25 Ways to Have a Better Relationship Starting Today

25499221 - old man embracing woman sharpness on the bouquetIt’s what we all want, isn’t it?

A loving and caring relationship. A lasting partnership. A bond that gets better and stronger over time.

If we only knew how.

While having a better relationship requires effort, it isn’t rocket science. There are actions that build loving relationships and actions that all but guarantee unhappiness.

The good news: it’s easy to tell the difference.

More good news: there’s no shortage of healthy moves you can make.

Here are 25 of my current favorites:

1. You know that thing you do that drives your spouse nuts — the wet towel on the floor, the way you sneak a peek at your phone? Why not make a commitment to stop doing that and see what happens?

2. It’s easy to be committed to your marriage when things are going well. True commitment means keeping two feet in when the going gets rough.

3. We all have those chores that no one wants to do. Put one of them at the top of your to-do list, rather than waiting for your spouse to do it. (Yes, even the dreaded call to the cable company.)

4. Say please and thank you. (Your mother was right.)

5. While you’re at it, I’m sorry also goes a long way.

6. Pay less attention to your partner’s role in your difficulties and more attention to your own — it’s the only thing you can control anyway.

7. Generosity may well be the key to happiness. Be loving and generous whenever possible.

8. Know when to shut up (such as, when you’re about to say something critical or mean, or you’re hell-bent on having the last word.)

9. Know when to speak up. Forget about suffering in silence about issues that need to be placed on the table. Never mind settling or making do with conditions you can’t stand. No one is a better advocate for you than you.

10. Practice the three Cs: Compassion. Courage. Curiosity.

11. Accept the fact that truth comes in versions. (As in: It was Tuesday…No it was Wednesday…What do you mean I was angry?) Spoiler alert: you’re likely to fight a lot less.

23797229 - optimistic young woman with glasses of water, isolated on white12. There may be times that one of you is more optimistic about your relationship than the other. Be grateful to your spouse for being optimistic when you aren’t. Sometimes the only thing that gets couples through hard times is that they never wanted to get a divorce on the same day.

13. As the saying goes, we can either be right or free. As far as I’m concerned, being right is overrated.

14. Turn. Off. Your. Phone.

15. One of the advanced skills of marriage is learning to tolerate being disappointed in your partner and learning to tolerate when your partner is disappointed in you. The sooner you accept this, the happier you’ll be.

16. Date nights are great, but not always easy to arrange. Try “speed dating” — as in taking ten minutes to sit down together and give each other your undivided attention. Tea, wine, candle light optional.

17. Long hard day? Too tired to talk? Why not just sit together on the porch and look at the stars?

18. Give up the notion that marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition. Sometimes it’s sixty-forty. Sometimes it’s ninety-ten. Why not put in your best effort no matter what your partner does?

19. When there’s a winner and loser, both partners lose.

20. Feel free to ask for what you want as long as you’re clear that you’re not entitled to get it just because you asked.

21. Be willing to take risks. If we want to grow we have to step out of our comfort zone. Without growth and change everything stays the same whether we like it that way or not.

22. Find as many ways as possible to say I love you — with words and without.

23. Sex doesn’t stay hot and exciting all on its own. Use your imagination. Change things up.

24. Set a high standard for yourself as a partner and then strive to attain it.

25. Relationships are hard. When things are difficult, lean in to the challenge rather than give up or feel defeated. When things are going well, open your heart and appreciate all that you have.

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My book, IT TAKES ONE TO TANGO, is now on sale! I’ll be giving away one more autographed copy.  To be eligible, tell me, in the comments section, which one point on this list you’re going to start doing.

Have a friend who might be helped by this post or my book? Please share!

For info regarding my talks and appearances, as well as news and inspiring cool stuff about relationships, follow me on twitter: @winifredmreilly and Facebook: WinifredMReilly or check out my book website: onetotango.com

It Takes One to Tango. It Doesn’t Take Two.

Back in the early, struggle-filled years of my marriage, the self-help books that I read emphasized love and togetherness. But at the time, my husband and I didn’t feel all that loving, and sometimes I wondered whether staying together was even an option.3D

Many books made it seem like marital strife could be easily corrected. Dozens suggested five or ten or one hundred “simple” things couples can do to be happily married, many of which looked like great ideas for people who were already happy, and utterly useless for couples like us who were in serious distress.

Other books were deeply discouraging, making it seem as if struggling couples were simply mismatched. Marital struggle, it seemed, was an indicator of something having gone terribly wrong: an exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself.

Was everyone else effortlessly using I-statements? I wondered. Were they all being respectful and tolerant, embracing their partner’s uniqueness? Why, then, was the divorce rate so high?

Obviously, lots of people struggle in their marriage. And some forty percent of them give up. Yet nothing I found explained why.

Where was the book called, How to Keep From from Killing Your Partner While You Figure Out Why He Drives You Nuts? I needed that one.

But no such book existed. So I decided to write it myself. Only I’ve called it IT TAKES ONE TO TANGO: How I Rescued My Marriage With (Almost) No Help From My Spouse—and How You Can, Too.

DesignThe party line about marriage is that it takes two. It’s what most people believe and many therapists espouse: Marriage is a two-way street, a fifty-fifty proposition.

We’re told that change in a marriage requires a shared commitment to growth, and that for good things to happen both partners must be willing to put both feet into the process.

But if it really takes two people to fix things, what happens when one partner is deeply discouraged, or has one foot out the door? What if you’re desperately longing for change and your spouse digs in his heels?

Does that mean you should just call it quits?

Conventional wisdom would say that it does.

That’s the problem with the “it takes two” approach. It limits our options. It leaves us powerless, waiting for our partner to meet us halfway, do their fair share, put in an effort that’s equal to ours.

The message in my book is simple and empowering: you only need one partner to create far-reaching positive change in your marriage. No matter how frustrated you are. No matter how long you’ve been stuck.

I know from experience that when one partner takes that first step, behaves in a new way, challenges the status quo, the other will usually follow. Sometimes slowly, not always cheerfully, and often not in the way we imagined. But eventually, both partners become stronger and healthier, and so does the marriage.

One person must take the first step. Why not let that person be you?

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My book is now on sale! As my way of saying thank you for being such loyal and enthusiastic readers, I’ll be giving away autographed copies to three people who answer the following question: As a Speaking of Marriage reader, what’s the most useful piece of marriage advice you’ve gotten from my blog? Tell us a bit about what change it inspired in you or your relationship.

Have a friend who might be helped by my book? Please share!

For info regarding my talks and appearances, as well as news and inspiring cool stuff about relationships, follow me on twitter: @winifredmreilly and Facebook: WinifredMReilly

The Ultimate Garage Cleaner’s Guide to Marriage Repair

A few years ago a client gave me a refrigerator magnet that reads:

image

Yep. I agree.

Especially when one of the chores involves the word garage. That’s how our garage ended up looking like a scene from the reality show where they bring in five guys in hazmat suits while a team of kind social workers comforts the hoarder. Continue reading

How to Have a Happier Marriage — Without Changing a Thing

imageJanuary 1st. The day of fresh starts and new beginnings. The day we vow to eat more green vegetables, actually use our gym membership, and try, once again, to lose those hard to lose pounds.

As we look to the new year, we often focus on ways to be “better” — resolving to do more of what’s good for us and less of what’s not. To (at least most of the time) come from our best.

For a good many of us, finding ways to have a more satisfying marriage is high on our list.

But in our rush for improvement, we overlook this key fact: Continue reading

10 Daily Choices For Building a Marriage That Lasts

There are a hundred paths through the
world that are easier than loving…
But who needs easier?
— Mary Oliver

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before:

Marriage is not a noun, it’s a verb.

bricks_and_trowelIt’s hard to dispute, isn’t it?

Anyone who’s been married longer than, say, a week, knows that marriage requires effort. Not back-breaking-drudgery kind of effort, but make-it-count, put-your-heart-into-it effort.

We build a marriage the way we build a house: day by day, brick by brick, from the ground up. Continue reading

7 Relationship Myths Smart Couples Don’t Fall For

hands-raisedIf you think marriage is hard, raise your hand.

Yep. You and everyone.

Yet, when the going gets rough, it’s as if we develop amnesia about how universally challenging marriage can be and think, instead, that our struggles are a sign that things have gone terribly wrong.

We don’t say, “No big deal. We’ll get through it. All couples struggle.”

What we do is freak out. Continue reading

9 Crucial Questions to Ask Yourself Before Calling the Divorce Attorney

contemplating-divorce-300x199

None of us gets married thinking that five, ten, even twenty years down the line we’d be so frustrated or miserable that we’d be considering divorce. Most of us step into marriage with hope and enthusiasm, determined to have ours be a marriage that lasts.

But marriage is difficult in ways few of us are prepared for. And rarely do we have all the tools we need for success. Nor do we have a guidebook or a road map to make the journey easier. Continue reading