At a time when fifty percent (or more) of marriages end in divorce, it is no surprise that one of the most frequent questions I am asked is, “Is there anything I can do to keep my marriage/relationship from falling apart?” The good news is, yes, if you and your partner really want your relationship to “go the distance” and avoid being just another sad, divorce statistic, there are three specific, and deceptively simple things you can do right now to start divorce-proofing your marriage.
1) Treat each other politely. What I mean by this is: You should treat your partner with at least the same degree of common courtesy you use with friends, business associates or strangers you come into contact with on a daily basis. I’m talking about simple good manners: Saying “please” and “thank you” and excusing yourself when your gastro-intestinal tract suddenly expels noxious fumes at either end. This is so basic to any successful encounter, let alone a significant relationship, that you would think this would be second nature to most people. Alas, it is not. As we get more and more comfortable in a relationship we often “relax” into patterns of interaction that could be described as barely civil, at best, and down-right rude, at worst. And the saddest part is that we’re usually completely unaware of our behavior. We’re just “being ourselves.” Well, STOP! Studies show that couples who make a point of employing good manners and treating each other politely, are overwhelmingly more successful and happier in their relationships than their less-civil counterparts. Bottom line is: Play nice – and you'll be playmates for a long time.
2) Don’t criticize or berate each other. Instead, be complimentary and supportive. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Again, this is a very simple and straight-forward concept that so many people forget once they are comfortably entrenched in their relationship. Negativity can undermine the foundation of any otherwise-successful union. And this is doubly true of critical invectives flung at your spouse in the presence of others. Yet how many times have you been out in public and heard one of your friends speak to their significant other in a critical or derogatory manner (e.g. “Don’t be such an asshole!” or “Why are you being such a bitch?”)? Conversely, if you get in the habit of dealing with your spouse in a loving, complimentary manner, you create an environment of support that inspires cooperation and harmony and helps ensure that “happily ever after” isn’t an impossible dream.
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