"HOW TO MAKE A GOOD
Little Habits That Can Make All The
Difference" by Mary Ganske
Even the most
happily married couples fall into ruts now and then. You
know, those times when minor irritations override the love and
you feel for each other. To the rescue: a new breed of marriage
aimed at helping happy couples make a good thing even better.
traditional therapy, these workshops -- which range from evening
to weeklong retreats -- don't require participants to sit around
dissecting their relationships and dwelling on what's wrong.
couples learn concrete skills that make any relationship
To tap into these
strategies, Woman's Day mined the top marriage renewal
programs across the country. The result: five ways to improve
communication, smooth over rough spots and get closer than ever
MARRIAGE TIP: TAKE
A MINUTE TO SET UP YOUR DAY TOGETHER
The worksop: The
Marriage Clinic, the Gottman Institute, Seattle
"We tell couples not
to leave home in the morning until they find out at
least one thing that's going to happen to their spouse that day"
John Gottman, Phd., co director of The Gottman Institute. Ask
husband what he's doing on his lunch hour or after work. And
forget to fill him in on your plans.
It's also important
to make sure that at least once a week, perhaps
during dinner, you talk about what really matters. Ask how his
relationship with his boss is going or if he's worried about his
checkup. "You can't get emotionally close if you don't know
about your partner's inner world," says Dr. Gottman.
DISCUSS YOUR EXPECTATIONS
The Workshop: The
Third Option, Syracuse, New York
Everyone enters into
marriage with preconceived notions of how things
should be: We should spend certain holidays with our families,
much money as possible, go to church every Sunday. The key is to
sure you both know what the other person expects, says Patricia
M.S.W, director of Third Option.
disappointed in your marriage, as yourself, 'What did I
expect?' says Ennis. Let's say, for example, that you bristle
time your husband asks you to iron his khakis. In this case,
have assumed you'd be able to send his pants to the cleaners,
your mom did.
Next, you need to
determine if this particular request is realistic.
Perhaps you'd rather not increase your dry-cleaning bill, in
you might rethink your position. In any event, tell him how you
"He may not agree
with you, but at least you'll be opening up the
topic," says Ennis. If you don't verbalize your expectations,
misinterpret your actions and assume you don't care about his
The bottom line: Talk it over and negotiate it.
UPDATE YOUR DREAM LIST
Couple Communication, Evergreen, Colorado
Sit down together at
least once a year -- New Year's or your anniversary
is a good time -- to go over your dreams for the future. These
include things you want to have (a new couch) things you want to
(create a flower garden) and things you want to be (more
better listener). Pinpointing your desires not only helps you
grow as people, but keeps you aligned as a couple.
"We are constantly
changing," says Sherod Miller, Ph.D, co developer of
Couple Communication. Find out if any new dreams have surfaced
and be sure to tell him yours.
Then make an
agreement to help each other achieve one or more of those
goals. For example, he may agree to spend more time with the
you can enroll in a computer class. You may give the thumbs-up
camping trip he's always wanted. Too often, couples harm their
relationships by sabotaging each other's dreams, says Dr.
supporting your partner's goals is is one of the best and
to show you care."
CONTROL THE WAY YOU ARGUE
The workshop: PREP,
Inc. (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement
Every happy couple
has hot-button issues. Even the most compatible pair
yell and scream sometimes. The trick is to contain the
before they spin out of control. "If you handle conflicts
poorly -- with
hostility, nagging, or icy distance -- the love and affection
for each other will erode over time," says Howard Markman, PhD,
of PREP, Inc. and coauthor of "Fighting For Your Marriage".
bet is to head off fights in the first place by bringing up
before they erupt.
When you find
yourselves together with some time to talk, bring up your
concerns: what to do about your ailing mother, how to budget
kids' education, when to renovate the kitchen. That way, you
initiate a debate when you're stressed and likely to lash out,
Markman. If despite your best efforts, the conversation turns
screaming match, call a time-out and agree to revisit the issue
can both be civil.
MARRIAGE TIP: USE
PRAISE TO CHANGE BAD HABITS
National Institute of Relationship Enhancement, Bethesda,
Too often we try to
change our partner by railing about what he's doing
wrong. "Don't drive so fast!" "Why can't you hang up your
But highlighting your spouse's flaws is unproductive. "He'll
defensive and counterattact," says Bernard Guerney, Jr., PHD,
of the Institute.
A better approach is
to explain what you'd like him to do. Instead of
"No one should have to live in such a pigsty" a simple "I'd love
the bedroom weren't so cluttered" will do. The next step is to
praise when he does what you ask" As basic as it sounds, people
behaviors that make them feel good," says Dr. Guerney. Just be
not to temper your approval with digs such as, "That's a good
"It's about time". The more positive you are, the more