The Small, Powerful Word You Must Say If You Want To Save Your Marriage

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Woman saying no

In the movie Yes Man, Jim Carrey plays an entitled jerk who finally decides to say “Yes” to new opportunities in an effort to placate a friend. This over-commitment challenge resembles a cultural aspect of our society that’s silently killing marriages. Be honest: how hard is it for you to say “No” anymore? To your boss, to your friends — it’s downright brutal, huh? Whether it’s for your child’s third extra-curricular activity, your neighbor wanting you to dog sit for free, or your church begging you to chair another committee, you have to say no sometimes. 

The requests and demands on your time are endless. But the fact remains the same — you have the ultimate say in how you choose to spend your time. You can't just say no, especially when it comes down to efforts to save your marriage. At the heart of saying “No” is a fear of being judged and not accepted. In hopes of keeping up appearances and bypassing rejection, you morph into the Yes (Wo)Man and make it work. You over-commit your schedule and that's sucking the vitality out of your relationship. You want a happy marriage, and yet you can’t possibly give it the time or attention it takes to achieve this blissful state.

The small, powerful word you must say if you want to save your marriage.

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It can feel impossible to stay focused on your marriage. You feel selfish for not wanting to give up your time. So when someone campaigns for help, or your boss implies that you need to contribute more at work, you hesitate, but once that guilt kicks in you concede and commit. Another reason is that your attention is constantly hijacked by allure and seduction. Whether it’s the alert from your Facebook newsfeed or the gigantic house that you just had to have (but now must clean) — these distractions pull you away from your spouse.  

But the real reason is this: you’re so concerned about how you’ll appear to others, that you forget the most important part: how you appear to your spouse! What’s more important, what random outsiders think of you at age 35 or who’s still by your side when you're 75? It’s a no-brainer, so put more stock into your home life than into your public persona. There’s a real risk to your happiness when you say “Yes” for the wrong reasons rather than “No” for the right ones. Just like a mama bird that flies away from her nesting babies, she puts her eggs at risk of being an eagle’s next meal. You put your marriage at risk when you say, “Yes” to meaningless activities that force you to spend more and more time away (physically or energetically) from your partner.

The result is a decrease in marital satisfaction, added strife, and possible infidelity. Let me be clear: every time you say “Yes,” to your pastor, child, or neighbor — you say “No” to your spouse. Many divorces are a direct result of neglecting your partner for too long. Lack of attention in the home is like playing Russian roulette. You lose touch with each other (literally). Your interests grow in opposite directions, and that special spark you once shared, fizzles out. Good news! There is a simple solution to save your marriage. All it takes is these four steps.

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The 4 steps to saving your marriage:

1. Learn the skill of discernment.

Make sure that you commit enough time and energy to your relationship first (everything else comes after). Figure out what fills your happy marriage cup and what steals your precious “us” time.

2. Understand that 'No' is a complete sentence.

We actually don't owe others an explanation. So get comfortable politely saying "No," and then saying nothing more. 



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3. Get on the same page as your partner.

Sit down with your spouse and discuss the craziness of your lifestyle. Review the calendar and begin to simplify. Trim the excess that doesn’t make you stronger as a couple, contribute to your happiness cup, or that is not required. Say “Yes” to what matters and “No” to what steals your precious moments.



4. Replace 'always on the run' with relaxing.

Be a couple again. Have a routine date, game, or e-free night. Your options are endless! You’ll notice that you’re much happier doing things that matter to you. By having more time with your spouse, the stress in your home will naturally decrease. Rather than being a Yes (Wo)Man, be conscientious about the value of time and who gets a piece of it. If you’re not a self-centered jerk, don’t say “Yes” just because. When you commit to something, make sure it’s worthwhile. And remember, you only get so much time — spend it wisely. Make your time matter by saying “No” to busy running and “Yes” to your sweet moments with your honey.

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Jessica M. Miller is a relationship, personal development, and motivational coach. She's the author of Back 2 Love and How to Start a Mental Health Private Practice.