One letter to a better relationship.
There are four things in a marriage that need to be on track in order to have a happy marriage. Okay, there are more than four, but there are four BIG things that, when in order, can change the entire mood of your relationship. (Luckily, I was able to think of synonyms that all started with c's!)
"Oh yes, we talk to each other all the time!" ... Great, but that's not really what communication is.
"Never go to bed mad" fits in to this category. If something is wrong, let your spouse know. Does being called baby set your teeth on edge? Is it frustrating that they wait till the last minute to get caught up on their part of the chores? Do you hate being late but it doesn't bother them? Let them know.
When I was in pre-marriage counseling, my hubby and I had to take a comparability test. We each answered the questions and then we got to see how the other answered. It told us if we thought alike on marital roles, if we communicated the same way, how we preferred to be shown we are loved, etc. It's a great tool for any relationship at any stage, honestly.
Well, we scored seriously high in the communication department. My husband and I talk to each other about everything from body functions to frame of mind. Not only do we talk, we discuss. If something is bothering one of us, we talk it out. We get to the root of the problem (why does it make you mad, self conscious, etc.?) and we always ask "What can I do better/different?"
By asking those questions, we have been able to resolve issues before (mostly) they came to a head and we exploded. It's soooo much easier to have a rational conversation with someone when you haven't been festering over the issue for days and days. When you brood about something, it makes it so that you start coming up with other excuses to pile on for why you aren't happy. It goes from "I wish they would help once in a while without me having to prompt them" to "They never help around the house". I know... this has happened to me SEVERAL times. You think I would learn...
To solve this, find a time when you are both normally together. For my hubby and me, it's when we go to bed. I ask for us to go to bed about 30 minutes before we normally would. That way, we can be close to each other, comfortable, and be able to focus on one another (the bedroom is an electronics-free zone). It's okay to start out by saying "Please don't take this the wrong way" or "I want to say something, but I don't want you to think I'm ...". I have done it many times. Normally, he wants me to just say it. Sometimes that is harder than it was in my mind while I was doing dishes.
Don't let things fester. At the same time, don't nag. I have to ask my husband to take out the trash; he forgets, it happens. But, when I started asking him to do it instead of saying "You forgot to take the trash out again", our mood improved tremendously.
He is a youngest child of four, I'm the oldest child of two. Those roles often play out in our marriage. I'm better with money than he is, but he is really good about getting me out of my comfort zone to enjoy life. He wanted me to go out and do more things with him, I wanted him to help out a little more around the house. How did we know this? We talked about it. In fact, we have had the same talks several times over the years. We are getting better, though, because we have put forth an effort to want to make the other person happy while not letting ourselves feel poorly.
On the subject of making the other person happy, don't be shy about discussing sex after the act. Ask things like "Did you like it when I...", "Did something feel different this time?", "Next time, would you try...", "Is there something I can do better ...or longer?" It's getting feedback! How will you know if that little trick you did with your tongue was pleasant or made them uncomfortable unless you ask? Do you feel like you need cuddled afterwards? Tell them. TELL THEM!!!
Now that you are talking more, it's time to make things work. If you need help with keeping up the house but your spouse works full time, ask for help. Maybe they can take the trash out, or clean out the litter box, or put all the dirty clothes in the hamper. Things like that are a HUGE help to the one that stays home. Plus, it shows that you are wanting to take care of that person.
Cooperation can also be taking turns with who is on top in the bedroom. We all have our preference, but sex isn't just about the one person or just about getting off. Be cooperative and don't fuss about a new position (unless it is painful...). It could be fun :)
Don't pile up responsibilities on one spouse, just so things are split "evenly". If you are better at handling the money and sticking to a budget, do it! That's your strength, and when every team mate plays to their strengths, the team becomes stronger! And yes, husbands and wives are team mates.
I hate that my husband smokes, so he doesn't smoke in my car or in the house. After several years of marriage, he is now working on quitting, because it has driven such a wedge between us.
You don't have to change who you are to compromise on something. Let the other person win an argument once in a while. Don't demand to always go where you want to eat. Be willing to visit their friends and family when asked. A marriage is not about one person, it's about two two lives and families coming together.
That being said, never compromise on your morals. If you think shopping on the Sabbath is inappropriate, don't do it; make sure everything is purchased before hand. If you believe you should donate your Sundays to helping your elderly mother around the house do it; but don't shirt your other duties, either. If you think Saw III isn't a movie your children should be watching, talk to your spouse and give your reasons. Hopefully you married someone who has similar morals, though.
Yes, I've talked a lot about sex in this post, but it's because sex is such a vital part of a happy marriage. Here are my sex rules for you:
- Don't ever use sex against them (ex. "Well if you don't finish doing the dishes, I'm not having sex with you", or "No jewelry, no blow job"). It's hurtful and it can make your spouse resentful of you for it. Yes, you can use it as playful motivation once in a while, but don't withold yourself for something petty. It makes it seem like you are selling yourself to them if they do what you say. Spouses are not whores, and they should not be treated as such (unless you are roleplaying...). It can feel like the only reason you are having sex with them is to have control and dictate how you want things. I know this sounds extreme, but the denial of sex and affection can have a tremendously negative impact on a marriage.
- Make love at least once a week. Biologically, men NEED sex. Not just want, but need. Often times their sex drive is higher than a woman's, and sex can quickly become a chore, the husband's asking becoming "pesky and annoying". If your sex drive is lower, just do it. For them. At least once a week. Weekly sex helps with several things: stress relief, hormone balancing, bodily satisfaction and endorphins, less teasing from friends, increases bodily touching
- Make sure you both get off. It's not a chore if you can enjoy it eventually, right? Sometimes I simply don't have that need as my husband does, but we have sex anyways. It's kind of like working out: just do it for five minutes, after that you won't want to stop.
- Don't have a negative attitude. It will kill the mood and seed resentment. Remember, sex isn't about one person (how many times has that been said today?!). Sex is about making both parties happy. If you are having sex with your spouse when you aren't in the mood, do it to make them happy, not to shut them up. There is a big difference, and they will know. It sucks when someone is in a rush to leave and you aren't finished telling your story, so they give you that look... and you know they are just waiting for you to finish so they can get on with their own lives. Yeah... don't be that person in the relationship. Bad juju.
This article was originally published at BlogHer. Reprinted with permission from the author.