At a time when fifty percent (or more) of marriages end in divorce, it is no surprise that one of the most frequent questions I am asked is, “Is there anything I can do to keep my marriage/relationship from falling apart?” The good news is, yes, if you and your partner really want your relationship to “go the distance” and avoid being just another sad, divorce statistic, there are three specific, and deceptively simple things you can do right now to start divorce-proofing your marriage.
1) Treat each other politely. What I mean by this is: You should treat your partner with at least the same degree of common courtesy you use with friends, business associates or strangers you come into contact with on a daily basis. I’m talking about simple good manners: Saying “please” and “thank you” and excusing yourself when your gastro-intestinal tract suddenly expels noxious fumes at either end. This is so basic to any successful encounter, let alone a significant relationship, that you would think this would be second nature to most people. Alas, it is not. As we get more and more comfortable in a relationship we often “relax” into patterns of interaction that could be described as barely civil, at best, and down-right rude, at worst. And the saddest part is that we’re usually completely unaware of our behavior. We’re just “being ourselves.” Well, STOP! Studies show that couples who make a point of employing good manners and treating each other politely, are overwhelmingly more successful and _happier_ in their relationships than their less-civil counterparts. Bottom line is: Play nice – and you'll be playmates for a long time.
2) Don’t criticize or berate each other. Instead, be complimentary and supportive. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Again, this is a very simple and straight-forward concept that so many people forget once they are comfortably entrenched in their marriage. Negativity undermines the foundation of many relationships. And this is doubly true of critical invectives flung at your spouse in the presence of others. Yet how many times have you been out in public and heard one of your friends speak to their significant other in a critical or derogatory manner (e.g. “Don’t be such an asshole!” or “Why are you being such a bitch?”)? Conversely, if you get in the habit of dealing with your spouse in a loving, complimentary manner, you create an environment of support that inspires cooperation and harmony and helps ensure that “happily ever after” isn’t an impossible dream.
3) Touch each other on a regular basis. This one is incredibly important. And I’m not referring here to sexual touch (although I’m a strong proponent of that, as well). I’m talking about simple contact: Putting a reassuring hand on your mate’s shoulder; squeezing their hand supportively; touching their arm warmly as you pass by. Do this with purpose or for no particular reason, but do it…several times a day every day. It’s an incredibly bonding experience which establishes a level of caring and intimacy that reinforces the physical and emotional closeness of your relationship. Plus, it just feels really good.
As I stated above, these suggestions are things you can initiate immediately, that combined, will have a surprisingly positive effect on your relationship. And though these “quick fixes” may seem too simplistic to be effective, what do you have to lose giving them a try? Just do it. The marriage you save may be your own.
© 2008 David M. Matthews. All Rights Reserved.