7 awful habits that surprisingly strengthen your marriage

Keeping your life and marriage in balance may mean learning to be a little more selfish with your time and learning to say no.

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  • You've been told your whole life to play nice and share. When it comes to marriage, sometimes you have to play a little dirty.

  • Be selfish

  • Everyone wants you to do something, and because you're a nurturer, you tend to say yes. Every. Single. Time. From helping a friend move to volunteering at your kid's school, you face lots of demands on your precious 24 hours. Say yes when you can, but say no when it interferes with your couple time. Guard your priority of making your time with your hubby the most important part of your day.

  • Question everything

  • Men and women, even married people, are becoming increasingly independent. While it's healthy to have some independence in your relationship, be sure to question whether each decision is best for the marriage, not for either individual.

  • Keep secrets

  • Say the actual words "I love you" often and back them up with acts of kindness — at least once every day. But also develop secret code words that translate into "I love you" and try to use them in public settings. Instead of pig Latin or geek speak, come up with your own form of lovers' lingo that only you two understand and speak it often.

  • Flirt

  • Catch your husband's eye and smile. Play footsie under the table. Brush past him a little too closely. Do the things that make you feel seductive. Playing on your feminine wiles reconnects a part of you with a part of him that both of you need. Make an invitation — subtle or overt — and then be sure to show up for the party.

  • Gossip

  • Emotional security is important to both women and men, though men might not admit it. When you tell each other secrets, with complete confidence that it won't get back to your mother or his best friend, other areas in your marriage will be stronger and you will improve your relationship as a couple.

  • Hang up on people

  • Look around the next time you're in a restaurant. Very likely, more than half the people will be on their phones. We have a need to connect; start by connecting with the people you are with physically. Create and enforce "no-tech" boundaries in your marriage. Make a no-tech rule for the dinner table and the bedroom. Limit your bedroom to two activities ... texting should not be one of them.

  • Be touchy

  • Humans need physical touch. Yes — that kind — and also nonsexual touches like cuddling, dancing and leaning your head on his shoulder. Experts conclude you need at least eight hugs a day. Hug your husband every day — quick little "bro hugs" and at least one good long embrace. Hold hands every chance you get — when you are walking, driving, watching a movie or sitting in church. On your pew, put the parents in the middle and the kids on either side.

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  • 7 flaws your husband has that you should absolutely love
  • We rarely hear it, but sometimes we need to cultivate "marriage focused" habits to support our marriages and families. In a world that's becoming increasingly filled with information and entertainment, we are often encouraged to do good externally by traveling to foreign lands or fighting to protect the environment. This is important, but we are rarely encouraged to fight for our most immediate environment, our marriages. Doing good for the world, starts at home. Pope Francis recently said, "Although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well. It is therefore essential that we foster a new Human Ecology."

  • No matter how long you have been married, it's important to find ways every day to reconnect and nurture that relationship with your closest friend.

  • For more insights on strengthening your marriage, visit Humanum.it

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Shelly Norman has worked as a journalist for 25 years, both on the editing and writing side. She has a bachelor's degree in communication.

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