What You Can Do Right Now To Help A Hurting Marriage
Tip number one: If you have children, please don’t fight in front of them or involve them in marital issues.
I can’t begin to tell you how much that hurts them. For several years I served as a middle school counselor. Some of the most painful sessions were with kids who sat and cried in my office, because they felt put in the middle of their parent’s conflict. It made them miserable. It was hard for them to concentrate on schoolwork and to sleep at night. Marital issues are never easy and do have an effect on children. You can mitigate that effect by not putting them in the middle and not putting your business out there for them to hear. You are mom and dad and they love you. Shelter them from what is going on between you. Always present to them as a united team with their best interests in mind.
Tip number two: Do something, anything for your marriage.
Sometimes rather than being in a battle your marriage may be in the “blahs”. There was a time many years ago when I was feeling down and discouraged. I talked to a friend who recommended just finding one little thing to do differently in my life. It sounded rather simple, but I did it anyway. Nothing big at first, just having the family share something positive at the dinner table about each of their days. I immediately started feeling better. As I focused more on the positive, my family became more engaged and that felt really good. That success led to further change.
Find something that works—something you can feel encouraged about and then start creating a positive snowball of change. I’m not trying to simplify anyone’s issues. I know it can be much more complicated than that. But sometimes, it seems a whole lot more complicated than it really is. Sometimes, the right efforts can lead to feeling much better about our relationship.
For you, it may be a hug and kiss when you leave each other in the morning and greet each other in the evening. It may be watching a favorite TV show together. It may be having a lively dinner conversation—without being dominated by electronics. It may be sitting down and playing a board game. Just do something!
Tip number three: Read, listen or watch.
No matter the state of your marriage, there are plenty of good books that can help you work on your marriage. Read a book or part of a book. Read an article or blog. Listen to podcasts on marriage. One book in particular, that I like to recommend is written by Dr. John Gottman called, “7 Principles For Making Marriages Work.”
If there has been infidelity, two good books are “Not Just Friends” by Dr. Shirley Glass and “After The Affair” by Dr. Janis Abrahms Spring.
Tip number 4: Have at least 15 to 20 minutes a day of conversation.
I realize it takes two to do this, but when it is done right it can be an incredible support and connection for both of you. For it to work, it has to be a safe conversation. If all you talk about is what’s going on in your marriage, what’s wrong with your marriage and a lot of complaints about your marriage, then somebody’s not gonna want to talk.
It may include sharing something stressful about your day or something that went well. It may include talking about current events or plans for the future. It needs to be a give and take dialogue. Listen and validate what your spouse is saying.
It doesn’t mean you don’t talk about your marriage, but there needs to be times we are just connecting with each other and building what Dr. John Gottman calls in his first level of the “Sound Relationship House,” “Love Maps”. The best marriages have a very extensive map of what we know about each other. It’s knowing each other’s dreams. It’s about knowing each other’s likes and dislikes. It’s also about being there for each other and about understanding and supporting each other. These conversations build connection.
Tip number five: Find 3 qualities you appreciate about your partner and share those qualities linking an example to each quality.
It may be easy for you or you may have to dig for examples. Dr. John Gottmans’ second level of the “Sound Relationship House” is “Fondness and Admiration”. It is so important to respect each other and show each other that you appreciate who you are and what you bring to the marriage and family.
My wife shares that when we were much younger, there was a time she couldn’t think of anything good about me. She decided to make an ongoing list of my good qualities. The first day she spent 4 hours (my wife is very determined) before she finally wrote down, “He has broad shoulders.” The next day, she came up with a few items that compounded into many more over the next few days. After 4 or 5 days, she shares that it completely changed her outlook toward me.
Many couples fail to appreciate the qualities that drew them to each other in the first place. They start focusing on the qualities they don’t like. Don’t ignore the qualities that raise concerns, but acknowledge the good. It will put you in a better place to grow your marriage.