To be fair, I got the idea for this post here. That said, I changed the title – and topic – slightly. Here are my five tips on how to improve your marriage.
1) Look for the good, not the bad. Yes, he does things differently than you. He parents differently, he cleans differently, he thinks differently. So does everyone else. No two people are the same. Forget gender differences. Just respect the fact that even though you’re married, that doesn’t mean that you’re exactly the same. You don’t like how he folded the laundry? Thank him for trying to help and thinking of doing it, with or without being asked. Sometimes, you can even show him how you usually do it. That depends on him, you, and your relationship. But first, thank him for helping you out. You’re right, he should be helping you. But you know what else? It’s not clear-cut and obvious that he will. Even if it were, we thank people for their efforts. Do you say thank you to the waiter, when he brings you your food? Isn’t that his job, that he’s being paid for? So, thank your husband, too – even if you see it as his job to help you.
2) Admit your guilt. Let’s face it: Nobody is perfect. Arguments happen, mistakes happen, miscommunications happen. Sometimes it’s your fault, sometimes it’s his fault, and sometimes it’s both. Admit it when you are wrong, and apologize. Tell him that you made a mistake, didn’t understand, or shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions. Usually, if you do this a few times, he will start to do the same. If he doesn’t, have a discussion about how you feel, without blaming him.
3) Communicate. I know it sounds cliche, and I know that everyone is saying this. There’s a reason for that: It’s important. Really important. He says, “Can you manage if I leave right now?” You take offense: “What do you mean, can I manage? You think I’m a two-year-old?” What he meant was: “Will you be okay? I know you have a headache and the flu, and I don’t want to leave you with a colicky baby if you’re not feeling well.” Just. Ask. Ask what he means by “can you handle it”. Ask what “handling it” means. Ask why he is asking the question. Many times, you do not hear what the other person was really saying. Rather, what you hear is tainted by what you expect to hear.
4) Admit that sometimes mistakes happen, and it is nobody’s fault. That’s right. It’s nobody’s fault. It happened because of a miscommunication. Accept that. Laugh at it. Get over it.
5) Choose your battles. If it doesn’t really matter, don’t fight over it. And if it does matter, find a way to communicate (there’s that word again) your feelings without being hurtful. One of the bonuses of doing this is that when you do argue for or against something, your spouse will take you more seriously (so will your kids, boss, and coworkers, if you apply this to other areas of life, as well).
6) Discuss important issues before they come up. While you are pregnant with your first, discuss how you want to parent. Finances and everything related should have been discussed while you were engaged. Budgeting should have been discussed during your engagement, and it will need to be reassessed every once in a while. Who cleans the house, does the dishes, earns the money, and changes the diapers needs to be discussed, preferably during dating. If you didn’t do so, do it now. It is always better to take care of things later, than to never take care of them, and let the bad feelings grow. Likewise, breastfeeding versus formula, how many kids to have, and opinions on birth control should be discussed. They are important health decisions. Your child is two years old? Good, discuss where he should go to school. What are you looking for? You can agree to disagree, but at least be aware of each other’s opinions.