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3 Good Habits To Strengthen Your Marriage
by Lee Hefner
How good is the quality of your marriage right now? Your answer will depend in large part on the quality of the habits you and your spouse practice.
We are all creatures of habit. Habits are those patterns of behavior that you’ve learned to the point where they are automatic and unconscious. The tone of your marriage is largely set by habitual ways you and your spouse think and behave with each other.
Have you ever stopped to really look at the habits you use in relating to your spouse? Probably not, unless someone has asked you this question before. Most of us behave on automatic pilot, without taking time to consider if we should do things differently.
Think about it. What is your automatic reaction when you disagree with something your spouse says? How does he (or she) normally respond when he gets angry with you? Do you use sarcasm or put downs? Or do you typically listen with respect, even when you disagree? Do you criticize your spouse often? Or do you focus on what he’s doing right and compliment him for it?
Whatever exactly happens in your marriage, you’ll notice that certain patterns are repeated over and over again. The habits that you and your spouse have adopted play a major role your relationship and can determine its ultimate success or failure. The good habits can affirm and sustain your marriage; bad habits can destroy it.
The good news is that even if your marriage is going downhill, or it’s not where you’d like it to be, chances are it could be improved by reevaluating the habits you and your spouse have adopted in relating to each other.
You’ve heard the saying “What goes around comes around?” In Eastern philosophy, it’s known as the Law of Karma. It basically says that you get what you sow.
This is true in a marriage as well. Regarding habits, this means that if you can identify and work on changing your own habits that cause disharmony and conflict in your marriage into ones that engender love and respect, your spouse will be more likely to respond in kind.
You can start doing three things to strengthen marriage-enriching habits:
#1. Make goodwill deposits -
The idea here is that couples have emotional “bank accounts” with each other.
Whenever you do something nice for your partner you are making a goodwill deposit with that person. But when you do something irritating you are making a goodwill withdrawal.
Deposits can be strokes of affection, a gesture of respect, an acknowledgement for something the other has done, or a sincere compliment to the other person.
#2. Chose alternate words -
When you’re angry with your spouse, substitute “I” statements for “you” statements.
For example, instead of saying “You make me furious when you come home late,” say “I get furious when I have dinner waiting and don’t know that you’re going to be late.”
“You” statements come across as more accusing and attacking. When you choose “I” statements instead, you are taking full responsibility for your feelings. You do less harm to the relationship by avoiding personal attacks on your spouse.
#3. Take responsibility for your part in any conflict -
Say the words “I’m sorry for my part in what happened” whenever you have a chance to make up after a fight.
Whatever the situation, in saying these words, you acknowledge that every argument has two sides and that each of you share the responsibility for what happens in the marriage. Humility goes a long way in patching things up.
Even if your partner doesn’t take responsibility for his (or her) part in things, set a healthy example by your actions.
The simple act of being open to changing your own habitual behavior requires courage. But the rewards can be substantial.
You may find the quality of your marriage spirals upward to heights you never imagined. And while forming better relationship habits takes some effort, the results feel so good that they become addictive.
You condition yourself and you condition the relationship itself in a way that becomes habit forming when it feels that good.
The following passage by an anonymous author expresses the enormous power of the habits in your life:
“I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command. Half the things you do you might just as well turn over to me, and I will be able to do them quickly, correctly.
I am easily managed -- you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons I will do it automatically. I am the servant of all great people; and alas, of all failures as well. Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a human being. You may run me for a profit or turn me for ruin -- it makes no difference to me. Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you.
Who am I? I am habit.”
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Posted by Jessica Watts at 10:52 AM