Six Things the Happiest Couples Say to Each-Other that Build Daily Trust

After 15 years of working with couples at our LIFE Marriage Retreats and through our AfterCare program, we have come to recognize some commonalities among those couples who take their relationships to the highest and happiest ground. Certainly all those couples followed crucial principles and practices to work through the often daunting issues that had created crisis in their marriages, but just as important, they brought simple daily words and gestures into their lives to continue growing their relationship trust and fulfillment into the future.

“I’m here for you.”

Happy couples know their partner has their back. They trust that home will always be a sanctuary from a world that can sometimes feel a little cold and uncaring. They feel strengthened and renewed by a partner who understands their needs and cares about their well-being, and reminds them of that often. Think of how safe it feels to face life’s challenges with someone you can count on.

“I noticed the good that you did. Thank you!”

Acknowledgment and gratitude are powerful love languages for most people. Struggling couples tend to focus in on what their partner does wrong rather than noticing what they do right, leading to frustration for everyone concerned. Grateful couples know that they will influence their partner in positive ways by noticing and cheering their contributions, not by nitpicking their stumbles. All of us want to feel respected and acknowledged, especially by the most important person in our lives. Happy couples find ways to express gratitude for one another every day, not just on the annual birthday or Valentines cards.

“Can I help you with that?”

Offers of a helping hand to a partner faced with a task or a challenge are a clear expression of love that speak volumes to their heart. Acts of service are unmistakable ways of communicating the message “I care.” Happy couples find that place known as interdependence. They are not dependent on one another in powerless ways, but find joy in the unity of being a team and able to lean on one another appropriately.

“I’m Sorry.”

As we are counseling with couples early in their journey to healing we often sense moments when, if one or the other could simply muster up the humility and courage to express a heartfelt apology, we know the walls that have build up between them would begin to crumble. It’s hard to stay silent and allow them to work to that point in their own time. But as they communicate and reconnect at the Retreat the time finally comes when the cleansing apologies can be spoken and forgiveness extended. With that experience, a couple learns that a consistent willingness to take accountability and express regret for a misstep will keep the air clear and prevent the inevitable hurts and frustrations from festering.

“I feel…”

Vulnerability is a powerful way to build trust with your partner. Sharing feelings, hopes, dreams, and concerns with one-another helps bring an accuracy to our feelings and expectations. Struggling couples find it hard to trust enough to be vulnerable so they are left to write their own scripts about what their partner might be thinking or feeling, and almost always those stories they tell themselves will be inaccurate and even damaging. Happy couples know what this beautiful quote about friendship means: “A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

“I would like it if…”

The happiest couples are willing to talk about their wants and needs, and listen to those of their partner. Even after years of companionship they don’t take things for granted or believe they know everything that is important to one another. Helping each other fulfill legitimate physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs is one of the most effective trust building practices for a couple. Such caring and giving inevitably leads to a depth of trust and emotional and physical intimacy and connection that remain unavailable to those couples that are too busy or afraid to share honestly about needs and what helps them to feel valued.

Stay conscious of opportunities to speak such words of peace regularly in your marriage

If you have gotten out of the habit of acknowledging and thanking your partner, apologizing for the inevitable stumbles, and sharing your thoughts, feelings, and needs with one-another, set a goal to get into those good habits again. It might feel hard to break through the ice and walls that have built up between you, but stay true and both of your hearts will soften and the way will be cleared to take your relationship to higher and happier ground!

You can read more about other relationship-building daily expressions in Kelsey Borresen’s book, “11 Things the Happiest Couples Say to Each Other all the Time.”

Effective and Lasting Ways to Build Trust in Marriage

LIFE will soon be releasing a new online course focused on Rescuing Trust. This blog series on trust gives a taste of some areas the course will explore.

At our LIFE Retreats we sometimes ask our couples, “What is the fastest way to build Trust with another person?” This is always a remarkable experience for us because we see a reservoir of wisdom in our couples and receive deep insights into some of the specific things they are struggling with. Here are some of their answers. See if they might be mini-lessons for you:

What Builds Measurable Trust?

  • Be Authentic and Honest. Don’t hide behind masks or defensiveness. (Remember, honesty does not have to be impatient or unkind)
  • Be Empathetic. Seek to understand, to see more than just your own Perspective.
  • Listen with your Heart, as well as your Ears. People can tell the difference.
  • Be Accountable for the things you say and do. Step out of justification and defensiveness.
  • Be unfailingly respectful
  • Be Vulnerable and invite vulnerability. Share your feelings.
  • Be Accepting of others (this does not mean we accept negative behavior, but we always accept others as people of worth and value).
  • Show Compassion.
  • Serve the other person. What a great tool service is to breaking down walls.
  • Have an attitude of Selflessness, not self-centeredness.
  • Seek to Forgive through times of hurt or disappointment.

Trustworthiness is a way of being

Aren’t those wonderful insights spoken from yearning hearts? As I hear them at Retreat after Retreat I still feel little chills in my spine as good people speak truth brighter than diamonds. As you experience life and marriage deeply you learn that trust comes not so much from a to-do list, but are found in our ways of being, how we are in our hearts.

All of the principles just mentioned can be powerful aids in building relationship trust, and different relationship circumstances might call for specific ones to rise to the top of the list for you, so go back and review them if necessary. We will touch on some of these and others in greater detail in future posts. Next time we will give you a very simple but crucial key to build trust and create measurable and fast positive results in your relationship.

The Marriage Dance of Trust-Part 2

Real change or “pretend” change?

In the previous post I introduced you to Matt and Cindy, an actual couple that was grappling with maintaining hope in building relationship trust even as they worked to resolve the negative realities of the past. Their so-called marriage dance had turned to something awkward and disconnected with plenty of stepping on toes.

When we left Matt and Cindy, Cindy was expressing doubt that Matt’s new-found attention to her and the relationship would last. Matt felt frustrated that Cindy could not see what he felt was “real” change from him.

He responded to Cindy, “But it’s different this time. I know things I didn’t know before. I see more clearly how close we are to losing our marriage and family. I will never go back to how I was!” And as he says it, Matt believes it. And indeed, it might well be true this time. But as Matt was talking Cindy was probably envisioning something like this cartoon of a man saying to his wife, “Look, I can’t promise to change but I can promise I’ll pretend to change.” Most of us can probably relate to one or both sides of this cartoon.

The fact is, Cindy had some work to do in encouraging Matt and his changes, and in making her own changes to contribute to the success of the relationship, but she was correct in her observation. How was she supposed to trust Matt when promises had been made and broken before? How could she overcome her doubt and past disappointment to trust again? There is always risk in trusting another person but sometimes it is difficult to even want to take that leap again.

Matt and Cindy came to understand an important concept during the Retreat and in the following months as we continued working with them in our AfterCare program. They realized that while there can be a wonderful sense of hope and mutual support as a couple seeks a better relationship, ultimately for trust and true safety to grow, Matt and Cindy would need to experience long term changes that would be manifested through measurable Results in their marriage.

Rebuilding trust calls for effort from both partners

While it is appropriate for us to expect to see results before offering our full trust to another, in personal relationships both parties must contribute to the process. In the case of Matt and Cindy, even though Matt had made positive changes (yet to be determined if temporary or permanent), Cindy was standing back, skeptical of Matt’s commitment and having little faith that he would stay true to his promises. Like it or not, this negative energy led Matt to wonder for a while, “Then why should I bother? You have me tucked into my little pigeon hole and you are never going to see me differently.” Sound familiar?

You might be surprised to discover how often you inadvertently invite the very behavior from your partner that you so want them to change.

Do you hear the Thoughts, Behaviors, and Feelings cycle we mentioned in previous posts going on with both Cindy and Matt? As Cindy thought her skeptical thoughts, she would quickly get pulled into feedback and behaviors guaranteed to undermine hers and Matt’s efforts, and she would unconsciously invite the old negative behavior from Matt. If Matt lost himself in self-pity or righteous indignation he would lose his momentum and enthusiasm for positive change, leading to Cindy’s self-fulfilling prophecy, “I knew you couldn’t do it.”

There is a crucial principle that can help us bridge the gap from doubt and fear to inviting growth and trust. To build an atmosphere within which trust can grow, we must move to something beyond teeth gritting tolerance, hurt feelings, and hopeless waiting, such as Cindy and Matt were experiencing.

We must find Acceptance for one-another

We all recognize that everyone needs tolerance in a marriage. But tolerance is meant to be something transitional, not permanent. Tolerance helps us to take the time we need to seek to understand another person and their behavior, and to find solutions to issues and challenges that arise.

But the key transition that tolerance helps us make is to acceptance of other people. If we remain in only tolerance, it will eventually harden into resentment. So while we do not excuse or accept negative behavior from another person, we always strive to see them as people of value, deserving of our respect and consideration. Without acceptance in a relationship the parties will fall into varying levels of defensiveness and aggressiveness, or just checking  out, leading to a breakdown of connection and trust.

Just as a couple on the dance floor is taking risks in potential stumbles and losing the rhythm, the risk of giving in a relationship without the certainty of receiving back is real. But if you have ever felt the pure joy of giving your all on the dance floor, even with some awkward steps along the way, you have one tiny glimpse of the surpassing joy that comes from connecting with another person, even if imperfectly, in the amazing dance of marriage.

The Marriage Dance of Trust–and how to Recover from Stumbles

Invite and Inspire Your Partner to Join in the Relationship Dance

If you have worked with LIFE Marriage Retreats before, or read some of our blog posts and other materials over the years, you will note that the accountability to create positive results and grow the trust in your relationship starts with YOU. You don’t need to wait for your partner to be prepared or for them to make the first step. This is about Invite and Inspire. You invite your partner to trust you through the building of your own trustworthiness, and at the same time you Inspire them to build their own trustworthiness.

Dr. Dana Fillmore compares marriage to a dance. When one dancing partner changes the dance step or rhythm part way through a dance, their partner will likely try to adjust to match the new dance. In marriage, one partner can enormously influence their partner by changing their own intentions and behaviors, thus inviting their partner to join in this new and joyful marriage dance. Your influence is powerful.

Matt and Cindy’s Difficult Dance

We worked once with a couple named Matt and Cindy. They had experienced a long decline in their marriage relationship. Over the years they made promises to each other to change and improve and indeed there were brief periods of happier times, but things always settled back into previous behaviors and patterns. While they both were responsible for the relationship mess and Cindy had plenty to work on, both agreed that Matt had the more difficult time sticking to new relationship plans and commitments.

He would, for a time, be conscientious in spending time and having meaningful communication with Cindy, and being his word more completely, but then seemed to drift back into spending most of his free time with friends, or tinkering out in the garage, and slipping on his commitments, placing minimal energy into the relationship. They had both reached a point where they felt they had only one chance left to break through and find happiness so they came to a LIFE Marriage Retreat.

In the weeks leading up to the Retreat Matt worked hard to engage more fully in his relationship with Cindy, taking time for dates, helping more around the house, and even taking some initiative to engage in meaningful conversations with her. It was easy to see at the Retreat that Matt was feeling good about his efforts and the progress he had made.

He was surprised when, in one of their private sessions with us, Cindy expressed her hurt and disappointment over his lack of effort in the relationship over the years and how lonely she felt. Matt seemed genuinely mystified by her words and responded by pointing out positive contributions he had recently made. He concluded by asking, “Haven’t you seen the changes I have made? Don’t you notice the difference in our relationship?”

Cindy responded with the words we have heard hundreds of times over the years working with troubled couples. “Matt, I have noticed your efforts. But I have seen them before for a few days or a few weeks, but they never last. You always go back to the same old Matt. Then, as your efforts fade, I find myself retreating behind my walls to protect myself from being hurt again. How am I supposed to trust a couple of weeks of better behavior now?”

The Dilemma of Matt and Cindy that We all Share

Matt and Cindy were in a place where both of them wanted to believe and take the next big steps to relationship trust, but they didn’t know how to get through the past of broken promises, hurt, disappointment, resentment, and fear.

We will continue their story in the next Post, but for now consider these questions for your own relationship:

  • “What am I carrying from the past in my marriage that keeps me from trusting or being trusted?”
  • “Am I willing to take full accountability for my part in the decline of trust?” (don’t take more than belongs to you)
  • “Am I willing to change my part of the marriage dance for the better, seeking to inspire and invite my partner to join me?”

As you consider and answer these questions you will find the Cycle of your Thoughts-Feelings-and Behaviors (see previous post) becoming more positive and bringing an uplift to your life and marriage results. Check back soon for the rest of the story of Matt and Cindy!

What do You Want to Trust?

A Craving for Trust

We often instruct our couples to ask themselves a couple of questions: I invite you to ask yourself and answer these same questions. They will give you a sense of direction in your quest to build a trustworthy and trusting marriage.

The two questions are, “What do I want to be able to trust in my partner?” “What would I like my partner to trust in me?” Take a moment to answer those questions in your own mind. Set some of the negative feelings and emotions aside that might have built up over time, and quietly state to yourself how you want to be trustworthy and what trustworthiness would look like in your partner.

Do some things come to mind? Now see if any of your trust yearnings and issues might match up with heartfelt desires expressed by our many couples over the years.

The Three Baselines of Marriage Trust

There are basic expectations that all of us should be able to experience in our most important relationship. The first three of those we refer to as the Baselines of marriage trust. Certainly a human mistake in one of these need not doom a marriage, but any breaking of them must be recognized and resolved in a healthy manner or our relationship trust will be seriously damaged:

  • Respect and Civility. We must have an expectation of being treated in a civil and manner, and a deep commitment to offer the same respect to others There is excuse for disrespect. Ever.

 

 

  • Next is Fidelity. We want to know our partner will be faithful and loyal, both physically and emotionally. We crave to feel that we are one-another’s top priority.

 

 

  • Charity and Forgiveness. We want to know that we are in a caring relationship where each partner freely gives without keeping score. We want, through forgiveness, to be able to cleanse the toxic air and debris that build up in marriage and family relationships as a result of human mistakes.

 

 

Other Areas of Trust that Breathe Life Into Marriage

  • To know that our partner puts us first in their life and shows that through behavior and words.
  • We want to trust that we will receive emotional support and understanding, through thick and thin.
  • We want to feel confident that our partner will be their word and follow through on promises and commitments.
  • We want to trust that our partner will embrace their agreed-upon roles and responsibilities in the relationship.
  • We want to know that we will not abandon one another in the face of inevitable conflict and disagreements. We want to feel safe to talk about and resolve differences without fear that divorce or walking out will be threatened or implied.
  • We want to trust one another to never harm, reject, or control. We want to be accepted by one another.
  • That our partner will be loyal to and accept us for who we are at this point in our journey (while still holding us accountable).

Did you hear some of your hopes and desires regarding trust in that partial list?

Perhaps you heard some items that you feel safe and secure about. That should provide you with a sense of hope that other foundational trust areas can also be strengthened. But you likely heard some trust issues that afflict your most important relationship. Have hope. Recognition is a big part of the battle toward change. Your commitment to that change will be the most important part of finding trust and trustworthiness.

Learn more about these challenges and beautiful opportunities in LIFE’s upcoming online course, “Rescuing Trust.”

Trust and the Cycle of Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

(In anticipation of LIFE’s upcoming online course, Rescuing Trust, we are dedicating some of the next few weeks blog posts to the principles of restoring marital trust. This is part 2)

Martin and Bonny

We had the opportunity at a LIFE Marriage Retreat to work with Martin and Bonnie, a down to earth couple from the Midwest who were carrying scars and emotional baggage from their lives and relationships. Their trust had been deeply eroded by behaviors, words, and attitudes.

Bonny felt that Martin was unsympathetic of the pain she felt and that he really did not acknowledge his part in that hurt. Martin, on the other hand, felt that he had offered support to Bonny in the past but believed that Bonny was mired so deeply in her own feelings that she was unable to see how much he was hurting and frustrated by their relationship coming off the rails. Even as we worked with them we could see they were hardened in their own self-centered perspectives and deeply mistrusted each other in terms of ever being able to understand and sympathize with the other’s feelings and perspectives. 

Before I finish Martin and Bonny’s story let’s pause to examine a little closer a cycle they had been experiencing in their marriage, a commonality among every struggling marriage, including Martin and Bonny’s. This is a cycle, a result of allowing unhealthy thoughts, behaviors and feelings loose, first in our minds, that then show up with tooth and claw in the relationship. By the way, in my previous post I mentioned the brain chemistry that leads to how we process the loss of trust and the awful feelings related to that loss. This cycle plays a big part in triggering that chemistry.

The Negative Cycle of Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

The ways in which we think, feel and behave are all linked. It’s helpful for us to understand how each influences the other. For example, when I think I can’t rely on my partner for support, I might behave in ways that push my partner away, and stop them from offering support with the result that my feelings and emotions are affected. I feel unsupported, angry, and probably lonely. These feelings then influence my thoughts. I think I can’t rely on my partner and so I continue to behave in ways that stop my partner from supporting me. And so the circle rolls on and I become more and more fed up with my relationship, more critical of my partner and their attempts to help me and increasingly hopeless about anything changing. In those spaces in the negative cycle we can insert the words, “damages trust.”

Can you see Martin and Bonnie in this cycle dilemma? Bonnie feeling unsupported and misunderstood, and telling herself stories about Martin’s lack of empathy, leading to resentful behavior and more negative thinking. And Martin feeling rejected, and telling himself stories about Bonnie’s self centeredness, and retreating into hurt isolation, also feeling misunderstood and unsupported. And both of them feeling lonely.

Remember, we all have some experience with this cycle of Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors. But for couples in times of struggles, the cycle is accelerated and more prevalent, and is self-perpetuating.

The Power of the Positive Cycle

But there is some Great News for us all! We don’t have to give ourselves and our relationships up to the negative aspects of the negative cycle, because we can choose to create positive cycles in our lives.

The good news is that because thoughts, feelings and behaviors are linked, if I want things to change I can enter that circle at any point and any change I make is likely to start a series of changes. So if I change my behavior by letting my partner help me (or express a desire to help them) I am likely to feel more supported and that my needs are being noticed. And this in turn will influence my thoughts, I’m more likely to think that my partner respects me and cares for me. As the circle rolls on, my changed behavior will show my partner that I am turning toward them rather than away, and they will feel needed by me and sense we are getting along better, and so on…

To hear the full story of Martin and Bonnie tune in to our online course, “Rescuing Trust.” You will learn how Martin, at a certain point in the Retreat, replaced his knee-jerk negative judgments and thoughts about Bonnie with more openness toward her painful experiences, and the enormous process of healing that began from that effort.

Thoughts are powerful things, but we have the power to control them as we stay conscious and aware and create positive cycles with relatively simple shifts.

Rescuing Trust (part 1)

LIFE Marriage Retreats will soon be releasing an online course dedicated to helping couples suffering from eroding or broken trust to rebuild relationship trust to the very highest levels. In anticipation of that release, we will focus on some crucial elements of trust in this blog in the coming weeks.

Trust Is a Matter of Heart and Brain

The breaking of trust is real and it is serious. We all know how awful it feels. The inclination to trust is in our DNA so when that trust is betrayed we feel it deeply in our heart and our gut, but it starts in our brain where, literally, the neural networks and brain regions associated with trust disengage and shut down.  Areas of the brain that had formerly been associated with positive emotions and acceptance toward the other person are replaced with animosity, suspicion, and resentment. Can you relate to that, no matter what side of the trust equation you might be on? So don’t beat yourself up if you are struggling to trust again or to earn trust back, it’s a process but as you stay committed to it you can begin celebrating small victories almost immediately.

The good news is that as we take steps to restore trust, those brain patterns I mentioned will gradually return to the positive side and healing of the heart will occur.

Trust Can Be Restored!

Some say trust, once broken, can never be restored. While it is best never to break trust, trust can be restored— and often even enhanced, made stronger than it was before the violations of trust occurred. But here is a crucial key: rebuilding trust cannot be a passive experience for either partner in a committed relationship. Any thought that one partner can just sit back and wait for their spouse to “prove” their trustworthiness will leave the relationship short of the marvelous heights to which trust can be restored when both partners are actively engaged in Rescuing Trust.

The truth is, at our core we want to trust! Yes, sometimes fear of being hurt again, or lingering feelings of resentment or neglect can form a wall of ice around our hearts and we might feel stuck and unable to trust. In our LIFE course on trust we talk about dozens of ways to shine a  warm light on your heart and that of your partner that will thaw and heal you, even as your brain relearns to trust and let go of the pain and resentment. While many people do experience overnight miracles, for most it is more of a process to build, or rebuild, lasting trust. But don’t worry, every step of the journey will hold joy as you remain true.

You and your partner were born to be trustworthy, you have that within you! As you grow in your ability to trust and be trusted, every part of your life will be positively impacted. Even your professional life and opportunities to advance in your work will increase; friendships will become more true and supportive; your emotional and physical health will improve, you will discover a deep and satisfying intimacy with your partner, and you will find peace in every aspect of life.

In our next post we will look at how our Thought-Behavior-Emotion cycles play a big role in damaging or restoring trust in our most important relationships.

Three Gifts to Give this Holiday Season

1. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness

Simply put, to forgive is to let go of the negativity caused to you by another person. It does not “let them off the hook” or give them a free pass to continue the negative behavior. However, it does relieve your burden of pain, anger, and resentment. What greater gift to give yourself than forgiveness.

2. Give your spouse the gift of empathy

Believe it or not, the bottom line in communication is that people want to be heard and understood. There is no deeper expression of understanding than to empathize with another person. There is also no more powerful way to strengthen your emotional connection. Nevertheless, we often withhold empathy because it can be scary to open one self up to the emotions felt by another. Don’t hold back. Find out what might be bothering your spouse. Discover his/her feelings, and then give the gift of empathy.

3. Give your relationship the gift of time

Relationships need quality time in order to maintain a strong and healthy connection. With so many obligations pulling us from one place to another, it is no wonder that we tend to spend the least amount of time with the people that matter most. Without dedicating an appropriate amount of time to one another, your sense of connection will be lost and your relationship will suffer. Instead of letting life run away with your marriage, give each other the gift of time. Your connection will strengthen and your love will deepen.

10 Things to Say to Your Husband When Marriage Feels Hard

Can you help me understand?

Asking for more understanding in a gentle way is much better than assuming he’s feeling a certain way or acting out because of something you did. Be genuine when you ask—make sure you’re asking because you truly want to know and not just because you know you should ask. Hopefully he’ll be able to sense your genuine intention and appreciate that you’re not assuming.

 

 You are worth it.

Make sure he knows how much he means to you, and that he’s worth every struggle you’re going through. Don’t let him give up on himself. You know how wonderful it feels to know that your spouse believes in you and that you’re valuable to him. Give him the gift of knowing that you think he’s worth not giving up on and that you’ll stick by his side.

 

I’m sorry for my part in the marriage being hard.

It’s easy to say or think your husband is the one in the wrong, but have you evaluated ways that you may have made mistakes? Can you think of ways that maybe you’ve been a hypocrite by doing things you’ve asked your husband not to do? Keep in mind your own imperfections and you’ll find your heart softening towards your husband. Take accountability for things you could’ve done better, and tell him.

 

I want to be a better wife to help our relationship.

Vocalize the fact that you do want to work on yourself  so that you can be happy together again. Perhaps he’s thinking that you’re giving up or that he’s the problem, and all he needs is to know that you want things to work and are willing to look at yourself. Expressing humility will give you power to change for the better and will show him that he has reason to be hopeful.

 

I love you because________.

Instead of just saying I love you, tell him why you love him. Give him specific examples of things he does or says that makes your heart swell with love and gratitude for him. Don’t worry if it’s something simple or small, like how he folds his clothes without being asked or how he gets up at the crack of dawn every day to go to work. Besides, it’s the small things that come to mean so much in the end.

 

I’m proud of you because________.

Give him examples of ways he’s made you proud, whether it’s through his job, being a father, or being there for you. It’s important for him to know that you’re focusing on things he’s done right and not just things he’s done wrong. Flatter his ego a little—if he knows he’s doing things that impress you and make you proud, he’ll want to keep doing those things.

 

What do you need from me right now?

Sincerely and kindly ask what you can do for him at this time. Be willing to listen and understand why he needs what he may need. It can be hard to give him what he needs, especially if you feel your own needs aren’t being met or you’re feeling hurt and alone. However, finding the strength to offer a part of yourself to fulfill some of his needs will ultimately strengthen your marriage.

 

I need you.

Express how much you need him in your life and how devastating it would be to not have him by your side. Sometimes simply saying I need you can break down walls and soften hearts. Not only does it open the door for honest communication, but it also makes you vulnerable, and vulnerability is a key component of strong relationships.

 

Let’s get away, just the two of us.

Bring some spontaneity back into your relationship by planning a quick getaway just for you two. Doing something spontaneous will help you remember how to have fun together. During hard times, it can be difficult to understand why you even got married in the first place. Planning a getaway with just the two of you can help you focus on each other and remind you of the qualities that drew you together in the first place.

 

I have your back.

Your husband needs to know you won’t throw him under the bus when you’re around other people. Make sure you defend him in situations, and tell him that you’ll always stand by him. By knowing that you have his back, he’ll feel more secure with himself and your relationship. It will help him know that you’re proud to be with him and that you’re partners—a team that takes on the world together even when times are tough.

Five Habits of Couples in Strong Relationships

With a seemingly high divorce rate in our world today, and friends or family whose marriages may be falling apart, it might be hard to believe that there are relationships out there that are good, strong, and healthy. Happy relationships and marriages do exist, but not without the hard work that’s put into them. By making a conscious, thoughtful effort to do the work every day, people in relationships can thrive and be happy. If you want to be one of those people, take into consideration these five habits:

  1. Spend quality time together.

 Quality time together is one of the key ingredients to a happy marriage or relationship. Notice that it’s quality time, not just time. Quality means more than quantity when it comes to spending time with your significant other. For instance, watching television together on the couch while looking at your phones doesn’t count as quality time together. Neither does eating together and not talking or interacting. Quality time is time spent doing things that will help you engage, communicate, and maintain a deep connection. Here are some examples of ways you can spend quality time together:

  • Cooking a meal you both love
  • Playing a fun game that gets you to think and talk
  • Going on a hike to a pretty destination
  • Working on a house renovating project
  • Taking an art class or a workout class
  1. Express appreciation and give compliments to one another every day.

 One of the worst things you can do in a relationship is assume your partner knows how much you appreciate him and what he does for you and your family. You must verbally express how much your partner means to you. Say, “I appreciate you and how hard you work to provide for the family,” or something similar to that. In addition to saying the words, it can mean even more if you show your appreciation, too. Here are some ways you can show your appreciation (in addition to expressing it):

  • Make a favorite meal or dessert
  • Do the laundry or clean the kitchen
  • Get a meaningful, thoughtful gift
  • Plan a fun date night
  • Offer a massage or a nice shoulder rub

 

It’s also important to give each other sincere compliments (ones you really mean) about a cute outfit, a personality trait, or a cute quirk. Think about it—when you receive a genuine compliment from someone, doesn’t it boost your confidence and make you feel better about yourself? Why wouldn’t you want to make your spouse to feel that way? A little compliment can go a long way.

3. Focus more on what is done right than what is done wrong.

 Everyone makes mistakes. Does the one wrong thing discount everything right your partner has done? Granted, sometimes those “mistakes” are bad choices a person knowingly makes, like infidelity or constant relapsing of an addiction. When something extremely hurtful has been done to you, can be difficult to work out the betrayal, forgive and move on, but it is possible, if you really want it. Remembering all the good things your significant other has done in the span of your relationship can help dissolve some of the anger and hurt. It can help you see if you truly want to salvage the relationship.

 In the case of everyday things your partner does that you may consider to be “wrong,” like not loading the dishes or leaving clothes scattered everywhere, take a deep breath and stop seeing the negative. It’s so easy to get irritated when you feel like you’re free of faults and your partner isn’t. Remember that you’re not perfect either and that your spouse does so many good things. Do your best to always accentuate the positive.

     4. Make an effort to be physically affectionate throughout the day.

 It’s interesting how for some couples, the longer they’ve been married, the less they touch—hold hands, rub a back, kiss. The things that came so easily when you were dating may seem kind of awkward and uncomfortable now. If that’s the case for you, take it one small step at a time. Try to do one small physical gesture of love a day, whether it’s a quick peck on the lips, a shoulder squeeze, or an arm rub. The more often you do it, the easier it will get and the more it will become second nature.

If you already do these things, keep up the good work! See if you can do even more, like kissing and hugging each other before work in the morning. Hold hands when you’re sitting on the couch, or even just squeeze his shoulder when you’re passing each other in the hall. Also, make sex a priority. Talk to your partner about how often you both want it and what you’re both willing to do to make it a better experience for both of you.

 

  1. Try new things together and cultivate common interests.

 Remember that exciting feeling you got when you were first dating and about to go on a fun date? You can get that feeling back by trying new things together. Not only will it bring back those feelings of excitement, but it will also help you discover some new interests that you both like doing together. That way, when you’re bored and both wanting to do something fun, you’ll have common interests to lean back on. Here are some activity ideas:

  • Go on a scary rollercoaster together
  • Go mountain biking
  • Go to a classical music concert
  • Go river rafting
  • Go figure skating

 The key is to figure out what you both love to do together and to find ways to start new hobbies together. This doesn’t mean you need to do everything together all the time. In fact, it’s important to spend time apart doing things that you enjoy on your own time. It’s just critical to remember that if you want to keep growing together in the right direction, you need to find new, fun things to do together to liven up your relationship.