When we think of strengthening our marriage relationship, it’s easy to think of big, dramatic actions, like going to therapy or buying expensive gifts for our spouse, but renowned marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman says that it’s actually the little things that make all the difference. Here are 4 easy ways to improve your marriage:
Valentine’s Day is upon us. That lucky time of year when love is celebrated and it is socially acceptable to eat your weight in cinnamon hearts and chocolate. There is an extreme amount of pressure to make Valentinest a special and romantic day for your spouse. Too much focus is put on the gift giving aspect of this holiday. We should be focusing our attention to the sentiment behind the day, which is to show your love for the people in your life. Here are three ways that you can make your Valentines Day more meaningful and put the emphasis of the day where it belongs.
1) Embrace this opportunity to look at people in your life that you love and appreciate-other than your spouse. Of course I don’t want you to forget your spouse on this most auspicious day. However, the day can take on additional meaning if you expand your loving thoughts to others whom you would not normally reach out to. Take the time to send warm thoughts to a neighbor that means a great deal to you. Write a loving email or letter to your sister or brother. Don’t forget aunts or uncles that were essential to your growing up years and helped shape who you are today. As you look to the people in your life who have made a difference and take the time to tell them, your Valentines Day will take on a whole new meaning.
2) Give the gift your partner REALLY wants. This may shock you but NOT EVERYONE WANTS A PRESENT AT VALENTINES DAY. It is a common myth that the only way to show someone they are loved on Valentine’s Day is to give them some sort of present. We all feel love in different ways. Gary Chapman wrote a brilliant book entitled The Five Love Languages. He outlines five different ways that people feel loved. They include physical touch, quality time, gift giving, words of affirmation, and service. This means that you could be showering your partner with gifts when really a simple letter expressing your love would mean just as much- if not more. Go over the five love languages and identify which one makes them feel the most loved. Once you know the answer speak to that love language. Sit down today with your partner. Ask them outright what they would like to receive on Valentine’s Day. Asking does not take away the romance of the day. It does ensure that you will give the gift, time, touch, words or service your partner wants and needs the very most.
3) Keep It Simple. Grandiosity and Valentines Day go hand in hand according to Hollywood. However, this is not realistic or needed. Creating a small, fun Valentines ritual that can evolve with your life will be much more successful than diamond earrings. When my husband and I met we were in college. Our first Valentines Day together my husband had class until nine in the evening. He picked up Chinese food on the way home and we ate it on the floor of our tiny apartment in the candle light. Two children and eleven years later our Valentines ritual has evolved to making the Chinese food and eating it with our kids in the candle light. It is nothing extravagant, but means a great deal to both of us. Talk with your spouse about something small and meaningful that you can do as a couple, or family, to celebrate this day.
“If only they’d see things the way I see them, and do things the way I do them, life would be so much easier!” Sound familiar? It is very common in relationships to spend most of your time and energy on trying to get your partner to “see things your way” or to prove that you’re right and they’re wrong-to attempt to change them in order to make your relationship better. How is this working for you? Probably not very well. The problem with this strategy is that it places blame on the other person, causing them to feel defensive. From then on, they spend all of their time and energy trying to fight back, rather than attempting to listen to and understand what you’re saying. Pretty soon, one of you gives up and walks away, leaving the problem hanging awkwardly out in the open.
Rather than continuing this pattern, try something a little different and unexpected the next time you and your partner have a conflict.