Relationships and marriages go through many stages, changes and transitions. Similar to planting, watering and caring for seeds, in order for them to blossom into flowers, a marriage calls for constant nurturing and attention.
While our relationships bring us great joy, love and comfort, they also require deliberate effort and energy.
As all couples experience conflict and face the ups and downs that life brings, how you handle challenges, communicate and treat each other are vital components to healthy relationships. How happy and satisfied you feel in your marriage weighs heavily on the ways you interact and grow together on a daily basis, as well as your expectations. Daily interactions filled with contempt, anger, resentment and negativity drain and destroy your relationship, while kindness, gratitude and respect lead you to feeling positively about yourself, your partner and your marriage.
With a new year here, there is no better time to strengthen your marital bond, enjoy quality time with your partner and utilize a proactive approach for a loving and satisfying relationship.
Here are 12 ways to have a happy marriage in 2015 and beyond:
- Create your own love rituals. These rituals are ways for you to show and receive love in healthy and happy ways. Rituals can occur daily (leaving your spouse a loving note next the coffee pot or giving a massage), weekly (planning and maintaining a fun date) and yearly (celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and other holidays that are meaningful to you). Love rituals do not have to be expensive or lengthy in time; instead they are special ways to deepen your love and celebrate your marriage through small acts of kindness and love.
- Be grateful and say thank you. Gratitude is proven to have tremendously positive benefits on the health of your relationship and your own mental and physical health. A grateful mindset aids you in appreciating what you have during the difficult times and helps your relationship rebound more quickly after the inevitable struggles that all couples face. To access your gratitude for your spouse, think about all of the ways he or she enriches your life and supports you. Think about memories, experiences and events that you cherish together. Commit to thinking about the ways you are grateful on a daily basis even if you do not feel especially grateful that day.
- Spend technology-free, kid-free quality time together. Find ways to connect through language and touch, share stories about your day, enjoy regular dates and affirm your love. Snuggle, take a walk, play a game, check out a new or favorite restaurant and make time for each other without the distraction of kids, family, pets, social media and technology. Commit to being present and attentive to each other.
- Be spontaneous. It is all too easy to fall into a relationship rut and feel bored or dissatisfied. Ruts happen when you fall into the same patterns over and over again, but they can easily dissipate if you change up the energy in your marriage, so it is key to be aware of their existence. Notice when you feel bored, antsy, irritated or drained and choose to do something different. Try a new activity together, take a vacation, leave resentment behind and focus on what you want in the present. Don’t engage in the blame game and instead put your energy toward bettering your relationship together now.
- Understand that conflict is inevitable and you can still have a happy marriage without feeling a constant stream of love and happiness in every moment. This awareness is incredibly freeing and important as many social, entertainment and media outlets overly-romanticize relationships and depict marriage as a happily-ever-after experience with little work. Remind yourself that it is impossible to feel in-love every second of every day and that conflict will naturally occur. What is most important is how you handle challenges and join together versus turning outward.
- Forgive. Despite feelings of sadness, hurt and anger, once conflicts are addressed and handled, it is important to move forward with forgiveness. Even though you might want to punish your spouse for your pain, make a conscious effort to leave the past behind. Accept heart-felt apologies and have an open heart that is willing to forgive and heal. If you feel that an unforgivable act occurred, be honest and open instead of acting out of anger, intentionally inflicting pain on your partner or sabotaging your marriage.
- Let go of the urge to change your partner and choose acceptance. It is an unrealistic, impossible expectation to believe that you can change your partner and operating on the belief that you can leads to great suffering and resentment. Instead choose to see the positive in your spouse and accept him or her as a flawed, imperfect human being. Remember that your spouse is also a human who needs love, reassurance and leeway on mistakes and resist your desire to mold him or her into someone new.
- Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Committing to self-care allows you to experience the healthiest possible relationship and to be truly content with your life. Don’t neglect your own needs, hobbies, goals, dreams and interests for your spouse and find outlets for your own joy and wellbeing. Some of my favorite self-care outlets include art, exercise, yoga, dance, reading, writing, nature, nutritious food, healthy sleep hygiene, alone time and mindfulness.
- Have an active sex life. Not only does sex provide connection to your partner, research portrays that sex has a multitude of emotional and physical benefits. Do away with excuses (“I’m tired, stressed, overwhelmed”) that get in the way of sex and make an effort. Find times that work for you and your partner and communicate about your sexual needs and desires. Also remember that other forms of physical intimacy (other than sex) are significant in a satisfying marriage.
- Commit to open communication and owning how you feel. It is important to be accountable, open and honest even when you feel like shutting down, avoiding your spouse or calling it quits. Communication is key to relationship success and requires a non-judgmental listening ear, eye contact and open body language along with verbal language. If you feel that it is difficult to listen, focus on what your partner is saying and reflect back what you heard to ensure that no misunderstandings occur. Validate how your partner feels without arguing, defending or interrupting and take turns sharing thoughts.
- Say “I love you” often and mean it. Say it through words and actions without assuming that your spouse knows you love him or her. Show your love through patience, forgiveness, acceptance, affection and warmth. Show it through flirting, taking out the trash, cooking dinner, saying thank you, cuddling and enjoying your precious time together.
- Practice kindness and generosity toward your partner. Research illustrates that these two ingredients are two fundamental ingredients in rewarding, loving and lasting romantic relationships. Act kindly and generously by connecting to what is important to your partner (even if it not important to you), being a compassionate supporter and being attentive to his or her needs. Show interest in your partner’s day, surprise your spouse with gifts or notes and fill your daily interactions with kind, loving energy.