By Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
National Certified Counselor #267299
AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist
Recovering Hearts Counseling 

Marriage Tip # 1- Don’t  Settle

Married Life is Hectic, add a child or two, or 3 or 4 or…..

You know the drill, we work, sometimes multiple jobs, take care of family and friends, school, care for the house, the car(s) and volunteer at church, the scouts, and well you know the drill.  It seems everything is important and comes before your relationship. 

DON’T SETTLE!... for an ordinary marriage.

There is nothing more important to your individual lives and the lives of everyone around you than your marriage.  Take some time TODAY to say ‘Hi’ to your spouse and give them some of you.  Try saying ‘Hello’ and give your spouse 15 good minutes a day (see tips 3-6)!

Marriage Tip # 2- Date your spouse!

A friend of mine, Dr. Doug Weiss has a book with a chapter entitled “Date Your Spouse, or Go to Therapy!”  It’s that important... Yeah!

We use the rule of thumb, date each other every 7 days; go out on a night away every 7 weeks; go on a weekend away every 7 months.  We call that the rule of 7’s.

We know, we know, we’re too busy to really date... and besides, when we do go out, we like to be with friends and family.  Yes, anything but being alone with my life partner.  But that’s the point, we want to experience joy with that partner as the antidote to all the stresses of life.  Do you remember when you met?  Do you remember how you were excited just to be with each other?  Do you remember just going to the coffee shop so you could talk to each other?  Contrast that to your life today; it’s hard to get time to get away and when you do, almost any distraction will substitute for real connection with your partner.  And do you know what that all that ‘busyness’ gets you?  That’s right, it brings you to a less than satisfying relationship!

So get off the couch right now and invite your spouse on a date.  And don’t assume that every date must take place at a restaurant or the movies.  We’re not saying those places can’t provide great fun but be inventive... or just go to the coffee shop.  Make your dates about 1-1 connection, think of going on that special nature walk or maybe to another place which will bring out that childhood sense of wonder.

A good system to make certain you can go on a date you’ll enjoy is to take turns selecting the day and activity.  And while you’re at it, have the initiator be responsible for making all the date plans; arrange for babysitting, make the reservations, buy the tickets and do whatever is necessary to ensure a fun time... it’s only fair.

So what are you waiting for?  Invite your partner on a date!

Marriage Tip # 3- Praise each other, On Purpose!

This is part of that good 15 minutes each day we spoke about in ‘tip #1’.   Here's the first idea, PRAISE!

Think of some reason you'd like to praise your partner.  That could be about the good meal from last night or itcould be about how good your partner looked on your last date.  Any reason is OK, no heartfelt praise is faint.  Just be sure to do this, at least twice per day, on purpose and if at all possible in person (text is OK for a third praise).  Look your partner in the eye and say: "Sweetie, I want you to know how much I appreciate ~~~~~."  And Partner, look them back in the eye and simply say: "Thank You!"

Now let's take a moment to think of some really good reasons to praise, we're sure you will be more creative:

~~~~~"the sweet way you handle the children."

~~~~~"the way you smile at me when I am sad."

~~~~~"the way you always consider my point of view"

~~~~~"how wonderfully He made you!"

Marriage Tip # 4 -Pray (relation-ally) with each other.  (We're still working on our daily 15 minutes.)

Let's enhance our marriage using prayer with a relational component. We're certainly not telling you to skip the family rosary with the kids, nor to skip prayers with dinner.  It's just that we ought to give ourselves, as a couple, an opportunity to get relational in our prayer.  This is your time to bond with your spouse, not a time for the kids.

Our favorite way to do this is to grab a copy of the daily Mass readings (try 'The Word Among Us' or your favorite daily devotional).  Between you, read the entire scripture and devotional for the day out loud.  Take a moment to reflect on the readings.  Husband, take your wife's hands in yours and pray out loud using your reflections.  After your prayer (Amen), it is your wife's turn to prayer her reflection.

That's it, nothing big, unless you count the connection it builds between the two of you. 

Marriage Tip # 5- Share feelings with each other.  (The final leg of our daily 15 minutes.)

 When it comes to matters of the heart, many men, (including me) were educated to recognize the three most important emotions, glad, mad and really, really upset.  No wonder women can think of us as insensitive.  Sometimes women were trained to have a different emotional problem, that is, they were lead to believe that every emotion they feel is real and correct.  Before you call the the PC police, understand that I am speaking in generalities, not absolutes... the roles above can be reversed.

So what can we do to expand increase our ability to make our feelings more useful and to share them safely with our spouse?  Let's learn to experience feelings in new and more helpful ways; try this as part of your daily exercise:

1)   Together, pick a feeling word at random (go to: a useful list).

2) Take a moment to try to 'experience' that feeling.  E.g., what does feel like to be 'perplexed'? What sensations do you experience?  Don't THINK about it, experience it.

3) When you are ready, turn to each other and taking turns say: "I feel insert_feeling_word when tell your spouse when you feel this way".   For extra credit say: "I first remember feeling insert feeling word when when you first felt this way.  If you've taken the time to experience that feeling (see #2), this should flow easily.

Make this fun, be sure not to use your spouse in your feelings examples as that could be unsafe and, for the same reason, never give immediate feedback to your spouse.  There is no reason to exclude the children from this exercise but allow yourself to experience it 1-1 with your spouse.

Marriage Tip # 6 - Let's recap the 'Best 15 minutes' of your day.

We suggested you give the best 15 minutes of each day to your spouse. We gave you some ideas to help make those minutes supercharge your marriage.  Let's recap those ideas now:

1) Praise your spouse; not just for dinner last night or for taking the trash out (do that too).  Take some time to think about your spouse, think of something unique or special.  When you see your partner, you might say: "My love, you care for our children better than anyone else possibly could."  You get the idea, make it unique, make it special and if you're having trouble thinking of a praise, think harder.  Partner, respond simply with, "thank you".

2) Pray relation-ally with your spouse: take a couple of minutes to pray just with your spouse.  We're not excluding your children, we just want to cement your marriage for the benefit of your children.  In our tip, we suggested you can use today's readings from one of the daily devotionals.  After reading it out loud, each of you (holding hands) can pray a short reflection of those readings.  Keep it simple, just make it relevant.

3) Sharing your feelings helps both you and your spouse to know your heart.  In later tips, we'll offer some very practical do's and don'ts to help you communicate your feelings.  For now, in your 'Best 15 minutes', use the technique we shared above.

Marriage Tip # 11 - Embrace!

Books have been written on this topic, but in the moment, those helpful books might contain too much information. 
Many memory experts say we can remember seven facts about a topic, especially using a mnemonic.
So remember to EMBRACEyour partner!

Embrace the conflict, it is healthy and productive.

Make concessions and make peace; the goal is to heal, not to divide.

Be Positive and Proactive, always begin and end with the positive.

Reset when needed; be willing to calmly say: “I’d like to say that over.”  Take an agreed upon time out if necessary.

Avoid criticism and name calling, and while we’re at it, avoid absolutes like: “You always.....”

Call on God; take that moment to ask for wisdom and clarity.  Seek to find the higher path.

End with the positive.  It’s really not important what was decided, your marriage is what’s important. 
As a wise general once said: “Don’t get stuck on stupid!” 

This would be a good time to EMBRACE.