At times, we all fall short at being the perfect partner to our spouse. Our relationship ebbs and flows like the tide, but through spiritual guidance, we are reminded of the kind of partner we want to be. So, if you would like marital tips and articles on deepening your relationship, please read on:
Articles and excerpts are from www.foryourmarriage.org.
5 Ways to Give the Gift of Words
Gift of Words #1 – Compliment Your Mate Inside and Out
There are two types of compliments: those that address a person’s outer appearance and those that address a person’s inner character. Surprisingly, our research shows 84% of people prefer to receive a character compliment as in, “You are an incredibly kind person,” over a comment like “Your hair looks great.” Start sharing character comments with your honey today.
Gift of Words #2 – Show You Care
We all experience unique events during our busy days so when our spouse shows interest in our day’s happenings it creates an immediate loving bond with him/her. Find something in your spouse’s schedule, such as a special meeting, an important errand, or a doctor’s appointment, and call/text/email mid-day to specifically ask how it went.
Gift of Words #3 – Talk Forward
You can deepen your relationship by persuading your spouse that he or she is special to you every day by “talking forward.” Take charge and make a thoughtful plan for the future, “I’d like to make a special plan for us next month. Let’s go to __________. [Fill-in with something your spouse enjoys, such as a museum, the theatre, shopping, a road trip, etc.]? What do you think?”
Gift of Words #4 – Make an Offer
If you want to receive instant love and appreciation from your honey, volunteer to do something for your mate before he or she asks you to do it. For example, offer to pick something up at the store, offer to repair something, prepare dinner or offer to put your kids to bed (if you don’t usually). A surefire way to boost your love life is to make an offer. It says to your mate, I care about you and when you’re happy, I’m happy.
Gift of Words #5 – Be Memorable
Do and say memorable things today and year round. Instead of always dining out, create a candlelit indoor picnic. Sing karaoke together. Arrange for a massage together. Post love notes in surprising places. Buy a lasting plant instead of flowers. Phone your spouse to give a heartfelt comment during the day like, “I love you because….”.
You will spark love and romance throughout the year instead of just on special occasions that seem to demand it, like Valentine’s Day and your spouse’s birthday. Any day of the year, you can shower your sweetheart with the priceless gift of words.
About the author
Laurie Puhn is a Harvard-educated lawyer, couples mediator, and bestselling author of “Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship Without Blowing Up or Giving In.” Article adapted from “Fight Less, Love More.”
My husband and I have been married 35 years and have led marriage preparation programs for 30 of those years. We estimate that over that time we’ve prepared over 5,000 couples for marriage. I’m not sure if that makes us experts or outdated and, therefore, irrelevant. I can tell you the obvious – that times have changed and we have changed.
Early in my career, when I taught high school or college students about marriage, I’d say that communication was the key in choosing a mate and keeping a marriage healthy. I’ve changed my mind.
Good communication is not enough
Yes, good communication is essential to a thriving marriage, BUT it is not sufficient and probably not the most important criteria for choosing a mate. I say this because in my counseling I repeatedly came across couples who had learned the right communication skills and could use them. They knew how to use “I statements,” listen to the whole person, and use active listening. They were often fine, caring men and women, but they had serious difficulty living together happily- not at the beginning, but after several years. The bottom line often came down to either very different personalities or very different values. The other significant variable was the inability of at least one partner to make a lasting commitment.
Personalities cannot easily be changed, so it’s a red flag when dating couples have very different personalities. Complementary personalities, however, can also be an advantage. For example, she’s a talker, he’s a listener; or he’s a detail person, she sees the big picture. Often people with different personalities can work out accommodations as long as the difference is not too extreme or on too many different fronts. I tell my students that it’s fine to differ on one or two elements of the Myers- Briggs Type Indicator, but if you differ on three or four and the differences are great, you’ll probably have a lot of stress in your marriage.
Common values, however, can be a deal breaker. If one spouse values a simple lifestyle and the other values accumulating wealth, it doesn’t matter how well they communicate, their basic life orientation will present constant opportunities for conflict. If one spouse values faith and the other resents religion, conflict is inevitable. This doesn’t mean that both spouses have to have the same religion, but both must value a spiritual dimension of life.
Another important common value is one’s attitude towards having children. One partner may really want children and feels marriage would not be complete without a child, while the other is ambivalent or, worse, thinks children would impinge upon their lifestyle. Good communication can only clarify this difference, not solve it.
Likewise, if one spouse believes that career is the top priority and the other puts family first, the argument will be eternal- either by outward criticism and fighting or by going underground with general dissatisfaction or depression. Whether one spouse should stay home with young children is a subcategory of this issue.
Different beliefs about respect for human life and other moral values are deeply rooted. Getting new information and talking through differences usually only lead spouses to realize that they have vastly different life goals and values. These will not change without violating one’s integrity and conscience.
Yes, communication is vital, and if couples don’t have good communication skills, learning them can be a marriage saver. But if the values are significantly different, it’s unlikely that even the best communication will be enough.
Is it too late?
This is fine, you may say, for engaged couples who have not yet made a marriage commitment, but what about us married couples? Is it too late? Can value differences be fixed or changed? The answer is that prevention is always preferable but seldom is a situation hopeless. A lot depends on the severity of differences and whether there are compromises that both spouses can tolerate.
I would never want a spouse to violate his/her conscience in order to please a mate, but sometimes one spouse may be too scrupulous. Over time they may learn that not everything is black and white. On the other hand, a spouse who rationalizes away ethical decisions, saying they are unimportant, may, with commitment and effort, develop a more sensitive conscience. It’s not easy, though, since these are life long behavioral patterns.
Sometimes a couple can agree to disagree on a few values and live their lives in different spheres. For example, one night a week she goes to a prayer group and he plays his favorite sport. He supports her and does not interfere with her Sunday worship, even though he doesn’t find it important for himself.
Most serious value differences require counseling. That’s the bottom line.
Try a short exercise to determine how close you and your spouse are on basic marriage values.
COMMON VALUES ASSESSMENT
Circle the values that are most important to you. Consider that some values may initially appeal to you but upon deeper reflection (the statement that follows each value) you realize that you don’t always hold them as a priority. Then rank them in importance from 1-14. Discuss with your fiancé(e) or spouse.
1. Honesty. Yes, but sometimes it’s OK to fudge.
2. Commitment. Sure, but some commitments are just too hard to keep.
3. Fidelity. I don’t plan on having an affair but who knows the future.
4. Loyalty. It might be necessary to violate a loyalty if another’s safety is at risk.
5. Devotion to parents. Parents are important, but spouse comes first.
6. Generosity. I’ll give, but only after I’ve taken care of myself.
7. Peacemaking. Sometimes evil needs to be confronted, even with violence.
8. Living simply. I work hard for my money. Why can’t I enjoy its rewards?
9. Kindness. Some people are too kind and others take advantage of them.
10. Self-control. I believe in being flexible and spontaneous, not being uptight.
11. Education. Education is over-rated. I wouldn’t sacrifice current wants for it.
12. Sacrifice. Suffering and delayed gratification have no use and are to be avoided.
13. Friendship. Friends are nice, but family and spouse are more important.
14. Children. I value my freedom more