Have you ever felt stuck in a pattern of negative interaction with your spouse? You know those moments, about two years into marriage where it feels like you can somehow go a week with constant miscommunication or maybe work stress starts seeping into your home life and you become short and impatient with one another? It’s so unlike you guys. But surprise, surprise, here you are…stuck in the negativity abyss.
I’ve certainly felt that way in my own marriage. Nothing was clearly wrong, no big disagreement or fallout to blame, just a series of days where the chasm between us seemed to grow and irritability dominated our tone with one another. It’s very common in marriage. After all, we are human, and our moods shift sometimes like the wind. But if we don’t put a lid on the negative cycle, layers of resentment can begin to pile up and it can be harder to find our way back to happiness.
So what do we do? How can you shift a pattern of irritation in your marriage?
It’s simple really. Be nice.
I know that sounds like elementary school advice, but your first grade teacher actually knew what she was talking about. The more you express kindness toward your partner, the more you build up positive regard for one another and the tides of communication begin to change. It’s really hard to be annoyed by someone who is telling you how great you are. And when your partner affirms or recognizes something you’ve done during the day, it’s hard to feel unappreciated or invisible. Instead you feel known, connected, and valued.
So I recommend trying a quick trick I use with almost every couple I see in marital therapy. I always begin our sessions together by having each partner tell the other one thing they have appreciated about the other person that week. It can be a big statement (like I’m so grateful for how you stuck up for me when your mom was criticizing the way I parent) or something minuscule (like I appreciate how you loaded the dishwasher this morning). There is always something to be grateful for no matter how bad your marriage feels. Let me repeat. There is always something. I haven’t found one couple yet who is at a loss for something to say about their spouse and I often work with couples on the brink of divorce or recovering from affairs. If it’s hard to identify something, think harder. We’ll wait.
It’s your turn to put this into practice. Try committing to telling your spouse one thing you appreciate about them everyday for one week. Better yet, grab my “I’m Grateful for You” free download and follow the template to do this simple activity that will enrich your marriage. Be sure to let me know how it goes in the comments below or shoot me an email.