Make an accounting of what is truly important in life. Prioritize what is really worth getting upset about. Don’t “sweat the small stuff”. In all of your interactions with your partner, try your best to let go of things that are petty and inconsequential.
Empathize and compromise. Acknowledge that difference does not mean better or worse. Appreciating the uniqueness in your spouse will enable you to empathize with him or her better. Your ability to be understanding and flexible is the key to a happy relationship.
Be giving and thoughtful. Make a point of marking special milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries with heartfelt cards, creative gifts and taking him or her out to fun places. Offer to do chores to lighten your spouse’s load.
Catch yourself before anger leads to harsh and hurtful words. Nip in the bud your frustration and annoyance. Restrain your anger. Remember that hurtful words cannot be taken back. Words spoken in anger can diminish your spouse’s feelings of love and affection for you.
If things get heated agree to a “time out”. The two of you should agree to postpone arguments when they get too intense. Tell your partner that you need to leave the room and calm down. When you cool off, you should be more capable negotiating and compromising.
Learn to say “I am sorry”. When you realize you have made a mistake, swallow your pride and admit it. Showing humility and apologizing is the healing balm in a relationship. Your spouse will love and respect you for your ability to say “I am sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.”
Become a good listener. Your spouse is not looking for you to solve their problems. They want you to be empathetic, validating and supportive. Don’t try to rescue your spouse when he or she is expressing pain or discomfort. And don’t volunteer advice unless you’re asked. Your partner wants you to listen and be supportive above all else.
When listening to your spouse, reflect back to them what they just said. Paraphrase and repeat back what they just said, reaching for clarity and confirming your understanding. Your spouse will feel that you truly care and this will only strengthen your bond of love and understanding.
Become a more a flexible and tolerant person. Be willing to make compromises and reach a consensus. If you cannot reach a consensus, be OK with the concept of “agreeing to disagree”. To do this, you need to truly believe that your partner’s position is just as legitimate as yours. You can’t get let your ego and need to be right get in the way.
Focus on the good. Instead of looking for the negative and criticizing, try your best to appreciate the good in your spouse. The more you focus on your partner’s inherent goodness, the less likely you are to become negative and critical. Your partner will then reciprocate and become more supportive of you. Your marriage will become much more positive and loving.
Schedule “dates” with your spouse. Yes, dates. You have to actually create wonderful shared memories with your spouse. Your life as a couple can’t just be about the concrete and mundane. You have to engage in enjoyable and memorable activities with your spouse on a regular basis. This means scheduling dates and going on vacation periodically.
Make sure you are not displacing onto your spouse your issues or life stress. You may attribute problems as emanating from your partner when they really stem from within you. If you do not maintain proper work/life balance you may bring home your frustration and displace it onto your partner. If you had to deal with abuse or trauma in your past, you might project onto your spouse unresolved negative feelings. If that is the case, it might be wise to pursue individual therapy so as to become more self-aware and develop better coping skills.