Daily, we are bombarded with grand gestures of love and idealistic relationships. The things we see online and in the movies want us to believe a perfect relationship cannot include the struggles of real life...but the truth is a relationship cannot be perfect without them. While the things we see on TV may not be realistic, it is possible to strive for an imperfect marriage full of love, unity and communication. Here are seven small, very doable ways to push forward and find perfection in our relationships:
1. Make small talk until it becomes real talk
This sounds weird, I know, but this suggestion is a lot like the old "fake it til you make it" adage. A good marriage is full of good communication, so if you are having communication issues, jumping into an emotional discussion is not going to go well. First, learn how to talk to your husband again and once the small, day to day, talk comes easy, then you know you are ready for the bigger, more emotionally fraught talks you have been dying to have. Choose to small talk and watch as it becomes real talk.
Don't just smile and nod and "oh" and "awe" at the right places, but actually listen. To make sure you are listening and you really understand, repeat the conversation back to your spouse in your own words. If you aren't sure what's being discussed say something like, "I know you said..., but what do you think about...?" By simply listening, repeating and clarifying, communication within your marriage will flourish.
3. Laugh more
A friend once told me you can't fake laugh for 10 seconds without actually laughing. I have, of course, tried to defy this statement many times, and I have yet to do it. Laughter is contagious, even if it is fake, so choose to see the humor in every situation. Instead of getting angry or sad, choose instead to laugh and watch joy spill into your marriage and brighten your life.
4. Go to bed at the same time
Sleep is important for yourself, but going to bed at the same time as your spouse has many hidden benefits for your relationship. Going to bed at the same time as your spouse creates an ideal time for cuddling and talking, two things that strengthen your relationship. According to Psychology Today, 75% of couples do not go to bed at the same time, and report more marital conflict and unhappiness. Even if it can only be managed a few nights a week, going to bed at the same time as your partner is proven to improve your marriage.
It is human nature to be competitive. We subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) keep score in everything, but it becomes a real problem when we start keeping score in a marriage. When you start tallying all the little chores you have done and then put them in competition with his apparent lack of chore-doing, you are not promoting equality in your marriage, but killing it. You are both on the same team; stop competing and stop keeping score.
6. Put your phone away
Cell phones are great and, when used correctly, can really enhance a relationship. But when you are both home for the night, put the phones away. Take the time you would have spent checking social media and playing games and give it to your spouse. Use that time to be together in the same place and then pick your phone back up in the morning.
I couldn't complete this list without a few of the timeless ways to improve any relationship - Be the one to apologize first. Apologizing is a hard thing and when both partners are too stubborn to do so, the littlest, most inconsequential things, build and build until your marriage implodes. Don't make that mistake. If it is something of little consequence, then have the courage to swallow your pride and apologize. You won't regret it. Also, make sure your spouse knows they are appreciated. Say thank you for the things they do for you daily and make sure they know how much you love them. Gratitude goes a long way for any relationship, but goes even further in a marriage.
Marriage is a giant commitment and the requirements for success are high, but they are not unattainable. Do these little things as often as you can and watch your marriage flourish!