They say it takes two people to make a relationship work, but it only takes one person to make it better. We can complain about what our partner doesn’t do, or wait for him to change—neither of which will garner much results. We can, however, take the first, second or third steps to improve our marriage, and the good news is that those steps aren’t that hard to take.
Condense the issue
During most arguments, the issues get bigger and more complicated, as we bring up past frustrations or go into rebuttals: ‘Oh yeah? Well YOU do this too…’ Pretty soon everyone’s overwhelmed and confused and angry. Not really going to work.
So when you’re fighting, try to summarize your point in three sentences or less—and stick to it. Think of it as a thesis statement. ‘You said you’d watch the kids tonight, but you didn’t.’
Praise works better than criticism
It may seem odd but try praising your partner when he’s most likely to expect criticism. Is he a slob who leaves things around? Instead of nagging him when he drops his shirt on the floor, praise him when he remembers to actually put it in the hamper. ‘Thanks, hon. It really makes it easier for me when you do that.’
It’s okay to say ‘later’
We’re all told how important it is to listen to each other, but let’s admit it—it’s hard to give anyone full attention when you’re cooking dinner, checking the kids’ homework or trying to get the baby to stop screaming. You can say, ‘I can’t listen to this right now, hon. Let’s talk after dinner.’ That’s much better than half-listening, which he’ll notice—and be more offended by.
Give specific compliments
Sweeping statements like ‘You’re the best!’ are less meaningful than saying, ‘I love how patient you are with the kids.’ After all ,we’re so specific about our criticisms (‘You forgot to put gas in the car!’) so we should be specific about our praise too.
Don’t play attorney
Is it necessary to correct his pronunciation of a particular word or argue over whether or not there were 50 or 100 people at a friend’s wedding?
Pretend you have a guest
We all are on our best behavior when there’s a guest in the house. So imagine there were someone important and proper in your home… wouldn’t you be more polite, more gracious, less likely to scream bloody murder…
Know his pet peeves and simple pleasures
He hates wet bathroom counters—then wipe up. He likes a cold mug of beer—then give him one. They say love is in the details, and we can probably think of at least three things right now that can make our partner happier and won’t take 5 seconds to do.