Marriage SOS...Recent research has found that increasingly people long to get married and once married they want to stay that way. In the unsettled times we live in, couples want to develop staying power rather than giving up at the first hurdle.
If you're on the verge of kicking your marriage into touch, take a deep breath, put your best foot forward, dig deep and get back on course with these seven steps:
SOS Step 1 - The Geneva Convention
It may’ve felt like WW3 in your household recently with the cruel jibes and shouted comments targeted with missile-seeking precision to hit their target. So far, so bad! It's time to agree certain ground rules. These should include: stating that you’ll remove yourself from the room if your partner starts shouting, and likewise that you expect them to remove themselves if you let rip! Make an agreement to let each other speak uninterrupted for three minutes at a time, sticking to one issue at a time, and using an egg timer if necessary. Agree that targeting each other's weaknesses plays no part in sorting out your problems - after all it's easy to ridicule your partner’s receding hairline or lack of promotion but that's the quick way to the divorce court.
SOS Step 2 - Take a Breather
Constantly going over the same old ground can wear down any feelings of affection, and this destroys any chance of salvaging things. It's exhausting and can drain any sense of hope that either of you may’ve been harbouring. You begin to think, "What’s worth saving?" Definitely agree a moratorium on arguments and any discussions of your issues for one week. Instead talk about everything besides the things you argue over. At best you might discover you can still have a conversation about something positive or pleasant. At worst you've had a break from the arguing even if it starts again.
SOS Step 3 - Flag-up The Positives
If you've managed to take a breather - and you should try again if it broke down the first time - this serves as a positive platform to start reminding yourselves of why you got together in the first place. There would’ve been positive reasons for falling in love - traits you admired in each other, having the same interests, etc. Hopefully there will be something of these positives left between you. They might’ve been buried under arguments but if they're allowed to see the light of day they might just flourish again. Think about these things daily and find the courage to mention them to your partner. You may be the first one to take this step, leaving you feeling quite vulnerable, but it's worth it.
SOS Step 4 - Go Back to Love-School
It's time to relearn the way you behave to your partner and change the way you speak to them. Would you behave or speak to them in the first year of your relationship, the way you do now? I'm sure it's a resounding No! You've undoubtedly lost the kindness, gentleness and loving way you treated them throughout the years you've spent together. This is the perfect time to surprise them with kinder and more loving treatment. Begin by softening the tone you use when speaking to them. Remove any crankiness and snappiness. Also show some loving behaviour like doing small favours for them and being considerate. You'd be surprised how most partners will react positively and start returning such loving behaviour.
SOS Step 5 - Clean up Your Language
One big mistake couples make, as their relationship goes downhill, is to throw in the "D" word in arguments. If you've mentioned divorce, stop mentioning it now. Relationship research shows that when you repeatedly plant the seed of divorce, your partner starts to see it as an option rather than trying harder to save your relationship. Apart from the "D" word start cleaning up your language generally. Stop yourself from making below-the-belt comments that you know hurt your partner's feelings.
SOS Step 6 - Take Responsibility
Throughout these steps it's important to start taking responsibility for your share of what’s happened to your relationship. It can’t be all your partner's fault that things have gone wrong. You may well have accused them of destroying things but it's never too late to hold your hands up to any bad behaviour on your part. Saying a genuine "sorry" can go a very long way to healing things.
SOS Step 7 - Love Is in the Air
If you've tried these various steps, and hopefully had some success with them, it may be time to rekindle a bit of passion. It's the rare couple that hangs onto any semblance of a sex life when their relationship has been plummeting downhill. Start with simple affection like squeezing their hand when they say something nice to you. Then add in goodbye and hello kisses at each end of the day. Begin to cuddle up with them on the sofa again. Then make your intentions known by telling them you'd love to rekindle things between the sheets.
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An edited version of this article was published in the Express newspaper