Relationships

The Truth about Happily Ever After PART TWO

In part one we talked about recommitment to marriage, self worth and showing your spouse or significant other how much you really appreciate her or him.

In part two of that article we share five more tips to create a lifetime of love.

Learn—and then do—what makes your spouse feel most loved. Say, for example, that you love to receive gifts. Whether it’s a big-screen TV or a lowly fridge magnet picked up during a friend’s travels, you feel acknowledged and appreciated whenever you’re handed a wrapped box. So whenever you want to let your wife know that you’re thinking about her or want to boost her mood, you bring home a gift: flowers, a CD, or a book by one of her favorite authors. Only problem is, what your wife is really craving is a nice, long hug.

“Don’t assume you know what makes your spouse feel the most loved,” Patkin advises. “While any expression of love is, of course, a good thing, the fact is that we all feel loved in different ways. So it is important that you find out what makes your spouse feel the most loved. Simply ask the question, ‘What have I done in the past that made you feel the most special?’ Some people might want a date night. Others might need to be told verbally that they are the greatest. It’s always a good idea to ask your spouse what makes him or her feel most loved—and then include those actions or words into your regular repertoire. You’ll notice a big difference…and you’ll probably find that your spouse reciprocates, too.”

Don’t let resentment build. When you live in fairly close quarters with another human being, it’s inevitable that sooner or later you’re going to annoy each other. (In fact, at times you’re probably going to want to kill each other.) While it’s not a good idea to nit-pick with your spouse each and every time you feel a teeny bit put out, it’s also unhealthy to let issues and negative feelings build up and fester.

“Always, always make it a priority to keep the lines of communication open,” Patkin advises. “Even if you have to go for a walk to clear your head first, be sure to express your grievances in a calm, constructive way—preferably before you go to bed angry. Also, remember that this is a two-way street. When your spouse is upset with you, make every effort not to fly off the handle and to fairly consider what you’re hearing. Marriage does involve compromising and modifying your behavior for another’s well-being—and believe me, your mutual happiness is worth it.”

Take responsibility and stop trying to fix your partner. There’s a lot of finger pointing going on in marriages. After all, it’s easy to identify and list all the ways someone else is getting it wrong. (Plus, it just feels good to be “right.”) But how much good does all of this complaining and accusing really do? After you finish berating your spouse for yet another of his or her supposed failings, does the quality of your life actually change? Probably not. According to Patkin, it’s time to take a break from blaming and instead work on yourself. While both partners do need to be willing to compromise in order to help the other, it’s always best to look at how your own behavior could improve before you try to change your spouse’s.

“The more time you spend trying to change your spouse, the less time you have for improving yourself,” Patkin points out. “As far as I know, there has never been such a thing as a ‘perfect’ husband or wife! And I bet that when you begin to take responsibility for areas in which you may have been dropping the ball, the dynamic of your marriage will change. Perhaps your spouse has been trapped in a cycle of negativity that has been fed by your own less-than-helpful attitude. And remember, people unconsciously begin to mirror the people they spend the most time with. This happens for the good as well as for the bad! So if you start working on yourself, your spouse will most likely do the same.”

Figure out what your strengths are and play to them. As much as possible, you and your spouse should each play to your strengths within your marriage and back away from your weaknesses. If, for example, you’re great with words but don’t have much of a math brain, don’t take on the task of making sure the bills are paid and the accounts are balanced each month. Instead, take the lead in dealing with teachers, repairmen, etc. When you force yourself to do something for which you have little aptitude, you only frustrate yourself and, by extension, the people with whom you live.

“I’ll be honest—I’m awful when it comes to doing projects around the house,” Patkin admits. “I have very little mechanical understanding or skill, and I have no patience for these types of jobs. For years, though, I’d try tackling these sorts of projects around the house. And then when I failed to put the pieces of a new desk together, for example, I’d feel like less of a man. Well, I’ve finally accepted the fact that I will never be Mr. Home Improvement, and I don’t waste my time or energy on that type of task. Thus, I get much less frustrated, I’m happier, and the people around me are happier too! I’ve learned that it’s definitely a good idea to ask your spouse for help or pay to have the job done if neither of you feels confident.”

Date your spouse again. When you’re newly in love and in full courtship mode, you do everything you can to spend every free moment with your partner. Eventually though, work, kids, responsibilities, and life in general tend to get in the way of your relationship with your spouse. The two of you stop doing fun things with only one another, and it’s easy to go weeks at a time without having any serious conversations that don’t revolve around work, money, or kids. That’s why it’s imperative to set aside time to date your spouse.

“Vow to take the time to invest in the romantic part of your relationship,” Patkin advises. “It may not seem important, but this is the cornerstone of a good marriage. Without that so-called ‘spark,’ the other parts of your life, like work and kids, will suffer too. Try to act like you did when you were both in the infatuation period of your relationship: Bring home flowers or other small gifts. Plan a special date night (maybe involving a babysitter this time around!). Get tickets to the reunion tour of a band you and your spouse loved when you first began dating. Basically, get back to the essence of how you fell in love in the first place!”

“I hope that once you begin celebrating, respecting, and loving your spouse as I’ve just described, as well as prioritizing your marriage every day, you’ll find that the whole dynamic of your relationship changes,” Patkin concludes. “I hope that you’ll begin smiling more, feeling better, and experiencing more ‘spark.’ It’s true: Everything—and especially our own happiness—really is, to a huge extent, about our relationships with other people.”

 

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.

 

 

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