Mid-marriage makeovers are on the rise; what to seek and avoid in a relationship renovation.
Recently it's become trendy for ambitious couples to enroll in "preventative" marriage therapy, attempting to amp up a relationship gone routine or to keep a mildly troubled one from going off the rails. Writer Elizabeth Weil's recent essay for the New York Times examines how a perfectly functional, more or less peaceful union can be improved and deepened, as much as the two partners are willing to dedicate themselves to the project. But warning: an endeavor as complicated as marriage cannot just be "solved." As Weil's wary husband Dan points out "if you're going to poke around the bushes, you'd best be prepared to scare out some snakes." So fasten your seatbelts, get out your notepads and open your mind, here are some tips on how to finely tune your (already decent) marriage:
1) Figure out your common goals
What do you both want out of this? What needs to change, and what can be left "in the bushes"? Write lists and compare notes. You may find out that your goals are surprisingly similar! Poll: How Do You Usually Resolve An Argument?
2) Set up a mutual appreciation session
List time again: sit down with your partner and write a list of what makes you feel loved by him/her. The way he makes you breakfast on Sundays, rubs your shoulders on a long drive, or laughs when you order a salad and eat off his massive combo platter. Letting each other know that you recognize and appreciate the things, large and small, that you do for each will make you feel validated and encourage more effort in the future. 7 Body Parts Men Love—Just The Way They Are
3) Get sexy
With any sort of commuication—and especially when it comes to sex—it pays to take a positive approach. Start by telling your partner what you love about your sex life, then rather than point out what your partner doesn't do, share a fantasy you'd like to act out: a surprise sexy phone call at work? Bring it on! A night without the kids to walk around naked and have hours of uninterrupted time together? Yes, please. You'd be surprised how accommodating, and turned on, your partner gets when you playfully and excitedly confide what you'd like to do with him in (and out of) bed. 13 Kinds Of Sex Every Couple Needs
4) Set limits, forgive and forget
Marriage is definitely one of these tricky terrains that can suffer from over-examination. If things turn bitter or one of you starts to feel beaten down, take a time out, step back and go back to #1. Remember what you are trying to get out of this. Mutual understanding, increased awareness and passion won't be achieved through accusations and dredging up every single disappointment from the past. Time to let go of that time he got drunk at your mom's birthday party! What If California Outlawed Divorce?
5) Get outside advice
We're all human and within our own marriages can expect to be biased and, well, a little too close to the situation to have the most rational perspective. Check out books, groups, retreats and other helping professionals and resources. It can really benefit you to learn new methods of communication and have a coach to point out when you're constructively working on something and when you're being unfair and even destructive. And hey, if all else fails just get one of these: SpatSolver—The Ultimate Argument Resolution Device
Marriage is a job that you can get better at. Like any other important endeavor in life, it benefits from effort, planning and mindful preventative measures. As the Southern California proverb goes: Don't wait for a mudslide before reinforcing your foundation!