Sometimes, the best advice given to people in a relationship is common sense, uncommonly used--as in, do unto your mate as you'd like done to you. As a lawyer, a couples mediator, and the author of the bestseller Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In, people turn to me for relationship advice. Today, I share some tips to create the superglue to keep your relationship strong and healthy.
1. Maintain a positive daily communication routine. Every couple has a communication routine. What's yours? Kind or rude? Either way, you and your mate can easily upgrade your daily routine: 1) Say "Good morning" cheerfully, not "You have to take care of the...." And before you go to sleep, always say, "Good night." 2) When you return home at the end of the workday, say "Hello" and give your mate a warm hug or kiss; don't head for the mail, your cellphone, or computer. 3) Thank your mate for something every day, such as emptying the garbage, putting the kids to bed, or working hard to provide for your family. Be grateful that your mate is doing things that add value (big or small) to the family. Lastly, 4) say, "I love you because..." and fill in the blank with something thoughtful that your mate did that day, such as calling/texting you to find out how your meeting or doctor's appointment went. Act, think, and talk like lovemates, not roommates.
2. Pay your mate. Give the priceless gift of words. When you're in a loving relationship, you take on the job responsibility of being your mate's head cheerleader, and if you aren't fulfilling that role, you're leaving a job opening for someone else. How exactly do you cheerlead? We did a Fight Less, Love More study and found that when we asked people whether they'd prefer their mate compliment them for being good-looking or for being kind, 84 percent chose kind. Our character is a key part of what brought us together, and it's the glue that keeps us together. When was the last time you verbally recognized a positive character quality (like being generous, thoughtful, compassionate) in your mate?
3. Issue non-refusable offers. Volunteer! Say, "I insist that I help with..." Routinely offer to help your mate with chores, kids, and time off without guilt. Don't wait for your honey to ask or beg you for a favor. As our love relationship becomes a fixed part of our life, it's natural that what we come to expect, we come to neglect. We often show our kindest selves to strangers and colleagues, while we leave emotional scraps for our mate, who we presume will be there tomorrow, and we assume knows we love him/her. Be aware of these deadly presumptions and assumptions. Shower your mate with kind offers that she/he will enjoy and reciprocate.
4. Have good fights. Happy couples do fight. Couples who say they never fight are dishonest, or perhaps one member of the couple acts like a doormat (and by the way, research shows that over a 10-year period women who report keeping their mouths shut during arguments with their spouses have a four times greater risk of heart disease, as compared to women who speak up). The goal in a good fight is to reach a solution so you avoid never-ending battles. Ask neutral questions ("Why do you think that?") and listen to the answers, then give your opinion. Good fights end with a solution. Bad fights don't. At the start of a fight, you and your mate will have different ideas about how to solve the problem at hand. Discard both ideas and come up with a joint solution. The fact is, when all parties participate in creating a resolution, they are more likely to comply.
5. Seek instant gratification. Yes, be rewarded today! Most couples counseling is a long-term process, but the simple strategies found in Fight Less, Love More give you the communication tools to quickly fix and enrich your relationship. Want to jump-start love today? Then try one of my 30-Second Love Plays, the Eyeball to Eyeball Love Play: Gently put your hand on your mate's shoulder, look him/her in the eye, and say, "Honey, I really love you. You are incredible. I am so grateful to have you in my life." When was the last time you said something like this to your mate? Say it today and see the results for yourself!