Your marriage can either succeed or fail, and millions of marriages just barely survive. But you have to decide whether you want to a 50%-marriage… or whether you want to get a distinction in marriage happiness.

If you were like most students, your aim at varsity was to do just well enough to pass your subjects. You attended parties and put fun first and only at number 99, attended to your duties, and bribed, threatened or pleaded for notes! During the exams it was blood, sweat and tears. Would you make it or not…? Now, years later, you are probably the parents of students, preaching to your children not to do the same. After all, it is not pleasant to constantly worry about whether you would pass or fail… because you know better. You are wise and have greater perspective on your children’s future happiness.

Marriage is similar. If you only do what is necessary to keep head above water, you will live in a constant state of fear, distress and close calls. The difference is: Back then you were young and carefree; today you have much more to lose. However, if you work on your marriage every day, you can remain confident in your marriage even during tough times, without worrying whether your relationship would survive…

So, what you want is not a marriage that can go either way, but rather one that is so healthy that, even when something unforeseen happens, you can be sure that you have enough reserves to survive whatever life throws at you. This way, you can make your marriage not just good, but remarkable:

  1. Agree to disagree sometimes. Of course, you would prefer to never fight, to always agree and for your marriage not to be exposed to anything that would rock the boat. Unfortunately, that is not the reality and the sooner you accept that it is okay to sometimes disagree, the better for you and your marriage.
  2. Accept that you cannot change your spouse. Naturally, every couple strives to improve each other and you also hope that your partner will help you to become the best version of yourself. But you have to make sure that you are okay with marrying the person you know now and not the one that you hope he or she will turn into.
  3. Work at becoming an excellent listener. Many of us think that we are already good listeners, but very few of us truly listen to our partners with the aim to hear them (not to just formulate our response) and to better understand them.
  4. Sensor your date nights. Yes, we know that it is extremely difficult not to talk about your daughter’s netball tour or to discuss your son’s new stuttering problem, but if you want to call it a date night, you have to exclude the BEWIK topics, according to Michael Bloomberg, whose datenightology programme is intended to help couples reconnect. The BEWIK off-limit topics are bills, exes, work, in-laws and kids.
  5. Always start your sentences with “I feel” instead of “You”. Truly focus on your own feelings. Don’t say: “I feel that you are hurting me”, but rather say: “I feel hurt because I feel that I am not being heard.”
  6. Understand that you are not opponents, but teammates. This is very important! As long as you fight to win, your marriage will always lose. But if you put the well-being of your marriage first, you can be sure that your relationship will benefit.
  7. Weigh your words over and over. Words are very dangerous weapons – and when fired at explosive times, they are even more dangerous than usual! When you speak without thinking, rather walk away from the conversation before you say something that causes so much damage that you will regret it later. Even if you later say that you didn’t mean it, the words can never be erased from your spouse’s mind.
  8. Intentionally make contact. In an ideal world, a couple would continually touch each other, kiss whenever they walk past each other and fall asleep cuddling each other every night. In reality, it doesn’t quite work like this, so it is important for a couple to intentionally touch each other. Eye contact, touch, sex and other romantic gestures must become a deliberate action – do not rely on spontaneity.
  9. Do at least one fun thing a week. Go out for ice cream, make out on the trampoline, enjoy a beautiful sundowner together, skinny dip in the ocean or have a conversation while imitating a foreign accent.
  10. Cool down if necessary. Don’t say something you’ll regret. If you feel your blood boiling, rather walk away from the situation and give yourselves half an hour to cool down. A UCLA study has found that couples who fight while they are mad at each other, are more likely to end up divorced ten years later, than couples who used time to cool down.
  11. Bite your tongue before criticising your partner. We all do it… and we all do it before we think. It can cause great harm to the bond of trust between you. There are several ways to convey a message. Carefully consider and then reconsider what you want to say and, as far as possible, refrain from criticism that can hurt your partner.
  12. Talk to your partner every day. When we say “talk”, we are not referring to making everyday arrangements. We are also not talking about family chats, but about exclusive conversations between you and your partner. Without any outside input, only you two. And only with each other.
  13. Shorten the physical distance between you. When you and your partner sit on the couch together, move closer to each other. When you sit across from each other at a table, lean in to get closer. When you are standing around, stand against each other. By shortening the physical distance between you two, you will also get closer emotionally.
  14. Invest in a good financial advisor. Finance is one of the main causes of failed marriages. Financial burdens, debt, different spending habits and financial secrets are all things that can damage a marriage. Therefore, make sure that you get a good mediator who can help you manage your finances optimally.
  15. Don’t allow problems to linger. Sometimes you just don’t want to fight. Especially when things have been going so well for a while. You don’t want to raise any issues and you are not up for a long drawn out fight that you know will follow your comment. However, the problem with suppressing an issue that is bothering you, is that it will erupt uncontrollably at a later stage – and that is something you don’t want. Rather deal with a problem before it becomes a crisis!

Keep to these fifteen tips and you will see a remarkable difference that will make your marriage rise above the rest!

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Article by Annelize Steyn