Apologies are effective when your partner feels that you really know you made a mistake and that you really will do your best not to let something similar happen again. If necessary, it means letting them know you have a plan to take action to minimize the chances of repeating the same behavior. This may include taking a time out when angry, getting up five minutes earlier so you can pick up a little after yourself before leaving for work, or even going to counseling or seeking other outside help if you have a problem you can’t seem to manage on your own.
Apologies don’t include the word “but,” or anything similar. If you want to help your spouse understand what lead to whatever you said or did, that can come later. Otherwise, whether you mean it to or not, it will seem like you are trying to explain or rationalize your words or actions. Say you are sorry, name the behavior you are apologizing for, and humbly state that you know you were wrong and hope the other person will forgive you. It may also be helpful to state that you know your words or actions were hurtful or upsetting so your partner knows you are trying to be in tune with how he/she is feeling.
Attention. Paying attention means being aware and observant in your marriage. It means really “showing up” not just phoning in your participation or physically being present while being mentally somewhere else.
Paying attention or giving attention means your spouse gets pieces of your time and energy throughout the day. This is about noticing what your spouse is wearing, being interested in his/her day, and knowing the things that are important to him/her. Paying attention means remembering to ask about that big work project or stressful situation with colleagues. It means calling just to say “Hi, I was thinking about you,” or saying, “You look nice in that sweater.”
Paying attention also means looking at your spouse when he/she is talking to you and being aware enough to say, “You look angry/worried/upset. What’s up?” It means remembering anniversaries and birthdays and other dates that are important to your spouse. It means setting aside time to focus on your spouse and your relationship. Time should be set aside each week to really talk, go to dinner, or engage in an activity that will allow you to focus on your spouse and nurturing the friendship and romance. This is very important for every couple. But paying attention to your spouse can’t just happen during these “designated” times. It also must be done in small ways every day.
Affection. Affection means touch. This does not just mean sex. It does not just mean “making a move” on your spouse or even being flirty, though touch is very important for romance and sexual intimacy.
It means small gestures of physical contact throughout the day. It means brushing your spouse’s arm when you walk by, a light touch on the back or shoulder, reaching over to take your spouse’s hand while riding in the car, or a playful poke or swat. It means offering a hug when your spouse gets home from a long day at work, rubbing his/her feet, or snuggling on the couch while watching TV.
It is important that touch be given at other times besides in the bedroom or when trying to initiate sex. Touch is a way of connecting with your partner and does not have to have an ulterior motive. It is friendly and supportive and helps your partner feel close to you.