I’m not sure what it’s like in your little corner of the internet, but I cannot seem to step out of my house without running into a handful of people who are getting sick, currently sick, have a family member who’s sick, or just go over being sick. While I try to live a healthy lifestyle year round, it’s around this time of year that I really focus on basic preventative measures to keep illness at bay. I do not have time to be sick. I’m sure you can commiserate.
Everyone seems to have their favorite prevention methods such as: getting a flu shot, paying extra attention to hand washing, eating tons of fruits and veggies, and drinking warm teas and soups.
I find the same is true for relationships. Everyone has their special tips and tricks for keeping their relationships healthy. So when I started preparing to write for this month’s article, I asked my social media networks to share their best marriage/relationship advice. I am blessed in the fact that it didn’t take long for the comments and emails to start flowing in.
After reading through every single response, and doing some reflection of my own, I am happy to share with you:
6. Get rid of the “dog house” mindset. How many of us have heard the phrase, “He’s in the dog house,” or “You’re sleeping on the couch tonight!” in pop culture, media, or even from the mouths of friends and family? I’m sure you have.
So here’s the deal… as angry as you might be at your spouse, punishing them is always going to be at odds with cultivating a healthy marriage. Why, you ask? Because the ability to inflict punishment, implies the relationship is hierarchical. Superiors can punish their subordinates. True equals can’t punish each other.
I can almost hear the person reading this and thinking, “Yeah well what they did to me wasn’t exactly in alignment with a healthy relationship either!” Maybe that’s true. But the only person you can control right now is you.
And an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Are you in this for revenge or are you in this because your relationship is worth saving? (Keep reading… the offending spouse has one directed at them next).
5. Stop acting like your spouse has no other choice but to stay with you. I’m sure we’ve all heard that marriage is supposed to be for life. And despite the staggering divorce rates, I still believe that a majority of folks enter into the sacrament of marriage with that lifelong intention in their hearts. In fact, just from reading the comments on EM.com and other faith-based/marriage websites, I know that there are still a decent amount of folks who don’t even believe in divorce.
Nevertheless, your spouse did not cash out his/her free-will when s/he said, “I do.” So it would be really nice if we could cherish and appreciate them for holding on to such beliefs and commitment, rather than seeing it as an invitation to do whatever we like with no fear of the consequences. Your spouse has a choice. It would be nice if they didn’t have to feel like an idiot for holding true to their values.
4. Stop listening so much to how other people say things should be in your marriage. Listen more to each other. Guess which two people know your marriage best? Not your mother, not your priest/pastor, and definitely not your best friend, and not even your therapist (we only know what you tell us anyway)! You and your spouse know your relationship better than anyone else. Moreover, you know your needs and your spouse knows theirs.
As my friend and fellow therapist, Deanna put it, “Listen to your relationship. If something feels out of whack—speak up!” Not sure how to speak your truth? EngagedMarriage.com has tons of articles to help you find your voice in their Communication section.
3. Family is family. And your spouse is your family.
No one has to tell me twice that family is important. I get it. The piece that I’m also so surprised that people miss is that when you marry someone, they become your family.
I frequently hear “horror stories” from clients about “monster-in-laws” and the tension such toxic relationships create. I hear stories of spouses standing silently by while their husband or wife endures verbal and emotional abuse at the hand of in-laws or other family members.
I understand respecting one’s elders, and the importance of extended family. But to whom did you promise your love, your fidelity, and your devotion? I would not accept abuse from my husband’s family, and I certainly would never expect him to endure it from mine. FYI: This also includes not allowing family to bad-mouth your spouse to you.
2. Vacuum Naked. Well that certainly got your attention, didn’t it? I cannot even begin to take credit for this one. I got this fantastic and “original” piece of marriage advice from a Chaplain’s wife, who’s been happily married to her husband for 20+ years.
Essentially, don’t forget to be husband and wife for each other just because you are “Mom” and “Dad” to your kids, “Coach” to the local soccer team, and “CEO” to your company. More importantly, have fun with your relationship! Marriage can be fun, remember?! Recapture those newlywed days!
1. Watch how you speak to and about your spouse: An anecdote.
Once upon a time, I worked as an administrative assistant. In addition to filing paperwork and typing memos, I could also rattle off a long laundry list of grievances and missteps my boss’ husband had made in the course of their marriage. I’m pretty sure everyone in our office had their own tally sheet. Looking back, none of the “sins” were overt deal breakers (i.e. physical abuse, infidelity, etc…), but taken together, very few of us could see her staying. When she would talk about leaving, I easily recall actively supporting her choice. It sounded miserable. (They’re still married).
Everyone needs to vent. And from time to time everyone is going to be frustrated with his/her spouse. However, if you want to boost your marriage immunity – blasting your spouses grievances to every 3rd person you meet—especially those who have no reason or context to see the situation in an unbiased light—is the equivalent of letting someone sneeze in your face and then wondering how in the world you got sick! Vent prudently. Also recognize that choosing to focus on your spouses’ negative attributes or characteristics more frequently will lead you into a spiral of negativity very quickly. The more you look for the flaws, and mistakes, the more you will see them.
So there are my 6 Tips for boosting your relationship’s immune system now. What are some of your own tips?
Share them with me and the EngagedMarriage community by leaving a comment!
E.J. Smith is a Nationally Certified Counselor, motivational speaker, writer and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. She is also the face (and mouth) behind SimplyEJ.com. Born in New Jersey, and transplanted to Texas, this self-professed holistic health nut enjoys a wide variety of athletics, reading, and cooking. Raised Catholic and the wife of an active duty Marine, E.J. uses introspection and pragmatism to help readers create loving, fulfilling relationships from the inside out. Follow EJ on Twitter @SimplyEJS