Tips for Repairing a Troubled Marriage & Improving Your Romantic Relationship
© 2023 Bonnett Chandler, MA, LPCC, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Richard Chandler, MA, LPC, Licensed Professional Counselor
Most romantic relationships are wildly positive at the outset. They typically continue to flourish for a good deal of time before arguments, criticism dissatisfaction occurs. Even with relationship difficulties, couples can repair their marriage, (often with the help of a professional counselor), and once again be happy together. Whether you can benefit from professional help or not, These 9 ways to improve your love relationship really work!
How can committed couples sustain and even strengthen their relationship? The first 4 strategies are from Adlerian counselors and authors, Jon Carlson and Len Sperry, in their book, The Disordered Couple. Numbers 5 – 9 are additional ones that I also recommend to my couple clients. If you have some of your own that you wish to share with me, please do so! Just email me at [email protected]. I would love to pass on even more ways to improve your love relationship.
“Real empathy comes from going: ‘You know, I understand how upset you are. It really hurts me that I’m messing up this way, and I’ve got to take some action.’ Real empathy comes from feeling your partner’s pain in a real way, and then doing something about it.” - Dr. John Gottman
The 9 Ways to Improve Your Love Relationship
1. Consistent, Regular Times to Communicate with Your Wife or Husband
Establishing a routine to communicate with each other keeps you connected and mutually engaged. Couples who talk regularly tend to be happier with each other. You can address any friction that arises at an early stage. Airing dissatisfaction before it becomes an ingrained pattern of treating and talking with each other occurs. Here are times that happy couples regularly communicate:
- First thing in the morning when getting ready for your day
- By texting words appreciation as well as information to each other several times per day whenever you are physically apart
- After work. Processing your workdays with your spouse can help you, him or her to let go of workplace stress and settle into your time at home
- During meals
- Evenings, while getting ready for bed
- Weekly, every other week or monthly date nights together
- Weekend adventures while driving, including short trips and family visits
- Longer times together including 3 - 4 day weekends and vacations
2. Encourage Each Other
Encouragement is the bedrock of belonging and happiness with our significant-other partner. Over time it becomes a reserve of the positive connection that can keep you feeling connected. Encouragement heartens and builds confidence in each other and your romantic relationship.
What does it mean to encourage your mate? Encouragement is gladdening his or her heart! When you use words that inspire, instill hope, and express confidence in your husband or wife, you encourage.
While praise also helps your partner, it is past-oriented. Praise is about noticing and stating something that she or he did that you admire. Encouragement is future-oriented; encouraging your mate tells her or him that you believe in their capacity to do well at something that has not yet occurred.
Perhaps your partner has shared concerns about an upcoming meeting with his or her boss. Don't tell your mate what you think he or she ought to do, as that would be discouraging. Doing so conveys that you lack the confidence that she or he can use their judgment to figure out what is best to say once they are in the meeting.
Instead, encourage by expressing your belief that your mate has the smarts and people skills to read their boss accurately, and respond most appropriately. You might say: "Based on how well you have handled situations like this in the past, I am confident you will know just what to say once you are in your meeting."
So, in addition to noticing their admirable qualities and deeds, and expressing them by using praise, encourage your mate! Appreciate their past actions as well as instill courage. Hearten your romantic partner in the present by expressing your confidence for their future.
3. Set Aside a Time for Planning How to Resolve Conflict
All too often, couples attempt to resolve a conflict at the time that the disagreement arises. It may be possible to agree at that time, but this is more the exception than the rule. Why?
- Quite often, When you or your spouse express an issue in the present, it is not the real issue, or at the very least, the main problem. Instead, it is some smaller thing that one of you did or said that gives evidence that something else has been going on but not yet directly expressed. You and your mate will benefit from taking some time to consider the more critical issue that gave rise to the in-the-moment disagreement.
- Part of the background that allowed the disagreement to arise was a higher level of stress, feeling rushed, irritation, or frustration by one or both of you. The underlying tension by one or both of you that existed before the disagreement started is still there. Now that the dispute has surfaced, it is significantly higher. The environment for a peaceful resolution is not yet present.
- Once the disagreement surfaces, you or your mate may be experiencing a flood of troubling emotions. Those emotions prevent both of you from accessing your more reasonable, rational thinking process. Instead, strong primal feelings of fear, anger, or sadness generally overwhelm you and your mate’s problem-solving abilities. And without access to more reasonable and creative ways of thinking about the disagreement, tension elevates, and both of you might harden your positions.
- If you allow the conversation to continue in-the-moment, it can end with bad feelings. Nothing is likely to actually be resolved in a way that adequately addresses each of your concerns.
Instead, leave the disagreement unresolved for the time being. Agree on a scheduled time to talk about the conflict and use the waiting time to think about the clash from your partner’s perspective and not just your point of view. When you do reconvene to talk, be prepared to engage with the broader dynamics of your relationship. If more substantial, widespread issues were the real contributing factor to your disagreement, consider if you might benefit from a few marriage counseling sessions. Couples are most often better off to address their difficulties earlier on.
4. Schedule Regular Times to have Fun Together
Isn't having fun together what you did when you were at the beginning of your relationship? If you are like most people, having fun with each other was how you first spent your time together. Unfortunately, the fun can fade by merely getting too caught up the day-to-day stress and routine of life. It is helpful for your relationship to break up your habits. Elevate fun as a priority by developing specific plans to engage in fun activities together as a couple. Consider including the following:
- Frequent and consistent dates, including dinners, movies, plays concerts, and excursions to museums. The idea is to have something new and exciting to talk about after taking in a unique experience.
- Day Trips. There are lovely destination places that may be within a reasonable driving distance. We have many tourist towns that offer exciting things to see, do, and to shop in.
- Overnight excursions for even more romance! You can drive farther, giving you more time to visit while driving. You may be more likely to have a night of passion while in a hotel or motel in a different town.
- Venturing into nature including hiking, biking, camping and recreational time together in state and national parks.
5. Connect with Each Other Throughout the Day & Process Your Day Together
There is no substitute for connecting with your boyfriend, girlfriend or romantic interest than having times throughout the day where you touch base with him or her. Most people do this via texting, but an occasional phone call or email also works well. Doing so not only informs each other. Each connection gives you an opportunity to show interest in each other, add some kind words of encouragement and support gives you the topics for discussion when you are with each other at the end of the workday.
You already know a little of what happened to him or her. Use what you know to ask your partner what that particular part of their day was like. Let your special person know that you care by asking for expansion or clarification of what you are told. You can amplify this daily connection by also processing your week or even month together, reflecting on your great good fortune of being married to him or her.
6. Balance Out the Power in Your Relationship
For couples to be happy together, they must have a sense of equality. One cannot dominate, yielding more power than the other. Without equal power, couples typically do not search for a way forward when they have differing perspectives and need to agree on how to proceed. Click on this link to read about communicating well despite differing perspectives.
Instead, the dominant partner declares the discussion is over. That dominant partner may believe that winning that battle by having more power is beneficial, but the benefits are short-lived. The other partner, over time, can become resentful. Resentment results in distancing and less willingness to be cooperative.
How do you balance power in romantic relationships and marriages? First, don't confuse power imbalance with the division of labor. It is usual for one person to enjoy doing one aspect of household responsibilities while the other partner takes responsibility for another area. Making more of the decisions in your area of responsibility is seldom an issue.
But in matters of what you as a couple do with household finances, how you work with your children and where you spend your time together, mutual decision-making is essential. You must talk things out, listening to, and doing your best to understand and appreciate your spouse's perspective.
It may take more time to come to an understanding and an agreement that has you both in agreement. One person may not cut the conversation short, declare it decided or pretend no decision is a decision to continue along as it has been.
If you find that the power in your relationship rests with one of you, causing unhappiness, consider seeking the services of a couples counselor.
7. Let Little Stuff Go…
A lot of what your partner does won’t make sense to you. That’s OK. Some of what has not made sense may eventually make sense as you begin to understand the thinking behind how he or she does something. But even after realizing what is behind his or her thinking, it still may not make sense to you. Some things he or she says or does may never make any sense to you!
Rest assured that your spouse probably has a list of things that you do that make no sense to him or her, either! Unless something is impacting you, and putting a strain on your relationship, it may not be worth mentioning. Let those less essential things that your mate does go. There is nothing to be gained for criticizing little quirks that happen to be different than your quirky characteristics.
Remember, your partner is an entirely different person from you. It would not be all that interesting to clone another version of yourself to live with, so why have an agenda of your mate be more like you? Let your mate be him or herself! Let go of trying to question or change all of those different ways of doing things. Only when what he or she does impacts you negatively might it be beneficial to suggest a change in their behavior. The stance of letting the rest go will make both of your lives together more harmonious.
8. Refrain from Criticism & Defensiveness
Criticism and defensiveness go hand in hand. Think of times when others have criticized you. Were you able to stay open and accept the feedback, or did you find yourself shutting down, feeling defensive, and saying something that disputed what your partner said? Did you even find yourself saying something critical about your husband or wife?
The shorthand version of Newton’s Law is “for every action; there is an equal and opposite reaction.” It is like a teeter-totter; you push down on your spouse with criticism, and what rises is defensiveness. With that defensiveness, what often occurs is a criticism back from him or her regarding you. The pattern repeats with defensiveness on your part and perhaps a return of the original criticism but with additional force. Now the two of you are in a spat!
Don’t criticize. Don’t blame. If a topic is beneficial to discuss, do so with a lot of forethought. In couples counseling, we work on turning a complaint into a request, and when done well, your concern is likely to get a fair hearing. Doing so minimizes your partner’s defensiveness during your discussion. Also, take responsibility for stating what is difficult for you in his or her actions rather than implying that something is solely your mate’s fault.
9. Notice & Tell Your Mate Of The Times He Or She Made Your Life Better Today
Expressing appreciation is an excellent way to improve your love relationship. I call these interactions "touch-points of affection" because each time you do or receive one, you feel the affection in a way that is like receiving positive physical touch as a mate's love and care for you. And in both receiving or doing a touch-point of affection, warm feelings of gladness and happiness arise.
One of the best ways to notice and communicate your appreciation is to use versions of this sentence many times throughout the day: "What I appreciated about you today is __________________________________."
Frequency is an essential aspect of this communication tip, not ideal wording. In-person, by phone, by short notes left for your partner to find, and especially by text, thank your partner for anything you notice, appreciate, and express what you observed and felt to them.
Let your person know they are unique and special to you. Do this as many times in a day as you can! You may express your appreciation through acts of kindness, service, and support. Clients have reported that this last tip for improving your love relationship has turned their troubled relationship around!
If you wish to work with me as your Couples Therapy Counselor, we will specifically go over how to apply these nine ways, and many other ways not mentioned here, to your relationship. Please Click this link for 4 more tips for couples on this website.
Although couples counseling isn't covered by insurance, our rates are affordable. We also have a sliding fee scale with reasonable minimums. We do not ask financial questions to qualify for our sliding fee scale. You simply choose the amount that is comfortable for you and your budget.I can answer your specific questions by calling or texting me at (320)223-9481 or email me at [email protected], and we can discuss whether or not it makes sense for us to work together.