I write a lot of advice for a happy marriage and it occurred to me that most of us have a hard time following good advice, whether it be about work performance, diet and exercise or healthy habits to make a marriage happy. Sometimes we can’t even follow good advice when our life or relationship depends on it!
What I've gleaned from all the performance gurus out there, getting stuff done and changing your life comes down to the habits and routines you cultivate. And, basically that boils down to three things: setting intentions, starting small and following the Three R's of Habit Change.
So first, in order to follow advice for a happy marriage, get more clear by identifying and meditating on your intentions. What do you really want to have in your relationship? How do you want to feel toward your partner? See it in your mind’s eye what it looks and feels like. If you want to understand this more, I highly recommend Joe Dispenza's book, Breaking the Habit of being Yourself.
Second, starting small means that you do not try to change your whole relationship all at once. This means you need to focus on one small aspect of your relationship. What's a small change YOU could make that might make your relationship happier? (see my article 5 Daily Habits that Would Totally Transform Your Relationship)
Finally, follow the Three Rs of Habit Change:
Say you want to cultivate more appreciation in your relationship. How might you do that on a daily basis? There are many ways to appreciate your partner, from sending a loving text message to taking them on a dream vacation. Let’s start small. First, focus on the reward YOU would get by appreciating your partner more. See it in your mind's eye and feel inside your body what it would be like to give appreciation. Imagine your relationship transforming from just expressing more appreciation.
Next, create a list of 3 things that you know would make your partner feel appreciated. If you don’t know, ask. Does he want to be told how awesome, attractive, important, etc he is? Does she want more help? Does he want you to plan something? Does she want to be touched more? Figure out what those things are and create a list of no more than three things. And to simplify further, start with just one thing.
So say s/he would feel appreciated more if you helped with planning and preparing family meals. You can keep it simple by starting with every time you notice s/he is in the kitchen (the reminder) you help with things like chopping vegetables, setting the table, cleaning up the kitchen, figuring out what needs to be prepped for the following day, etc. (the routine). Pay attention to his or her smiles, sense of relaxation and the way it makes you feel to be helpful (the reward). Keep refining the routine based on the reward. What are YOU getting out of helping with meal preparation a few days a week? Focus on your own satisfaction and reward. If it’s not rewarding, what would make it more rewarding (e.g. listening to your favorite music, cooking certain foods you love, talking with partner during the preparation)?
You might be surprised at how easily it is to follow advice for a happy marriage if you got a handle on changing just ONE thing.
But there's one more thing.
So..right now, you’re at the end of this article thinking: "Yes, this is great. I can totally do this!" And then... you’ll likely forget all about it. It’s normal; we all have a lot of information and priorities competing for our attention. So before you leave this page, do one quick thing: Send your spouse a cryptic text that says “I love you. Ask me later about how I’m going to start showing you better.”
That should get the ball rolling! ;)