share their dreams and begin to work with the other person to build their life together based on each of their goals and desires.
- Make intimacy a priority in and out of the bedroom. Intimacy of marriage can sometimes become clouded by work, financial problems, family issues and other life challenges. It is important to take note if the level of intimacy is waning and actively work try to take steps to discuss honestly with your spouse ways to get closer again.
- Remind each other of your marriage commitment. Anniversaries are great, but positive comments on a regular basis are even better, and sometimes more appreciated, because they are unexpected.
- Give gifts. Gift giving can be creative and not cost a lot of money. How about a walk by the water, a favorite movie or tickets to a special (or free) event?
- Give compliments. Sounds superficial? Maybe, but the bottom line is that one’s spouse will notice he or she is being noticed.
- Have a special date to which you both can look forward regularly. Consider once a week, if possible. Dating was so much fun before marriage and drew you both together. So why not continue during marriage?
- Practice gratitude. Comments like “Aren’t we lucky to have this home!” and saying grace at mealtime are reminders of positive gifts we have been given.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Yes, writing takes time and energy. But a journal to express even each day is a reminder of how much we have in life and in the marriage worth celebrating. In times of trouble, the journal can provide great comfort and be a reminder to get us back on a positive track.
- Accept that we are human and make mistakes. Saying this can steer one away from the perils of perfectionism of self and criticism of the other.
- Practice trust. Speaking honestly from the heart enables this to happen. Know that each partner has a responsibility to build an environment where frank conversations can be had. The alternative is living in an environment of secrecy, which kills, ultimately, love and trust.
- Compromise once in a while. In all partnerships, there has to be compromise at some point, otherwise the relationship is unbalanced and hampered by an environment of resentments.
- Remember no two people are alike. The challenge is to enjoy the similar interests and accept and celebrate the differences.
- You cannot read your spouse’s mind. This skill would be most helpful to have. But at least acknowledging that requires us to be more open and desirous of communications.
- Your spouse cannot read your mind. Therefore, conversation and dialogue is necessary.
- Know yourself. Sometimes the simple question “Who am I and what do I want?” is difficult to answer. In a marriage, it is probably helpful if each takes the time to answer those questions and share each person’s needs.
- Know and voice your expectations. If a person has specific expectations within the marriage, sharing them lets the other person know what is expected and becomes a starting point to better understanding.
- Say “I love you” in the morning. Mornings can be hectic, but the phrase “I love you” only takes a few seconds and is an intimate moment shared to start the day.
- Say “I love you” before going to sleep. Fatigue may be overwhelming or worries about work or things to do around the home may flood the mind, but taking a few moments to say, “I love you” can reassure and maybe even change the mind’s focus.
- Never go to bed angry. Chances are sleep may not be sound and the wake-up mood negative if anger is held onto.
- Smile. Smiles don’t cost anything and brighten moments and have been found to actually have a therapeutic effect on our attitudes.
- Have fun. Yes, it is OK to have fun as an adult. Find things you both enjoy, like walking or music. Also develop your own interests, such as sports or hobbies, as it is important to grow as an individual while you both grow as a couple.
- You can change your attitude. At any point in the day, it is possible to change attitude. This change may take time, energy and likely actions, but can make a marked improvement in the quality of the day.
- Marriage is what you and your spouse make it. As noted above, marriage is made by many decisions made on a daily basis. The opportunities for achieving a happy, healthful and faith-filled marriage are endless. One decision at a time. Mary T. Carty is a New Orleans-based writer-photographer and author of “The PMAT: The Perfect Marriage Aptitude Test” (Glitterati Incorporated, 2009).