It takes effort to protect, nurture, and grow a marriage. Between work schedules, children, and other obligations, sometimes it can seem impossible to maintain that partnership. When problems arise, some couples find that it’s healthier to divorce and go their separate ways.1
For others, it’s a better choice to work on the relationship. If you want to stay with your partner and avoid divorce, there are proactive measures you can take. From improving communication to infusing more romance into day-to-day life, here are 10 ways to improve your partnership.
Commit to Your Relationship
Toying with the idea that you might be better off outside of your marriage can put a major strain on your relationship—even if you never voice those thoughts. In fact, the thought alone might cause a major break in your motivation to try to improve your marriage.2
To combat the risk to your relationship, decide ahead of time that divorce is not an option. Making the commitment will help you focus on making your partnership stronger rather than thinking about what life might be like outside your marriage.
Honor and Respect Your Partner
People inevitably change over time. Understanding, appreciating, and adapting to those changes is critical for any relationship. Start by making a list of your partner’s best qualities to remind yourself of the wonderful person you married. This exercise will help you remember why you fell in love with them in the first place.
It also helps to vocalize how much you appreciate your partner’s quirks and eccentricities.3
Let your partner know every day—through compliments or thank-yous—that you appreciate all that they do.
These little expressions are like deposits in the bank. You don’t want to make withdrawals from your marriage without ever making any deposits. So, be sure you are doing things that honor your partner for who he or she is.
In the age of smartphones, Netflix, and work-from-home lifestyles, it’s easy to get distracted. You might find that you often go days without having a real conversation with your spouse.
Communicating openly about your life, interests, dreams, frustrations, and feelings is an important way to foster intimacy in a relationship.4
It’s also crucial that you also listen to your partner voice their thoughts. It can be helpful to set aside 30 minutes each day—free from interruptions or distractions—where you can talk.
Share Financial Expectations
Many marriages are fraught with disagreements over finances.5 Couples often bring different expectations about money to a relationship. Each partner can find it difficult to see the financial situation from the other person’s perspective.
Coming to an agreement about how your money will be handled is a critical component of a successful marriage. Agree on a budget, an approach to debt, and make a plan to live within your limits.
It’s also important to differentiate between needs and wants. While both are legitimate, couples can face problems if they try to fulfill all their wants without considering their budget.
Incorporate some flexibility in your budget to allow for entertainment, gifts, vacations, and other activities that will strengthen your marriage.
Give Each Other Space
One of the hardest things to balance in a marriage is the right amount of time to spend together. Too much can feel like smothering while too little can be interpreted as inattentive.
When your partner needs space or a night out with friends, offer to watch the kids or run the errands to ensure they can get that time. On the other hand, you also want to make time to spend with your partner. If babysitting issues or financial constraints make that difficult, plan a fun, cost-effective date night at home.
The key is that you both make a concerted effort to spend quality time together while also allowing each other the space to have an outside community.6
Work on Wellness
It’s easy to get into a routine of being overly casual, especially if you’ve been with your partner for many years. An easy way to rekindle romance is to think back to those early days of dating—preparing for date night with an at-home manicure, getting a fresh shave and haircut, or choosing a fun outfit.
There are plenty of ways to feel attractive and energized. Keeping up with your physical fitness boosts your confidence and sense of well-being.7 It can also double as a way to spend time with your partner— whether you’re trying a new workout class, training for a 5K, or prepping healthy meals together.
Have Date Nights
Another way to keep the flame burning in a marriage is to continue courting your spouse.8 Try to make time for a date night every week—even if it’s just to get ice cream or cook a new recipe together. If money is a concern, consider trading babysitting with another couple looking to have a date night. You can also just put the baby in a stroller and take a walk around the mall or go to the park.
Continue doing the things you did when you were dating. Many couples report that small, thoughtful gestures help them feel like newlyweds. Try leaving your partner little love notes where they will find them, make them coffee in the morning, or buy their favorite snack at the grocery store.
Marriages often begin to fall apart when one person is holding a grudge. Research has shown that feeling contempt toward your partner almost always festers and can lead to divorce if it’s never resolved.9
Try to forgive your partner as quickly as possible. Remember that forgiveness is just as much a gift you give yourself. Holding a grudge takes up mental and emotional space and almost always impacts your health and stress levels.10
Opt for a forgiving spirit and you will reap the positive benefits, be it better sleep or stress relief.
If you have wronged your partner, sincerely apologize and ask for their forgiveness. Really listen to what they have to say and try to understand why they are upset. Let them know you will work on how to do things differently in the future.
Don’t Try to Control Your Partner
In healthy marriages, both partners have mutual respect for one another and don’t demand their own way. This can mean different things to different couples, but here are some core tenants to keep in mind:
- Don’t try to monitor or control each other.
- Give your partner room to be the person they are.
- Learn to collaborate on big decisions (such as spending money and raising children).
- Let your spouse have the freedom to come and go without having to ask your permission.
Partners who attempt to control one another risk becoming emotionally abusive. They might display signs of financial abuse—which frequently leads to divorce.
If you’re still having challenges in your marriage or you fear that divorce might be imminent, consider counseling or couples therapy.11 If you aren’t sure where to look, start by checking with your workplace. See if you (or your partner) have access to an employee assistance program (EAP), which can often direct you to initial help or provide a referral.
If you and your partner share faith, consider meeting with a trusted religious leader.