12 Tips for Making Your Marriage Merry

Ensure that this Holiday Season is one to remember for all the right reasons!

These 12 actions, based on definitive research, are priceless and can transform relationships!

How are your relationships? Whether it is our partners, friends, relatives, co-workers, bosses, or the person who delivers toner to our office, we’re talking about relationships. Relationships are really all we have, even when it comes to our possessions ~ our cars, houses, boats, clothes…

All of these relationships and our belongings need attention and care. If we don’t wash our car, put the proper gas in it, do regular maintenance, and replace the tires every so often, our car will eventually stop working. Right?

This same concept applies to relationships. We just need to discover what care and maintenance each relationship requires. In the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas, here are 12 tips that can enhance your relationship and even transform it from a neglected old station wagon into a hot little new sports car!

Tip #1   Smooch a little… OR A LOT!

Give your mate a 6-second kiss every day! Research shows that oxytocin, affectionately labeled the “love hormone,” is released when you kiss for 6-seconds or longer. Cuddling also releases the hormone!

Why do you want oxytocin? Because oxytocin is correlated with romantic attachment, reducing fear and anxiety, and it helps produce sexual arousal. Ladies, ever wonder why your kissing sessions get cut short and it seems like he wants to go directly to dessert? Oxytocin baby!

Tip #2   I Have A Dream!

When you hear a complaint, look beyond the words and explore what the dream is for that person. For instance, if your mate is complaining about finances and you ask, “What would be your ideal situation for our finances?” You might discover that the objective behind staying on budget is not simply to reduce stress, but maybe for your mate staying on budget means working toward the goal of buying a boat or paying for the children’s college.

And behind that is a dream of what that boat means to them – possibly freedom, a feeling they get from being on the water, or recapturing some childhood experiences. Perhaps saving for the children’s college represents part of fulfilling a role responsibility as the provider and if that is not accomplished the mate might feel inadequate. Once the message is uncovered, then the complaints about overspending suddenly translate into appreciating the dream. When the dreams behind the complaints are understood we are better able to honor and respect our partners.

Tip #3   Connection is Key!

Take time each day connecting with your spouse. Every morning set aside 5-10 minutes to tell each other what you are looking forward to, or what apprehensions you have about your upcoming day. Then upon reuniting, take 10 minutes apiece to review your day. And remember; just listen and empathize. Only offer advice if it is solicited or if you clear the way by asking if your mate wants input.

Tip #4  Make a List and Check it Twice

Keep dating every week. Dating isn’t about how much money we spend; it’s about attending to the relationship, creating new memories, and maintaining the friendship. A good relationship is based on friendship and friends spend time together. Make a list of what each of you would like to do, post it on the fridge, and every week pick something off the list to do. And of course alternate between lists.

Tip #5   Q & A Sessions

Build love maps. What does it mean to build your love maps and what are love maps? Love maps are how well you know your mate. What’s going on in their lives right now? What are they concerned about? What are they excited about? Do they have a new favorite lunch spot? Who are the main players in their work life, their recreational life, and how are their friendships? Do you know your mate’s favorite movie? Are you sure? When is the last time you asked? Maybe it has changed.

Building love maps means that we take time to update our basic knowledge of each other. If we are staying connected as in Tip #3, it should be fairly easy. But dreams and goals can change over time, so occasionally ask your partner questions and be open to hearing the answers.

Tip #6   For Goodness Sake

Share fondness and admiration. You’ve heard the saying that familiarity breeds contempt and it can when only the negatives in a relationship are the focus of attention. In order to share fondness and admiration for each other, partners need to think on all the things that their mates do right!

Think on the good qualities and try to catch your partner doing things you like!!

Tell them about it! “You know honey when you tucked the kids in bed last night, my heart just melted listening to you make those voices while reading them that story.”

Look at them while watching TV and during a commercial break mention something you admire about them or just flash a smile that let’s them know how much you love them.

The research shows that for every negative thing we say, we have to say FIVE positives to balance out our love bank. Think of it as an actual bank account. For every $5 we deposit we lose the ENTIRE $5 every time we withdraw just $1. YIKES! That means that we must continually deposit more than we withdraw in order to have a surplus.

Hint – this works with our children, friends, co-workers, and bosses too!

Tip #7   Did You See That Car???

Turn towards each other rather than away. Turning towards means that when our partner makes a bid for attention or connection, we respond. Bids can be small such as, “Did you see that car?” Or they can be large like, “Babe, I’m really missing you.”

Our responses can be as little as “huh?” to the car bid, but when an important bid is made we should turn toward our partner in a SUBSTANIAL way. When partners say they miss us, we need to stop, listen, and talk about ways to connect.

Turning away happens when we ignore our partner’s bid or respond with negativity such as anger or defensiveness. Ignoring the bid concerning the car may seem trivial, but ignore enough bids and your partner will begin to think you don’t care!

Responding with anger or defensiveness to a bid for more time together will send a distinct message that you don’t want to be with your mate or at least at that moment that you don’t want to deal with the issue.

It’s hard to maintain fondness and admiration for someone who continually turns away from us when we make a bid for attention or connection, so determine to turn towards your partner!

Tip #8   What Are You Thinking About The Most?

How we think about our mates determines our relationships!!! This cannot be overemphasized! In the book Think and Grow Rich Napoleon Hill said that thoughts are things and that everything we manifest begins with a thought.

The Law of Attraction follows in that whatever we put out into the universe is what we attract in return. What we think on most of the time is what we create in our lives.

Everyone has negative qualities or can do things that annoy us and while those qualities and annoyances may need to be addressed, the main focus of our thoughts needs to be on our partner’s good qualities and what they bring to the relationship. Staying focused on the positive will generate more positivity. If we get what we think on the most – AND WE DO – then decide today what you want to be the focus of your relationship, the positive or the negative.

Tip #9   Accepting Influence

Manage Conflict. Notice that I did NOT say, “resolve” conflict. Not all conflict can be resolved, but all conflict can be managed. One way to help manage conflict is to accept your partner’s influence. While most women tend to accept men’s influence, the opposite is not always true.

Successful relationships require equality. Each partner needs to know that they are being heard and that their ideas are important. I have a male friend who has a wonderful marriage. He tells newlywed men that there are two kinds of husbands: those that listen to their wives and the divorced kind. I think my friend is brilliant and his advice aligns with the research.

There are multiple ways to manage conflict and I highly recommend reading John Gottman’s book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. You can get it along with many other books and tools at: https://www.gottman.com/shop/7-principles-for-making-marriage-work-2/

To learn more about managing conflict, you can also sign up for a session with me or book a seminar for your group!

Tip #10   What Do You Want Under The Tree?

Make Life Dreams Come True. Being a dream catcher rather than a dream killer is imperative to create a thriving relationship.

So how does one make life dreams come true?

It begins with understanding each other’s dreams and that starts with conversation.

Discuss the future with your partner, what you each want for your lives independently and together, what is on your bucket list, and what legacies you want to leave.

Maybe all of our dreams won’t come true, but our mates are the ones we need most on our side to encourage and support us. The world will introduce doubt and fear. Our spouses need to envelope us with confidence and courage!

Tip #11   That’s Just The Way We Roll!

Viktor Frankl said that happiness is a byproduct of living a meaningful life.

Meaning is the thread that runs through our lives. We create shared meaning through similar values, engaging in common interests, or through developing rituals of connection.

Think about how you engage in the everyday moments of connection. How do you say good morning, greet each other in the evenings, devote time to each other or your children, relax and unwind, or say good night?

Then there are the more formal ways in which we connect. How do you do holidays, vacations, keep connected to family, or honor loved ones who have passed? Developing these rituals with your spouse supports the relationship and enhances the bonding processes.

Tip #12   Words Create or Destroy

Finally, remember that words are extraordinarily powerful!

John Gottman says to keep quiet when you’re right, but admit when you’re wrong.

When you are right about something, saying “I told you so!” can be offensive. Your mate knows you were right and the last thing they want is to hear you revel in being right because that makes them feel that you are reveling in them being wrong!

Encourage and uplift each other and you will see that your relationship becomes a safe harbor in the storm that is life.

If these tips help your relationship I would love to hear about it. Go to the COMENT SECTION and tell me how your relationship has changed. Wishing YOU a Wonderful Holiday Season from Lasting Love Ministries!

Ann is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice working in Frisco, Texas.

For couple’s counseling, she uses Gottman therapy, a modality based on more than 40 years of research into what makes relationships work. The tips given above were developed by The Gottman Institute based on what the “masters” of relationships do to make love last!