We turned to Susanne M. Alexander, a marriage coach and author of Pure Gold: Encouraging Character Qualities in Marriage (Marriage Transformations, 2005), to get her insight into some simple but effective ways to make your marriage even better.
1. Lighten up and use humour
One of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your marriage and build a better bond with your spouse is to stop taking each other so seriously. Instead, focus on making one another smile. "Look for ways to light up each other's smile and create happy laughter between you," says Alexander. The more you avoid dwelling on the negative and instead do things that make you happy as a couple, the better off you'll be. "Couples who have fun together are more likely to stay connected," she explains.
2. Engage in thoughtful service
We don't always realize how important simple acts of kindness can be when it comes to improving relationships. Saying "please" and "thank you," doing a chore your partner hates and giving an unsolicited back rub can all go a long way toward strengthening your marriage. "Paying attention and acting to make each other's lives smoother and easier reduces friction and tension in your home," Alexander explains. "Doing nice things for one another helps you both feel grateful for each other and what you have."
3. Express love
This might seem obvious, but once you've been together for several years, you can begin to forget how critical it is to vocalize your feelings. Telling your partner how much you care for him is a small gesture with big impact. "It is vital to know and share the words and actions that regularly let one another know you actively feel love for each other," says Alexander. "Feeling secure in each other's love allows you to have confidence in the health of your marriage." Don't assume your partner knows how you feel; make a point to regularly show him.
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4. Provide encouragement
Everyone needs some words of encouragement, whether they seem like they could use a boost or not. Offering that in your marriage can help bring you and your spouse closer. "Life can easily become too full or very difficult, and confidently expressing support, noticing each other's sincere efforts and celebrating accomplishments are vital for a good marriage connection," Alexander explains. The more you can motivate each other, the happier you're likely to be.
5. Savour intimacy
Our rushed, over-scheduled lives can often make it hard to find time for intimacy, but it's important to make that part of your marriage a priority. "Touch -- through holding hands, hugging, gentle strokes, kissing and sex -- helps you both relax and feel cared for and appreciated," says Alexander. Make sure this happens by scheduling alone time and by cutting out items on your to-do list that aren't necessities. "Set up a regular time to be together as a couple to nurture your marriage," suggests Alexander.
6. Keep growing individually
Being married doesn't mean you no longer have your own life. Yes, you and your spouse are a team and enjoy spending time together, but making time for solo pursuits can benefit your relationship. "Having experiences apart from each other that help you improve individually will help enrich your time together," Alexander says.
Doing things separately means you will have new information and insights to share, and this type of growth can flow into growth as a couple, she explains. "Set goals to improve individually and together to keep your marriage alive."
Every marriage has its ups and downs, but making a few small changes can create a big impact when it comes to improving your relationship. A little bit of effort can go a long way toward minimizing conflict and keeping your partnership on solid ground.
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