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Married 6 Months or 60 Years, Your Marriage Can Be Strong

Your marriage can be as strong as you want it to, as long as you put in a little effort.  Whether you have been married for six months or 60 years, you can always learn ways to become a better husband or wife. In fact, the happiest couples I know are the ones who make a deliberate effort to learn how to make their marriage better. Many people are required to take continued education courses to become better employees. Imagine how much lower the divorce rate would be if we were required to take continued education courses to become better spouses!

Most of us didn’t have very good training on how to be a great marriage partner. We learned by observing our parents and watching couples on TV sitcoms. Few of us had adequate pre-marital counseling, if any at all. So we have learned to fight about chores, control each other with guilt, give each other the silent treatment, take each other for granted, and gossip about each other to friends, parents and even our kids. Instead of understanding and appreciating the differences between men and women, wives learned to be offended whenever their husband behaved like a man, and husbands learned to be irritated whenever their wife behaved like a woman.

Here are some ways you can become a better spouse in 2009:

1. Seek out others who have a great marriage and learn from them. Ask what they do to keep their marriage strong. Spend time with them so you can observe the way they speak to one another. Watch what they do to show each other love. Notice the way they look at each other. (Limit your time with women who complain about their husbands, and men who can’t stand their wives).

2. Find out what makes your spouse feel loved. Does your wife love it when you surprise her with flowers? Does your husband enjoy a foot rub at the end of a long day? How does your wife react when you help out with chores without being asked? Does your husband smile when you say, “Thanks for going to work today?” Does your wife well up with pride when you say, “Dinner tastes great, thanks for cooking”? Does your wife feel like a queen when you drop her off in front of the mall so she doesn’t have to walk in the cold? Does your husband blush when you compliment him in front of your friends, family and kids? If you aren’t sure what makes your spouse feel loved, ask! Instead of keeping score of who worked harder each day, treat each other the way you did when you first fell in love.

3. Go on dates! Do the activities you did that made you fall in love in the first place. The most loving couples I know go on weekly dates, even if—especially if—they have kids. Even if it’s just going out for a cup of coffee, it gives them a chance to slip out of their role as Mom and Dad, and just enjoy each being with each other as husband and wife.

4. Read a book, see a counselor, or attend a seminar designed to improve your marriage. Insightful books like, The Secrets of Happily Married Women by Dr. Scott Haltzman can transform your marriage! If you struggle with one issue in particular, such as difficult in-laws, read a book so you can learn how to unite as a couple. If you and your wife argue about sex, go to a couples’ marriage conference and attend a workshop about how to have a more fulfilling sex life. If you and your wife often disagree about parenting decisions, visit a marriage-friendly therapist who can offer wise advice.

5. Make your spouse your first priority over your parents, boss and even your kids. Every day, you are presented with several choices that either will or will not reflect your priorities. One of my favorite quotes (by Stephen Covey) is, “Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.” Your marriage is important, so make sure to protect it by making wise decisions. If your mom invites you to visit for the weekend, but your wife already has other plans, have the courage to ask your mom for a rain check instead of ignoring your wife’s needs—if your spouse doesn’t get along with your parents, it probably has a lot to do with your behavior! If you’re tempted to postpone a date with your husband because you feel guilty for not spending enough time with the kids, go on the date anyway. There’s nothing better you can do for your kids than have a loving relationship with their father! Don’t focus so hard on being a great parent that you forget to be a great spouse.

It’s unfortunate that in many marriages the partners bring out the worst in each other. The good news is that you don’t have to be like everyone else. Through commitment and continued education, you and your spouse can learn how to bring out the best in each other!

Jenna D. Barry

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