4 thoughts that will change your marriage

Right now, divorce rates are sky high in the United States. But you can take the initiative to change your attitude, and perhaps decide the fate of your marriage. You don't have to become one more statistic.

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  • Sometimes, being married is just hard. The divorce rate in the United States wouldn't be 50 percent of all marriages if it was easy. There are times when your spouse does something that makes you think he must be out of his mind. Or times when what you think of as "nagging" has become unbearable. At these moments, it's good to realize that you can take control of your situation.

  • I can't change him, I can only change me

  • Much as you might like to think you have some awesome control or influence over your spouse, he still has his own agency. He will make his own decisions whether you give advice or suggestions or not. Focus instead on what you can change. When your husband forgets for the third time this week to rinse out the sink after he shaves, focus on how you might effectively communicate with him about it or how you might change your reaction to it. When he neglects to compliment you on your new dress or hairstyle, try to think about how you can demonstrate to him the ways you like to be complimented. Place more responsibility on yourself to make the marriage work. Perhaps there are things you do he wishes you would change, too.

  • You will never drift together, you will only ever drift apart

  • Author of the book "To Love, Honor, and Vacuum," Sheila Gregoire said she once read about an experiment conducted off the coast of Brazil. "The scientists," she said "dropped two bottles into the ocean off of a boat at exactly the same time. The bottles had messages in them — contact this phone number for a reward." Just 100 days after they were dropped, one washed up on the coast of Ecuador (to the northwest). The other didn't turn up for a year, but it eventually was found in Tanzania — a country across the Atlantic Ocean and around the tip of Africa.

  • Gregoire used this experiment as an analogy of how marriage works. You might start out at the same spot, but unless you make a conscious effort to remain there, you will drift away. It's natural, but not inevitable. Gregoire suggested husbands and wives should "do things together — anything — every day. Make sure you laugh. Find hobbies. Just be together. Otherwise, you will find yourselves half a world apart without even realizing how it happened."

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  • Focus on the 80 percent, not the 20 percent

  • Another idea is to back up from the situation for a moment. Perhaps make a list of all the things you love about your spouse. What does he do that makes you smile, laugh or makes you feel loved? Douglas A. Abbott, Ph.D. in Child and Family Studies, provided the example of a married man who likes 80 percent of his wife's qualities. He likes that she's "a good cook and homemaker, she shares many of his leisure activities, she manages time wisely" and a number of other positive attributes. However, he doesn't like that she's overweight, not as attractive as she used to be and she doesn't enjoy socializing. Instead of focusing on the 80 percent of his wife that he really loves, the man chooses to get a divorce because of that measly 20 percent that bothers him.

  • Try applying this to your own relationship. Are the things that bother you really just part of the 20 percent of your spouse? What about the other 80 percent that really makes them a terrific person? Maybe you've just been focusing on the wrong things.

  • Do it for yourself

  • There are days at my house where I decide I've had it with the clutter. I'm going to really knuckle down this time. Won't my husband be pleased when he gets home from work and sees how much cleaner the house is? So I vacuum and dust and wipe and sweep, thinking all the time what a great surprise this will be. Then my husband gets home, exhausted from work, plops down on the couch and turns on the TV without glancing around once. It once bugged me that he was so unappreciative. Now I've realized that some things I just need to do for me. I should focus on cleaning because I enjoy a tidy home. I should focus on how much I enjoy a good meal. You'll find your expectations will be much more reasonable for yourself and your husband, and you won't be so disappointed when he doesn't immediately compliment you on your hard work. He is just a guy, after all.

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Katie Nielsen received her bachelor's in English with an emphasis in technical writing. She has taught English and is a published writer.

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