Are you getting tired of obsolete marriage advice? You know you have to say nice things, listen properly, compliment your partner and send him/her sexy WhatsApp messages. You know you need to initiate sex, flirt (with your partner) and see him/her as your teammate. But what else can you do to go the extra mile for your marriage?

“If I have to read one more time that I should schedule date night, I will lose my mind!” Does that sound like you? Yes, we are bombarded with information about how, where and why we need to invest in our marriages … and sometimes it has a negative effect.

The smart people call it “semantic satiation” or “semantic saturation”, a psychological phenomenon in which repetition causes words to lose their meaning to the listener, who only absorbs them as repeated, meaningless sounds. Eish!

When a school teacher shouts all the time, this tactic loses its impact and the children might then only listen as soon as she whispers. When you constantly nag your partner to fix the dishwasher pipe, after a while your words will no longer have any effect and only a flooded kitchen will get through to him.

Unfortunately, there is a reason why a cliché is a cliché. It bears value! And the reason why you hear the basics of marriage success so much, is because the experts have found that those are the things that really work. But since our theme this month is “remarkable”, we eagerly screened the clichés to find some brand-new ideas for your marriage:

FRESH TIP #1: Know that a marriage is not 50/50!

Yes, you heard right. Marriage is not always 50/50. In an ideal world, each of you would contribute exactly the same amount to your marriages every day. But in reality, the sum does not always equal 100%. Or the total might be 100%, but the fractions are not equal. There are days when your partner is physically exhausted and you are full of energy. There are days when he is full of creative ideas for your future, but you are struggling to look past the can of spaghetti you are having for dinner! It is a seesaw, a back and forth, an exchange deal. Balance in a marriage is fluid and as long as each one can say at the end of the road that their contribution was about 50%, everything is fine.

FRESH TIP #2: Fake it ‘till you make it!

Put on a sexy outfit, eat oysters, have naughty conversations … you can follow all this advice and still not be in the mood for sex. You may not even be in the mood for hugs or spooning – especially not when you have struggled with administrative issues all day while three toddlers where hanging on you. But if, every night, you give yourself a good reason not to be intimate with your spouse, your marriage will not survive. Don’t wait for the mood to find you – it may only happen when your marriage is already in trouble. Sometimes you just have to put on a show worth an Oscar. Kiss, hug, phone to just say hello (even if you don’t feel like it at all!). You may be surprised to see how your partner’s reaction affects your mood …

FRESH TIP #3: Be influenceable.

A study amongst heterosexual marriages found that a relationship succeeds based on how much a man can be influenced by his wife. Now that doesn’t mean that all of a sudden you have to start crying with her when you’re watching romcoms. Nor that she has to control your calendar. But imagine this situation: She comes to you with a request: “I have a deadline. Can you please look after the kids this afternoon?” Your answer: “No, I have a date with the rugby game between South Africa and New Zealand this afternoon. I have already bought the beer!” Hmm, red lights. Research shows that women are already conditioned to accept being influenced by their partners, but if their husbands don’t attempt to do the same, you are not really in a partnership and that can harm your relationship.

FRESH TIP #4: Accept the once-a-day challenge

When you got married, you weighed your words. You didn’t want to hurt your partner. But fast forward ten years later and there is no censorship! You say whatever you think. Beware, warns the experts. Before you know it, you will snap at each other all the time. A marriage cannot thrive if one party feels that they are criticised more than they are admired. Set yourself a challenge: Only one piece of criticism per day! Decide what matters most. Is it important for your partner to know that you are disappointed because he had forgotten your mother’s birthday, or is the real issue that you feel hurt because he called you Missus Big Spender? When you have decided, limit your comment to three sentences,” suggests psychologist Harriet Lerner, author of “Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and Coupled Up”. Do this for the long run and you will start seeing each other in a positive light again and remember why you fell in love with each other, Lerner says.

FRESH TIP # 5: Work on your tone of voice

You may think that a greeting is a greeting, is a greeting … But when it comes to spouses, tone of voice plays a bigger role than what you think. When she arrives home, do you greet her with a “Hi” as if you have saw her five minutes ago? Or do you get up and sound really happy that she is home? The way you and your partner greet each other when you haven’t seen each other for a few hours, can determine the rest of the day or evening. Greet your partner with a hug and a kiss and show her how happy you are to see her again. Notice the impact when you do this and report back to us!

FRESH TIP #6: Create a half-year anniversary

Our celebrations in South Africa are far too few. Can you remember how special your first wedding anniversary was? Should you really wait 365 days before you can celebrate your marriage again? Calculate your half-year anniversary and make a note in your calendar. If you can go away as a couple twice a year, it will mean a lot for your marriage. Enjoy a romantic weekend-getaway on your wedding anniversary and for your six-month anniversary. You can even take it one step further and decide to celebrate your marriage every month. If you got married on 16 February, celebrate it every month on the 16th by doing something small for your partner. And if you need a guideline, use Gary Chapman’s five love languages. Give your partner a small gift, a nice compliment, a suggestive touch, take over a horrible task to do and spend quality time together.

FRESH TIP #7: Don’t delay your partner’s requests

Of course, we cannot always immediately get to everything our partners want us to. But your partner is too often the one who “will understand” and the one who “can wait patiently”. Life is busy, but if your partner asks you, for example, to search for something online or to book airline tickets, make it an important priority. By showing your partner how important his/her requests are to you, you are showing him/her how important he/she is to you. Sure, if you don’t get to it right away, it doesn’t mean that he/she is not important to you, but placing the request above that of others, can work wonders for your marriage.

FRESH TIP #8: Make an effort to connect with your spouse’s inner circle

Here, we are not talking about family – it goes without saying that you will make an effort for them. We are referring to your partner’s friends. By really trying to get to know them, it will mean so much for your partner. And by spending time with them too, it can help you to see your partner in a different (hopefully better!) light. It can reveal cute character traits that you didn’t even know about! For example, who would have guessed that your calm and quiet partner is actually the office clown? Or how your big, first-team lock handled the first-year student with dearness when he was crying? When his friends come to visit, make real effort to get to know them better. Phone them on their birthdays and send gifts to their children …

FRESH TIP #9: Weigh up the personal against the practical

More than one study has found that when one spouse travels more than 45 minutes to work, the couple is 40% more likely to get divorced! (However, there are certain clauses that need to be mentioned… If you do it for longer than five years, the risk is only 1%. And if you have travelled before you got together, you are also much less likely to divorce than those who had to get used to it later in their relationship.) So, is taking that N1-route every day really worth it? Another study found that a 40% increase is needed to justify an extra hour’s travel when it considering personal satisfaction and fulfilment. What do your work demands cost your relationship? Look at the bigger picture… and definitely consider the health of your marriage when you contemplate things like working conditions.

FRESH TIP #10: Make adventure part of your marriage

To start dating is new and fresh and an amazing adventure! Getting married is also a wonderful, exciting adventure. But when that first feelings of falling in love makes way for being in love, and routine becomes part of your daily life, it is important to make sure that adventure forms part of your marriage. Anthropologist and relationship expert, Helen Fisher, says that “research shows that novelty – taking risks or trying something new – can accelerate the release of dopamine in the brain”. It can involve any new and unknown experience: A new type of food, a drive in a race car, a visit to a new country. It is important to keep learning, growing, and tackling new things together in a marriage.

And as tired as you are for all the advice that sounds like work, remember that the happiest couples are those who set high standards for their marriage. The couples who are aiming for an exceptional marriage! Couples who do not tolerate hurtful behaviour from each other. Couples who pray and believe and work and focus. We believe that you are such a couple!

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Article by Annelize Steyn