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17 Ideas to Keep Your Love and Marriage Strong Through Thick and Thin

17 Ideas to Keep Your Love and Marriage Strong Through Thick and Thin

Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale? Everyone! And most of us want to believe that when we find our Prince Charming (or Princess) that we’ll easily ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.

But for so many couples, that simply doesn’t happen.

With the divorce rate around 50%, it is clear that most people don’t know how to create and maintain healthy relationships and marriages.

If you think about it, that’s not very surprising. I mean, it’s not like any of us had a class in school called “Love and Marriage 101.” In fact, most of us never learned any life skills at all, let alone relationship skills.

So, it’s no wonder most couples are floundering out there and don’t know how to save themselves.

As a dating coach and communication professor, I hear people complain about relationships all the time. And do you want to know what the top complaint is that I hear all the time is? It is…

“Relationships are so difficult!”

And I always respond:

“Relationships aren’t inherently difficult. It’s the people involved in the relationships that MAKE them difficult.”

So, whether you are embarking on a new relationship, or trying to fix a 50-year-old marriage, here are some tips for you.

1. Know your love languages.

If you’ve never heard of the book, The Five Love Languages, then you should definitely read it.

Written by marriage therapist, Gary Chapman, it explains how there are basically five main ways that a person expresses and wants to receive love. And you and your partner may not do it the same way. Reading it will help you understand yourself and them better.

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You can also take a look at this article to learn a bit more about the five love languages:

Understanding These Five Love Languages Can Reward You With The Perfect Relationship

2. Empathize with each other.

One main problem with relationships is that most people only see their own point of view. It’s inevitable that couples will have disagreements. But that doesn’t mean it has to damage your relationship.

So, in order to really understand each other, you have to listen to and accept the other person’s point of view. Everyone deserves to be understood:

How Loving Advice Turns Into a Weapon That Kills Relationships

3. Have date night.

One of the sad things about relationships as the years go on is that people forget to “date” each other. They think the “work” is done because they’re so comfortable with one another.

But sometimes life, and kids, get in the way of keeping the romance alive. It’s essential that you go out on date nights so you can consistently keep connecting.

4. Learn to work through conflict effectively.

Most people handle conflict the wrong way. They think it’s a “Me vs. You” situation. They think they have to be right and “win” the arguments. This is backwards thinking.

It’s not Me vs. You… it’s US. Think of yourself as a team who are working together to accomplish a goal and solve a problem TOGETHER.

5. Understand each other’s unique quirks.

Everyone has weird things that they do. Whether it’s not liking to share their food or not being able to be spontaneous, you need to learn to accept each other’s quirks.

You may not like them, but you do need to accept them and try not to let it ruin your relationship.

6. Take a Myers-Briggs personality test.

There is a great website called 16personalities.com that lets you take the personality test. It shows you how much of an introvert or an extrovert someone is, among many other personality traits.

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Once you both take this and read about each other’s personalities, you will understand each other better.

7. Talk about finances and plan a budget.

Money is one of the top things that break couples up. Maybe one of you is a spender, and the other is a saver. That’s a problem! It will cause a lot of disagreements and strife.

So, talk about how you handle money. Come to a compromise, make a budget and stick to it.

8. Don’t neglect intimacy.

If you have kids, it’s easy to neglect intimacy. And intimacy means more than just sex (although you shouldn’t neglect that either).

You need to have intimate conversations, cuddle while you sleep, and just do the things that keep the two of you connected.

9. Beware of addictions.

I’ve heard people say that everyone has some sort of addiction. And I’m not talking just alcohol or drugs. People can be addicted to anything from shopping to video game playing.

If you do ANY activity too often, it’s taking quality time away from spending time with your significant other.

So, cut down on that so you can re-focus your energy on the relationship.

10. Don’t be selfish.

It’s easy to focus on yourself and what YOU want. But it’s not so easy to put your needs aside sometimes and focus on what your partner wants.

Any quality relationship involves compromise. You can’t be #1 all the time. And if you want to be, then you shouldn’t be in a relationship. You should stay single for the rest of your life.

11. Have a balance of togetherness and independence.

Sometimes couples fall into one of two different extremes: too much togetherness or too much time apart. Neither is healthy.

Of course, you need togetherness to connect. But too much of it might make you lose your own identity. On the other hand, too much time on your own will make you drift apart.

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So, keep an eye on the balance you have (or lack thereof).

12. Talk to each other.

Most people’s lives are very busy. Work, kids, family, other activities… they get in the way of your relationship. But only if you let them.

Make sure you still talk to each other. And not just about the kids or work. Really talk.

Get into interesting and deep conversations sometimes. If you don’t think you have the time, then make time.

13. Put effort in every day.

After people have been in a long-term relationships for a while, they tend to think, “Ahhhhh. All the work and wooing is done. Now I can be the real me and do nothing!”

But that’s when the real work starts! You have to think of your relationship as a plant.

If you don’t water it every day, it will die. So, make sure you “water” it every day.

14. Put your partner’s needs at least equal to – or before – your own.

This goes hand-in-hand with selfishness. No one wants their partner to feel like the don’t care about their needs.

Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s not fun.

You have to figure out what your partner likes, and then do it. And vice versa. Both people have to put 100% effort into pleasing the other. It can’t be one-sided.

15. Be self-aware.

This is easier for some people than others. But having an element of self-awareness helps you see how your behaviors are affecting the other person.

Playing video games every day? Well, maybe you should wake up at some point and realize “Hey, I’ve been playing for 5 hours straight. Maybe I should stop.”

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You get the idea.

16. Consider how you are contributing to the relationship – for better or for worse.

Most people blame their significant other for the problems in the relationship. But what a crock! It takes two to tango, right? So, it takes two to mess up a relationship too.

You need to look at yourself and see how you are making the relationship better or worse. And that takes some self-awareness like I mentioned above.

If you lack self-awareness, I’m sure that your partner will be happy to tell you how you could change your behavior for the betterment of the relationship. Or, you could seek the help of a therapist too.

17. Always stay affectionate and loving.

I realize that not everyone is a warm and fuzzy person. Some people don’t like touching, hugging, and snuggling very much. But, it really does help a relationship stay strong. It releases good chemicals into the brain the promote bonding.

So, even if you don’t like doing it so much, try to do it so you stay connected – even on a biological level.

Final thoughts

As I said earlier, relationships don’t have to be difficult. It just takes some awareness of what helps keep it healthy, and then some effort to keep it going.

But if you keep putting in effort every day, it doesn’t feel like “effort.” You should actually want to keep your partner happy.

Because remember, the happier they are, the happier YOU will be too.

Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

More by this author

Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

How to Deal With the 15 Most Common Marriage Problems 11 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak How to Deal With an Emotionally Unstable Partner How to Handle Emotional Blackmail in a Relationship What To Do If You Think Your Husband Hates You

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being[1].

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.

How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

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Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment

Step 1: Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

Understand Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

    So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

    More About Living in the Present

    Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

    Reference

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