9 Steps to a Happier Relationship

couple in a boat

Photo Credit: Creative Commons, ddebold

“Marriage is just THE BEST. Why didn’t I do this sooner?”

“Nothing about our relationship is easy. It’s become like pulling teeth to get him to engage with me.”

I talked to two friends over the weekend and took note of their very different feelings about marriage. I’m always wary to write about marriage, because I have less than two years (in June!) experience . . . but I wanted to share some amazing insights Michael and I have learned. If you are dating, these can work for you too!

9 Steps to a Happier Relationship

1.) Take note of how your current time is spent. Re-prioritize accordingly. If your significant other is supposed to be the most important person in your life, does your time reflect that? It’s easy to stay at the office too late, work on the weekends, and throw ourselves into new projects without realizing how it’s taking a toll on our relationships.

2.)  Thank him for the little things that often go unnoticed. Stop taking his kindness for granted.  Thank him for the way he makes you coffee, gets your oil changed, cooks, or tells you when it’s time to get new running shoes. Life is too short to only focus on the negative!

3.) Write love notes. Michael is amazing at this one. Truly we are missing something in this day and age that just can’t be communicated with texting. Hand-written notes go in this ‘love box’ we keep under the bed for things we want to remember.

4.) Take care of the taxes (or some chore) without complaining. Ok, since taxes are so dreadful, you are allowed to complain once;) I’m the queen of completing a task and then bringing it up three times to make sure Michael remembered how I ‘slaved’ away. Why not try folding all the laundry without a word about it? Love blossoms in the Dean house when we follow this principle.

5.) Avoid absolute statements. “You ALWAYS leave a mess.”; “You never pay the bills on time.” ;”You are ALWAYS late.” Don’t start a war, when you really just need a small firefight. Try: “Hey, I’d love it if you would clean your toothpaste out of the sink.” ; “Could we come up with a new system for bill pay?” ; “Being on time is really important to me…how can I help you be more on time?” I know it may feel like an absolute statement is needed, but it only puts your significant other on the defensive by attacking their character. Better to air on the side of under-playing faults, rather than over-playing.

6.) Plan a vacation. I’ve had several friends suggest vacationing recently as something that has made all the difference in their marriage. If you’re like me, there is always an excuse (#1 Money #2 Time off) but if our spouses are a priority-shouldn’t we think about time to recharge and focus on ‘us’ as a must?

7.) Learn the importance of ‘picking your battles’. A pile of clothes next to the hamper isn’t worth fighting over. Both of you are going to do things that annoy the heck out of the other person, that perhaps you think is so ridiculously nonsensical that you want to scream. Marriage has taught me that I have many more annoying quirks and tendencies than my husband, so I know he practices this one like a champ. Thank you, dear husband.

8.) Cuddle for five minutes before accomplishing your to-do list. If you are a “type A” crazy woman like me, it will do numbers for your relationship if you put the to-do list aside and spend face to face time with your guy. Physical touch is Michael’s love language, so that’s what makes him feel recharged.

9.) Write a list a 100 reasons you love ____________(name) and frame it! About a year ago, I started a list of 100 reasons why I love Michael Dean and I gave it to him this Valentine’s Day. HE LOVED IT. I hope it will be something that our kids will love, offering them security in our relationship. It’s a great way to remember and appreciate the little things about your relationship.

What have you learned in your relationship that you would add to the list?

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13 Responses to “9 Steps to a Happier Relationship”
  1. Michael says:

    Thank you my sweet Ruthie! I love you, and thanks for the cuddles.

  2. Maggie says:

    These are really good things to keep in mind for when Sunny decides to pop the question. I like to think that I do the majority of these at least once (like the love letter). I know what it’s like to get in that ultimatum fight with someone I love and I know that it isn’t the right way to do it, so I have tried my best to avoid those.

    I do wish that I could spend more time with him, but considering we are in a “long distance” relationship (1 hour drive), we’re doing good.

  3. Meagan says:

    I love this list! I’m engaged right now and getting married in July, so these are great to remember and put into practice now. I am going to start working on #9 right away! :)

  4. Sarah says:

    Ouch, #4 and #8 are really hard for me!

    While we were dating, I learned to make a cup of coffee just the way my husband likes it, and now I make him a cup almost every night. (And I let him buy expensive imported Colombian coffee.)

  5. Tatuu says:

    Will sure keep this in mind.

    Thank you for sharing!

  6. Ashlee says:

    Learn how to listen. Sometimes we don’t want advice, we just want to be heard! Also, pray for your spouse. I once committed to spending 30 days praying for Brett, and I wrote all the prayers down in a journal for him. I was amazed at how much it transformed ME, let alone him. It was a great “marriage boost” for us.

    Love the 100 reasons why I love you list idea. I might do that for Brett this year!

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Amen on the wanting to be heard piece. Michael & I now ask each other, “Do you want my input or do you just want to vent?” It has saved us many arguments, methinks:)

      Coming up with 100 reasons was so much fun! I laughed at loud at my computer, as memories came to mind.

  7. Ruthie, what a great post! I especially appreciate the point about picking our battles; storing that one away for when I need it. I also loved the final idea because I wrote my boyfriend “Fifteen Things I Appreciate About You” for V-Day this year…glad to know I’m on the right page! Keep writing!

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