By Cory Stege, M.S., LMFT
Like most objects or possessions that we aim to keep in good condition so that they will last a long time, marriage requires conscious attention and upkeep on a routine basis in order to reap the benefits of it. Along the same lines, the things we tend to find the most rewarding and valuable in life are related to the hard work and effort we put into them, one of which is marriage. Usually whatever we put into something is what we will get out of it therefore the more we can nurture and tend to our relationships, the more fulfilling they will be. Likewise, if we neglect to check in and make adjustments as needed, our relationships will eventually reach their expiration date sooner than expected. Just like we take our cars in for service or go to medical check-ups to make sure everything is running smoothly, there are some steps we can take in order to regularly maintain our marriages:
- Take a Temperature of Your Marriage. Make an effort to check in with your spouse on a regular basis by identifying what is going well as well as areas of improvement. This offers couples opportunities to make adjustments as well as address any concerns that can prevent bigger problems down the road.
- Maintain regular and ongoing communication. Make it a priority to talk with your spouse during the day in order to promote feelings of connection as well as identify and problem solve any issues that come up in the moment. Allowing an irritation or complaint to build and go unaddressed is a recipe for resentment and marital problems.
- Clarify expectations and modify as needed. Couples who engage in regular conversations about what they expect of themselves and from one another tend to experience less conflict than couples who do not talk about expectations. Couples can start out by respectfully requesting what needs each partner looks to be met in the marriage and then facilitate a negotiation of expectations in order to make it work for both partners. Some areas of expectations couples are encouraged to talk about regularly are finances, household tasks, parenting, boundaries, and intimacy.
- Anticipate and plan for Disagreements. It is inevitable that couples will disagree from time to time so being aware of “hot” topics or sources of potential conflict can be helpful in managing them when they do happen. In addition, couples should discuss specific tools or strategies that can be used to promote respectful communication and conflict resolution.
- Balance alone time with couple time. Having too much of or too little of one thing can be a bad thing, which goes along with how time is spent in a marriage. In order to maintain feelings of connection as well as promote time to take care of individual needs (which includes spending time with others outside of our marriage), couples should discuss how each partner can have time and space to themselves as well as plan time that will be spent together. As the saying goes, “distance makes the heart grow fonder” however couples need to agree on setting appropriate boundaries around time spent apart in order gain the most benefits.