6 Actions You Can Take
There are some things you can do in your relationship to help make things go smoother. Some of these things may seem contrary to logic, but they are tried and true and others (and myself) swear by them.
1. Put Away Pride and Serve
Whether you are a man or woman, recognize pride in yourself and be willing to serve your spouse where it matters. She wanted to wash the dishes but did not have time; coincidentally, you have a bit of time on your hands. Wash them for her. He is running late and is forgetful, as usual. Take the time to pick out his clothes and throw a snack in his briefcase. This things probably do not come naturally to you. In fact, you may hold contempt for your spouse when the thought of serving him or her comes into your mind. This is a wrong thought that you need to identify as such. Not being willing to serve your spouse is rooted in selfishness and pride. You would rather do what you want to help yourself, and teach the other a lesson, or let them suffer. Pride will keep you from humbling yourself to help your spouse. But, serving each other will help you appreciate each other more, and will only lead to good things in your marriage. What do you think selfishness, pride, and contempt will lead to? Anything good? Do you think your spouse will someday wake up and say, “Wow, I’m really glad you stuck it to me by not picking up my dry cleaning like I asked, since you were running by there anyway. I definitely learned my lesson and will be perfect from now on!” Don’t count on it. In fact, the only lesson your spouse will learn is that you are a stick-in-the-mud that doesn’t care about him, which can lead to contempt on his part, and getting off the marriage highway to the first exit that leads to divorce. Humbling yourself may sound a bit like this: I married this person for better or for worse, and I am going to help them when they need me whether I am happy about it or not. If both spouses operate this way, a successful marriage partnership arises.
2. Forgive and Never Bring Up The Past
I wish I had a dollar for every time a person has told me they have resentment toward their spouse for something they did, said, didn’t do, or didn’t say. On one hand, I understand. The fact of the matter is, we are imperfect beings and we let each other down inevitably. I have also been hurt, annoyed, and angry at my spouse at times over the past ten years. Some of those things can be very hard to forgive. However, no matter what your spouse has done, forgiving will set you free from the resentment and contempt you hold for them. Not forgiving will never help your marriage. It will only stew and make things way worse. Beyond forgiving, it is important that once a matter is discussed and dealt with, it is buried away and not brought back up. Throwing one’s past decisions in their face will never fix your relationship or even your argument. “I know you said you’re sorry, but I keep thinking of that time you left the hair straightener on all night! Our house could have burned down! That was such a stupid thing to do!” Guess what, it was an error and you are not immune to committing them. Your spouse apologized and it was dealt with. Why do you still bring it up? Trust your spouse enough to do things right from now on, and let things go. In other words, forgive them, and then act like they never happened, even if they pop in your mind.
3. Adjust Your Expectations
Of course, if it is something they do that habitually hurts you, you may have to learn what you can expect from them and adjust yourself accordingly. Of course, my previous statement refers to non-destructive behavior, such as you are very concerned with how your house looks on the outside but you cannot get your spouse to mow the lawn and upkeep the property which hurts your feelings every week that you experience this continual disappointment. Many grudges have to do with expectations. “At night she says she is too tired to talk or connect with me,” may really mean, “I expect my wife to be my best friend, conversation maker, and lover after the kids are put to bed.” Most times, reality does not match our expectations. A conversation and finding another time to connect can fix this situation once and for all, and then you (the begrudged spouse) should check point number two above. For my husband and myself, we solved this specific problem by flirting throughout the day in text messages instead of just working all day, coming home exhausted, and then going to bed. Also, anything important is discussed in an e-mail. We both take time to read what each other thinks and respond accordingly during breaks at work. It is a nice connection and we go home in the afternoon after a good day’s work feeling like we are caught up with each other, but also with a little spark from the gifs and silliness we have flirted to each other all day long. Expectations need to be forgotten. If you go into marriage with crazy expectations, you will undoubtedly be let down. Instead, go in with no expectations and let your spouse’s behavior set the bar for what you can expect from them.
Disclaimer: If your spouse’s behavior is destructive or abusive, do not dismiss it and seek counseling and a safe place for you and your family.
4. Don’t Air Your Dirty Laundry
I have been in way too many small group classes on the topic of marriage where one spouse (usually the wife–sorry ladies!) completely throws their husband under the bus, be it about his leadership skills, a specific thing he did that made her angry, or even his nasty toenails. Meanwhile the man is just sitting there oddly smiling wishing she would shut up but not allowed to become angry due to social norms. I don’t know about you, but I would be very angry if my husband said one of these things in front of a group of people. It is never okay to talk bad about your spouse. Even if you feel like it is justified to say it, his dirty laundry is your dirty laundry. “Mike made me pack up the whole yard sale by myself while he went golfing with his friends!” Guess what, you just made your husband look like a jerk to everyone in the room which is disrespectful. Learn some class and deal with private matters, privately. How do you think that publicly berating your spouse will ever lead to anything good? I am here to tell you that it never will. If you are the spouse of a good-willed person who does not realize they are doing this, show them this article and tell them that you feel a little hurt when reprimanded in public. If your spouse makes a habit of doing this and never apologizes, it could be an abusive situation for which you need to seek professional help.
5. Respect One Another
It really is as simple as being kind. Sometimes I feel a burning anger and annoyance rise up in me, and admittedly there are times it wins and I say something slicing and rude to my spouse. Many times this surfaces as me thinking I am angry, but actually I am scared or stressed. Since I have learned this about myself, I am able to better restrain my anger (fear) and act out of kindness and calmness instead of rage. But not every spouse struggles with anger as their biggest respect issue. Any feeling you have that makes you want to belittle or talk down to your spouse needs to be dealt with. Treating your spouse, male or female, with disrespect will not help you in the long run. In fact, researcher John Gottman found that eye rolling at one’s spouse is a predictor of divorce. It takes a lot of work to overcome those urges to mumble, “idiot!” under your breath or roll your eyes behind their back or make an angry face of rage if they do something you don’t like, whether they can see you or not. But, for the good of your marriage, restrain yourself and any lashing out. Through time, this new, mellower attitude will become more natural and immediate, and you will grow in respect with your spouse. Ladies, I will also add that even though we are taught to roll our eyes at the notion, something genetic in men makes them thrive on respect. Giving them a little can go a long way to fixing issues in your marriage.
6. Be intimate
Don’t neglect your spouse in the bedroom. I could stop it there but I will go further: flirt with your spouse, touch your spouse in a non-sexual way throughout the day, and have deep, soul-tying conversations with him or her. My husband and I have our best conversations in the living room in the dark after everyone is asleep. Sometimes darkness, quietness, and aloneness can bring the depths of one’s soul out to be understood, nurtured, and cherished. And, sometimes, these conversations lead to more. A woman feeling understood is a woman feeling loved. A man not neglected in his bed is a man feeling respected. That’s why both conversation and sex go hand-in-hand.