Nine Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage

Have you ever noticed that most Hollywood love stories end with the lead couple finally “getting together”? You’re supposed to assume that they live “happily ever after,” but the audience is rarely shown what happens after that first blissful kiss. And there’s a good reason for that. If you’ve been married for more than a few weeks, you know that romance and roses are only part of what makes up a marriage. The truth is, if you really want to live happily ever after, you must put daily thought and yes—work!—into your relationship with your spouse.

“I believe that many marriages simply deteriorate because couples allow their relationships to run on ‘autopilot,’ but still expect them to stay healthy and exciting,” explains Todd Patkin, author of the new book Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-9658261-9-8, $19.95, “But the truth is, like everything else in life, relationships don’t work that way. We must learn to put as much—no, even more—effort into our marriages as we do in trying to succeed professionally or keeping our gardens, houses, or cars looking top shelf.”

Furthermore, Patkin asserts that a happy marriage is the cornerstone of a happy life—if your marriage isn’t good, you’re going to have trouble feeling fulfilled in other areas as well.

“I know from experience that if you get it right here, it’s easier to get it right in all of the other aspects of your life, because the person who’s closest to you will be there to support you and will have your best interests at heart,” he adds.

“When you let your marriage just ‘sit,’ it’ll eventually get rusty and break down, just like your car would,” Patkin points out. “And that’s a terrible tragedy. We all should have been told growing up that you do have to work on your marriage every day, too, if you want it to stay exciting and great.”

If you’re ready and willing to do everything in your power to make your marriage a happier one, read on for Patkin’s nine tips:

Recommit yourself to your marriage every single day. Believe it or not, your marriage vows weren’t a one-time deal. No, you and your spouse probably aren’t going to stand in front of your loved ones and recommit yourselves to one another on a regular basis. But if you want to cultivate a strong and happy marriage, you should start each morning by making a renewed personal commitment to keeping your relationship healthy and rewarding.

“As I mentioned earlier, people work on their cars, their houses, and their gardens on a regular basis,” Patkin points out. “And just as these things need regular, constant attention to thrive, so does your marriage. Don’t let your enthusiasm for working on your relationship be short-lived. In order to give your marriage regular tune-ups, start by remembering what you said you’d do when you made your vows: Love your spouse. Honor her (or him!). Cherish her. Comfort her. Remain faithful to her. And do these things in good times and bad, in sickness and in health—every day of your marriage.”

Evaluate where your self-worth comes from. With very few exceptions, we human beings tend to base our sense of self-worth on the things that are most important to us. It’s common to hear people proudly say, “I’m a financial advisor,” or, “I’m the manager of my division at work,” or even, “I drive a Cadillac!” But how often do you hear, “I am the world’s luckiest husband,” or, “I have the best family in the whole wide world”?

“I understand all about being proud of your career accomplishments and of other things in your life, but I truly believe that the happiest couples draw a lot of their self-worth from their relationship with each other,” Patkin asserts. “So please assess where your marriage really falls right now on your list of personal accomplishments. Are you consistently relying on something other than your marriage, like your job, to make you feel good about yourself?”

Verbalize to your spouse the things you love and appreciate about him or her all of the time. Did you know that the things you think about and talk about influence how you experience the world around you? It’s true! So why not spend time thinking about how great your spouse is and then verbalizing those thoughts? Start by reminding yourself of all of the reasons why you fell in love in the first place, and then list how much more wonderful your partner has gotten since your marriage. Also, tell her (or him!) how much she means to you, how much you love her, and how beautiful she is ten times a day.

“Believe me, no one will ever say that they hear such compliments about themselves too many times,” Patkin promises. “And not only will this make your partner feel great in the moment, but consistently complimenting one another is the single greatest long-term vitamin you can each give to one another for your marriage. Verbalizing such compliments to your spouse is especially important today because most of us have a tendency to dwell on our mistakes while disregarding all of the things we do right. And we don’t normally hear compliments from our kids, our coworkers, or even our friends either, so over time, we start to feel small and unhappy. Thus, as a spouse, it is your responsibility to continue to make your wife or husband feel as great about her or himself as possible.”

Acknowledge the little things your spouse does, and return the favor. In a similar vein, constantly perform small but meaningful acts for your spouse, and don’t be surprised if he or she starts to do the same for you (if he or she doesn’t do so already, that is!). For example, if your wife hates unloading the dishwasher, make a point to get into the kitchen and put away the dishes first. Or make a mental note to wash the sheets on Friday afternoon so that they’ll be clean when your husband sleeps in on Saturday. Acts like this don’t take much time or energy, but they show your spouse that you are paying attention and that you care—and that is truly priceless!


“Also, it’s key that anytime your spouse goes out of his or her way to make your life better or easier, acknowledge that you’ve noticed and that you appreciate this expression of your partner’s love,” Patkin suggests. “Never let small acts go unnoticed. Saying thank you—and accompanying it with a heartfelt hug or kiss—starts a cycle of giving and getting. It’s when you don’t acknowledge your spouse’s efforts that he or she will begin to feel taken for granted and ignored. And usually, things will only go downhill from there.”


About the Author:
Todd Patkin grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy. Todd lives with his wonderful wife, Yadira, their amazing son, Josh, and two great dogs, Tucker and Hunter.

To Read Part Two of Happily Ever After Click Here.