9 ways to change a “Ho-hum” marriage

Most couples want a marriage that thrives, not just survives

Ways to change a marriageRead this list of ideas. Pick one topic and share your feelings with your partner. Ask your partner to do the same. These ideas are based on research by experts in the field and my own clinical experience working with couples.

  • Disappointments are a common feeling in marriages, so try not to let yourself get too discouraged. Look at your expectations and standards and learn how to change disappointment by changing your expectations and standards for yourself and your partner.
  • Balance thoughts about changing your partner, which can be toxic to the relationship, with thoughts about accepting your partner. Your partner’s personality, their needs and motivations, may not change. Your challenge  is to understand and accept your partner for who they are. However, this does not mean accepting unacceptable behavior
  • Balance your needs for togetherness with your needs for autonomy. Dr. Wallerstein studied couples to find out what makes marriages thrive. She concluded thriving couples share their lives to build up intimacy, while at the same time respecting each other’s space. Like two oak trees, you can grow together, but not too near together.
  • Learn to make each other feel special and valued, especially after the “sparkle” has gone from the relationship. Research shows there is a normal decline in positive emotion in the relationship after several years of marriage. Go out of your way to keep alive the romance and some of the early feelings of falling in love with each other.
  • Continue to invest your time and interest in expressing physical intimacy with your partner.
  • Protect each other from life stress. Simply talking about an anticipated stress can be a major source of support to your partner.
  • Have a positive expectation about the marriage growing stronger through adversity. You can actually learn to be resilient after an expected life crisis and the marital bond can be stronger for it.
  • Nurture and comfort one another by offering continuing support and encouragement.
  • Learn to communicate clearly how you feel. Learn how to fight “fair”. Learn how to solve problems together by avoiding an adversarial, win-lose attitude.

Adapted from material from Enhanced Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Couples by Norman Epstein, Ph.D. & Donald Baucom, Ph.D. and The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts by J. Wallerstein, Ph.D.