How to Save Your Marriage
We have painted the unpleasant side of divorce to help you realize that it may not necessarily be the solution to your unhappiness, and in the second section, we’ve advanced arguments to promote the numerous advantages of marriage and staying married.
But life does have hitches and will always be full of obstacles, threatening the stability of married life. We now offer some tips on how to save your marriage when you sense that it’s on the rocks or needs a re-overhauling.
Recognizing Gender Differences
Men and women perceive emotion, communication, sex, fidelity, work and money because of the way they were socialized and because they have been shaped by their own parents’ perceptions.
They bring these ideas into the marriage and hence have their own baggage of beliefs regarding what is tolerable and intolerable in a marriage, what they have to give their spouse and what to expect in return.
Writing the book, “For Better or For Worse”, Heatherington and Kelly illustrate this point more clearly when they mention the different ways men and women choose a partner:
“Women approach love as informed consumers…they kick the tires, look under the hood, run the motor, check the mileage. Women love love, but being practical-minded, not enough to ignore potential defects. Good looks and romantic love matter to a woman, but in considering potential suitors, a woman also looks at the practical, such as a suitor’s economic prospects, emotional stability, trustworthiness, and what kind of father he will be…Despite a reputation for practicality, males come off as hopeless romantics. They are much more prone to fall head-over-heels in love…and also more prone to idealize the object of their affection. If the bodywork is good and the grille pretty, often a man will buy on the spot, no questions asked.”
It takes practice to learn that gender differences do not constitute threats to a marriage, but a cause for celebration and an opportunity to expand an individual’s sphere of experience.
Try to remember that your partner is not your mirror image. In a loving, effective partnership, individuality and separateness are wholesome concepts that each spouse must work at.
A Word from the Cos!
Bill Cosby, the famous American comedian and still married to the same woman, said that these gender differences – that women are not just men who can have babies and men are not just women who spike footballs – give marriage its vitality, its dynamics and its delights…He says, “Americans may like the style called unisex, but the wiser French have a devout appreciation of the wonder they call la difference.”
A true understanding of these gender differences should therefore lead us to the proper notion of a marriage. While many people view marriage as a fusion, making two separate individuals one, we must still keep our own personality and deal with our own problems ourselves.
“Marriage is ultimately about two relatively whole individuals coming together to create a union that can be even greater than the sum of the parts. But each of us must always be aware that a lack of self-confidence is own separate job to fix. We can look to our mate for support, but not for magical solutions.”
Notice the Small Stuff
“Don’t sweat the small stuff” is probably one advice that does not always work for marriage, because it is important to notice the small stuff, if the marriage were to flourish. Steve Carter cites an important fact about relationships: most of the real work in relationships is taking place in quieter moments in smaller spaces.
Examples would be:
- Avoiding bringing up the defective garage door while your husband is rushing to meet a deadline and needs to focus on his project for a few hours;
- Attending to the kids and keeping them away from the kitchen while your wife prepares dinner;
- Offering to pick up your husband’s shirts at the dry cleaner’s because he forgot to do it yesterday;
- Filling up the car tank if you know that your husband has to drive out of town on a client visit;
- Taking your wife dancing because she’s always loved to dance even if you have two left feet and have always hated it.
And What of Money?
One irritant in a marriage is money.
Chances are spouses have their own ways of spending and saving money. If both husband and wife earn similar salaries, agree on how to split the house expenses prior to getting married so no one feels cheated or disadvantaged financially.
While it was fine to expect him to pay for dinner and the movie while you were dating, marriage calls for a genuine economic partnership.
Or, if you know that your husband is particularly averse to useless shopping sprees, make an effort to reduce your shopping trips and concentrate on the essentials instead of on your whims. Don’t forget to discuss your investment preferences and try to stick to a budget and a savings plan.
And What of Politics?
The same is true for sex and politics: if your husband likes to watch a pornographic films as a prelude to love making, let him know that you’re not particularly in favour of this practice but do indulge him occasionally. If your wife likes to visit synagogue and do charity work in her parish, don’t express any resentment or complain that she’s spending too much time on her fund-raising activities.
Work on keeping your partner stimulated intellectually.If there’s anything that grates, it’s a wife who constantly talks about what’s on sale and a husband who knows nothing but what teams made it to the NFL playoffs this year.
Look back to courtship days when both of you could talk until the wee hours of the morning because you were interested in what each of you did in the office that day, in that bookseller or movie, or how the Dow Jones sparkled because of news about Intel or Microsoft, etc.
Enrich each other with your experiences and vicarious experiences. Let the other know that you have an interest in life and what it has to offer, and make every effort not to be a boring mate by reading more, experimenting more, and living more.
Many people say that children put a damper on the marriage. Who has time for love and passion when the kids are screaming their lungs off or running a 105 degree fever? Or when money has to be scrounged for to pay for those expensive braces?
Raising children can turn us into impatient, stressed-out beings so if hiring a baby sitter overnight will not disrupt the monthly budget, do so and go away – just the two of you.
But don’t use that time away from children to complain about each other’s habits or to raise past incidents!
Instead of looking at marriage blessed with high points or fraught with low points, think of it instead as a series of turning points.
Dr. Sonya Rhodes says these turning points must be regarded as opportunities to make a marriage stronger and more fulfilling.
These turning points become crystal clear at mid-life where couples have developed a keener sense of time limitations and an urgency in their desire to make the most out of their marriage and their lives.
The mid-life years are a natural time for reflections: couples now have the advantage of being able to see where they have been, where they are and where they want to go. When a 46-year old woman came to see Dr. Rhodes in an effort to save her marriage, she said, “This might be my last chance to make things better. I don’t want last chances to become lost chances.”
Complimenting and Praising
Give credit where it’s due, be generous with compliments and be sincere in your praise. Do you sometimes find yourself wishing that your partner would compliment you the way your boss does after a job well done?
Many couples discover that as they settle into their marriage, the compliments or kind praises are not as frequent as when they were dating.
Making it a practice to give credit where it’s due and being sincere about your praises go a long way towards reinforcing wellness in a marriage.
If you see that your wife works conscientiously on the treadmill to keep off the weight, did you ever think that she’s probably doing this to please you? Saying something like, “You’re so disciplined in your efforts to achieve your goals, I’m proud of you” will add to her self-confidence and reinforce her attitude that she’s doing something that’s healthy and that you appreciate.
If your husband is good at crunching numbers, praise him for his skills at rapid calculation. “You’re amazing with numbers” will give him a sense of pride, and he will feel important to you.
No doubt many experts and marriage counselors will differ in opinion on how to save a marriage, but they all agree on the following fundamental elements of a solid marriage – only the words and the way they are conveyed are different:
- Trust and communication
- Respect for each other’s ideas and expectations
- Physical and intellectual stimulation
- Maintaining their own personalities, but supporting each other’s dreams