You’re both tired. You are both distracted. If you’re not careful, your marriage will quickly take second place to all of the pressing demands of the day. Keep an eye on each other and the relationship. It is one of your greatest resources.
Here are some simple reminders to help you keep the priority of your marriage in balance:
1) Say “Thank you.”
It’s easy to take things for granted when we are both so busy. Of course it is. Although just because it is easy, doesn’t mean it is the best road to take to get to where you are going. It’s time to put appreciation on top of your list of things to remember to do. Saying thank you is a way of complimenting each other, it says, what you are doing for me is not going unnoticed. You might be surprised by how good it can feel, to say it and to hear it from your partner.
Make it a point to say thank you for one thing, every day, for a week. One thing. Each day. One week.
- It can be in response to something your partner does – Thanks for waking me up on time.
- It can be in response to something your partner says – Thanks for telling me how you feel about that.
- It can be in response to something your partner is – Thank you for always knowing the right thing to say.
- It can be in response to something silly – Thanks for making me laugh.
- It can be in response to something serious – Thank you for loving me.
Pick one thing. Every day. For one week.
If you find this hard to do, keep doing it. If you find this easy to do, keep doing it.
2) Find a common language.
This refers to the unique state of familiarity that exists between the two of you. Sounds silly, but it is true: No one knows the two of you as well you both do. Understanding how each other thinks and feels can actually help you intercept a surprise attack and get it back on track. Say things in a way you think your partner will be most responsive to. Try to dial the emotion down so you can do a better job of understanding where your partner is coming from.
Complete the following sentences, then, ask your partner to do the same:
- I love it when you ___________________________.
- When you ___________________________.
- I have a hard time understanding what you want.
- I know you have really heard me when you ___________________________.
- It might seem silly, but when ___________________________.
- It makes me feel totally loved by you.I am trying to understand, that even though you know it bothers me, you still ___________________________.
- I feel like we communicate best when we ___________________________.
- Even though it’s not easy for me, I might understand you better if I try to ___________________________.
- When you are upset, perhaps it would be best for me to ___________________________.
- However, when I am upset, I would prefer you to _________________________.
3) Listen to what is not being said.
In your quest to find a common language, be attentive and read the cues in front of you. This is one of the best ways for you to understand what is not being expressed. The still silence between the two of you can speak volumes.
- If what you are saying or doing is making things worse. Stop. Do something else or do it differently.
- Think about who your partner is and what he or she might be experiencing.
- Watch the body language (yours and your partner’s).
- Pay attention to the facial expressions.
- Keep an eye out for emotions that may be difficult to access, or words that may hurt too much to articulate.
- Take the risk of checking out your intuition if you sense something that is not being articulated:
Are you feeling sad?
Are you thinking I don’t make any sense?
You seem upset.
Did I make you mad?
4) Be kind & stay curious.
This cannot be overemphasized. If you approach your partner with affection, you will increase your bargaining power as well as your partner’s ability to participate in the dialogue. This is common sense, but it is often the first things people forget. Show your partner you care.
- Talk to your partner about something you have never discussed before. Discover new information. Tell your partner something about yourself that has never been revealed. Have fun with it.
- Every day say something nice to your partner. Pass along a compliment. Make a flattering remark about the way they look. Express admiration for the way they work. Every day. One thing.
Pick a moment. Pick a reason. Make one up. Find a reason to laugh. Or learn to fake a laugh until your belly hurts. When you find yourself really laughing, try to make it last longer. Reap the benefits that a physically intense, breathlessly wonderful cackle can do for you.
- Seek out and surround yourself with people and things you find funny. Enjoy the moment.
- Listen for laughter and search for the source. Share the chuckle.
- Practice smiling. A real smile. Use your eyes and your facial muscles, not just your mouth.
- Do something outrageously silly. Share it with your partner.
- Search for things that will make you laugh: buy tickets to see your favorite comedian, find an old funny movie to watch together, talk about memories that make you both smile.
Adapted from Tokens of Affection: Reclaiming your marriage after postpartum depression (Routledge, in press)