If love is a dream, marriage may very well be the alarm clock! Relationships do sometimes “just happen.” However, keeping relationships strong takes effort. That part never “just happens.” It’s not always easy to understand another human being. What motivates them? What are their needs? What things does this other person want that conflicts with what I want?
As a mental health professional, I often see relationship problems either causing mental health problems or vice versa – mental health problems result in relationship difficulties. Either way, the quality of our relationships can significantly impact our mental health. This is especially true in our marital relationships.
There are a lot of good books and other materials out there for improving marital relationships. All of them have their own strategies, steps, techniques, and ideas. From reading a great deal of this, I have gathered 5 things that are common to all of these theories. These 5 things will improve your relationship with your spouse.
Now, we’ve all heard this. We have to communicate in our marital relationships. However, we have to ask the question, “What do we communicate? There’s the problem. Daily tasks, expectations, the kids’ school problems and activities, etc. Yes, we communicate about those. What about other, more long-term things?
Communicate hopes, dreams, desires, and plans. Getting on the same page about the future will go a long way toward putting you on the same page for today. What do you want life to be like in 5 years? How about 10? What will retirement look like? Even if you’re in your 20’s, having goals that you’re both aware of and committed to will change things today. This will help you to always be real with each other.
2. Be Flexible
No two human beings have had the same experiences. We have different ideas about how things should be done. Usually, neither of you will be wrong – you will just see things differently. If there is a task, activity, or project, how much does it matter how it gets done as long as it’s accomplished?
3. Lose Intentionally
Conflict is going to occur. We have to decide which ones are important enough to stand our ground. In reality, there are very few conflicts in marital relationships wherein the outcome really makes any difference. Most things won’t even matter tomorrow. Don’t be afraid to be the loser in those conflicts. Along with this, being willing to apologize when you stood too firmly or too harshly can make a big difference. Ask yourself if the outcome is really going to matter down the road. If not, throw the match! Lose the fight! Give in and be done with it!
In reality, there are very few conflicts in marital relationships wherein the
outcome really makes any difference.
4. Consider the Other Person’s Needs and Desires
Related to all of the first 3, the other person’s needs and desires must be considered for a strong marital relationship to exist. These things are rooted their hopes, dreams, and fears. They are also brought on by their own perspective about life, themselves, you, your children, and the world. They see things differently than you do. They have different needs and desires than you. If you are willing to adjust your life so the other person’s needs are an important part of what you do and say, it will absolutely improve any relationship. Also, that same consideration will almost always be reciprocated.
5. Love Each Other
Thousands of songs, books, letters, and poems have been written to try to explain love. Personally, my favorite description comes from the Bible in I Corinthians 13:4 – 7 (NCV):
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.
Showing each other patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, truthfulness, acceptance, and hope. That’s love. Find a way to show love to your spouse on a daily basis. Be intentional about it.
What are some things you have done to improve your relationship with your spouse? Feel free to comment below. We would love to hear from you.