Marriage is hard.
Marriage is hard because life is hard. Relationships are hard. Parenting is hard. Work is hard.
And people are complicated. We tend to hide our vulnerabilities—our fear, loneliness, shame, and confusion. And we aren’t very good at talking about the parts of ourselves that we don’t fully understand and try to ignore.
Accepting your spouse’s imperfections takes a tremendous amount of love and patience. And it is also important to remember that it isn't easy for your spouse to accept the whole of you as well. And individuals evolve throughout their lives. Life with your spouse feels very different as a newly married, 20-something than it does as an exhausted 40- or 50-something with kids and a mortgage.
Building a strong marriage requires conscious effort that isn't always easy to put in, but it's safe to say that the resulting happiness is worth a bit of toil. Here are some great activities to help you strengthen your connection and build an extraordinary marriage.
Have Fun Together
Make a list of activities that you enjoy doing with your spouse. Make sure some of the activities cost little to no money. Exchange lists. Put some of these activities into your schedule. These can be as simple as going to a movie, going for a hike, or going bowling together.
Small Acts of Kindness
Buy their favorite dessert on your way home, memorize their coffee order, or pick up the dry cleaning. Let them sleep in while you take the kids out for the morning. Make dinner and wash the dishes. It's really those little things that make you feel like, "Wow, this person really cares about me, this person has my back."
Everyone needs encouragement. And everyone has different ways in which they like to be encouraged and acknowledged. You and your spouse can make a list of 10 things your spouse can do to encourage you. Exchange lists. Consistently do what’s on your spouse’s list.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Open questions solicit the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and/or interests and can be answered in ways that are diverse and expansive. By answering and really listening to the answers your partner gives, you can build a really strong connection. Put some questions in a jar, pick a question, and answer that question. If you get stuck thinking of questions to ask, you could order these cards or you could download this app onto your smartphone and always have access to some great relationship questions.
Set Goals Together
I believe that happiness comes from moving toward what you want, not necessarily getting it. What this means to you is that in order to be happy, couples need to have goals that they are moving toward. You can start by setting goals for the next 6 months together in 7 different life areas: health, social, intellectual, spiritual, financial, family, and career. Agree upon on goal in each area. Post these goals on your fridge or bathroom mirror.
If you feel like you're in a rough patch and things aren't going well, please feel free to contact me to schedule a session. I can help you flesh out what's going on and help get you to a better path.