With the new year upon us, this is a good time to review four relationship-strengthening “exercises” and “diet” suggestions that will improve your marital health.
1. Exercise your love. Love is an active verb, not just a state of being. Being “in love” means nothing unless you put it in action. Start by identifying your spouse's strengths and complimenting them regularly.
Show affection throughout the day with kind words, helpful acts, spending time together and gentle touches on the arm or shoulders. Exercising love also means taking time to have fun together and making your romance and sex life a priority.
2. Exercise financial restraint. Money is the No. 1 point of contention for most couples. Exercise your brain and your fingers by making a list of your monthly bills and determining what you actually need (not what you want) to get by.
Use your income to pay the necessities and to pay off your credit cards. (The interest and late fees on credit cards will kill your finances and wreak havoc on your marriage.) No matter how much you and your spouse want that new thing (pontoon boat, flat-screen TV, etc.), wait until your credit cards are paid off and you can pay cash.
3. Eliminate the negatives from what you verbally dish out to your spouse. A constant diet of insults, smart-alecky comments, and putdowns will kill a marriage. Comments like “You're so stupid!” “Why don't you look good like she does?” or “Why can't you be like him?” attack the person, not the problem. They inflict wounds that may never heal. When we're verbally assaulted, we create emotional distance to protect ourselves. It isn't possible to feel intimate with someone you must hold at a distance.
It's important to keep your marriage realistic with honest statements, which allow your spouse to know what you like and don't like. But word your criticisms as positive solutions of the issue, not disrespectful remarks about the person.
Saying, “The blue shirt looks fine, but I think you look absolutely fantastic in the red shirt” is different than saying “Why on earth would you wear blue? Are you completely color blind or just plain ignorant?”
4. Make love exercises a regular ritual. An essential aspect of any exercise program is making it an unshakeable routine in your life, by picking a convenient time and then exercising the same time every day. The same should be true for love exercises, rituals in your relationship that emotionally connect you with your spouse.
The best times for love exercises are times of transition, when you're going from one activity to another: When you first wake up in the morning, when you're about to separate for the day, when you first get back together again in the evening, and when you're about to go to sleep at night.
Take a minute or two to hug each other, rubbing each other's backs in the process, and end the hug with a long kiss. Make these special times, something you both look forward to.
Following these four exercises will keep your marriage in top condition, vibrant and passionate, and will strengthen the heart of your relationship.
©2012, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan's website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.