Feeling disconnected and neglected is the stuff that tears couples apart. Luckily, by doing these concrete things right now, you can bring more respect, appreciation, and compassion into your relationship - and in turn safeguard your marriage. By Holly Corbett, REDBOOK.
Set boundaries for cheating.
There are three different types of cheating: physical, emotional, and digital. With digital, it's especially unclear what counts as cheating. Is it okay to friend an ex on Facebook? Or to stream porn videos? Have a five-minute conversation about what each of you views as infidelity. "It's likely that one of you will cheat without knowing it if you don't have this talk," says Laurie Puhn, a couples mediator and author of Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In. You may think talking to a guy friend about your relationship is perfectly innocent while your husband sees it as betrayal, so it's important to set clear boundaries before anything happens.
Recognize that your relationship is fragile.
"If you're not actively recognizing your mate when he walks through the door by greeting him and instead keep talking on the phone or typing away, you're sending the message that his presence means nothing to you," says Puhn. It falls on you to make your marriage a great place to be by choosing the right words and actions every day, or else, you can quickly go from "I do" to "I'm done." The goal is to display certain values - respect, appreciation, intimacy, compassion and cooperation - on a daily basis to keep love alive.
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Make each other your number #1 priority.
This doesn't mean that you have to spend all of your time together, but rather that you make each other feel that you are the most important thing to each other (as opposed to work, the kids, or the going to the gym). If you don't, talk about it as soon as you start feeling that way to keep the distance from growing too wide. Open the door for reciprocity by saying something like, "Lately, I don't feel like your number-one priority. I'm wondering if you feel the same way." "Come up with three things that he can do to make you feel like his main priority," suggests Puhn. Try, "We used to email once a day, and we don't anymore. Can we do that again?" Or, "We're always running in different directions. Could we please spend Sunday nights together?"
Be your partner's greatest champion.
"When you get married, you're taking on the role of your mate's head cheerleader," says Puhn. "If you don't fill that role, you're leaving the job open to someone else." This means giving your partner character compliments. Rather than saying, "Your tie looks great," speak to who he is with, "You're a wonderful father for always helping our daughter with her homework." It's also important to show appreciation for all the little things he does to make you happy, says Puhn. If you think in your head, 'Why should I thank him for unloading the dishwasher when it's something I expect him to do anyway?' Remember, everyone loves to feel like their actions are valued - not expected.
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"Research shows that women who report keeping their mouths shut in arguments with their spouses have a four times greater risk of heart disease as compared to women who speak up," says Puhn. "Say what you mean and be direct. Don't expect your husband to mind read, because you're only setting yourself up for fighting and disappointment." For example, your husband may not think it's a big deal to tell his buddy about your marital problems, while you feel like that's an invasion of privacy. Rather than stewing silently, tell him that you understand that you have different expectations about what information is personal, and share a list of topics you'd rather he keep between the two of you.
Reinvent your relationship.
Recognize that every time you hit a life milestone - such as having a baby, losing a job, or moving - it's time for a renegotiation of responsibilities. "If you don't have a conversation, your expectations and needs change, and your mate won't have any idea why you're so frustrated when he's doing the same thing he's always done," says Puhn. Say, our lifestyles have changed in a big way, so here is what I need now. Your mate may not be able to satisfy every need, but you'll be able to come up with a plan together." Let's say your mother is sick. You could tell him you need him to make dinner for the kids even though that's always been your job, or ask him call and check in on the days you take your mom to the doctor. "You may think it's obvious that he should call you, but it might not be to him - and that doesn't necessarily make him a bad person," says Puhn.
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Create a happy communication routine.
Every couple has a daily communication routine, such as how you greet each other or ask for things. "Research finds that 25 percent of couples don't say good night to their spouse, and of those couples, 75 percent have thought about ending their marriage," says Puhn. "These are manners that we instinctively know to practice when we're dating, but often stop doing once we're married. Rudeness takes hold of our relationship because we falsely assume that love will endure." Something as simple as giving him a daily kiss when you wake up next to him can have a big impact your marriage. Those little daily moments are what make for happy relationships.
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