life advice
9 Ways to Make Your Marriage Shine This Year
Itís the perfect time to tune-up your marriage. Here are 9 tips to get you started.

The beginning of the new year is the perfect time to create shifts that will make your marriage better and brighter. Whether youíve been married for months or years, rusty habits can settle in quickly and lead to unhealthy patterns that wear on a marriage over time.

Although we donít think twice when itís time to tune-up a car, check-in with the doctor, or visit the dentist for teeth cleaning, most couples donít pause to give the same care to their relationship. Knowing the priceless nature of marital connection, it makes sense that even the best of marriages can benefit from regular tune-ups and care.

SoÖ with an eye to preserving and nurturing the most valuable relationship of all, thereís no time like today to give your marriage the ďTLC tune-upĒ it deserves! Set aside some quiet time with your sweetheart and explore these easy-to-follow tips that are sure to nurture your relationship in the months to come!

1. Focus on the moment. In our busy world, we are often pressed to focus on the future, on what weíve yet to accomplish, and on what weíve left undone. Your relationship deserves regular timeouts that allow you and your spouse to enjoy the moment without any pressure of what lies ahead or what was left behind. Learn to enjoy your partner in the present by taking walks together, sitting together on the couch reading to each other, playing games in front of the fire, or simply cuddling and kissing. In these quiet, precious times, you can learn to enjoy the beauty of your sweetheart and your marriage without interference from your busy brain or the outside world. Indeed, days pass all too quickly, and we often forget the magic that waits in the sweetness of a kiss, the light in our belovedís eyes, or the sparkle of shared laughter.

2. Practice listening. Good communication is the heart of any solid relationship. Learning to truly listen to your husband or wife can be one of the greatest challenges in a marriage. If you find yourself "spacing out" while your sweetheart is talking, work on staying tuned in and focused. If you find that you are preparing responses even while your partner is talking, this is a sure indicator that you are focused more on what is important to you than what your spouse is sharing. As well, if you find yourself interrupting your partner with "if," "but," or "you should," this is a telltale sign that you are putting your opinion and needs ahead of your partnerís thoughts. Sadly, these patterns not only make your spouse feel unheard and disregarded, but also prevent the open communication that enlivens both partners and promotes bonding in the relationship.

“ If you find that you are preparing responses even while your partner is talking, this is a sure indicator that you are focused more on what is important to you than what your spouse is sharing.”

3. Scan for success. It can be all too easy to recall the mistakes and difficulties, so take the time to notice and appreciate the successes and joysósmall and largeóthat have dotted the landscape of your life together. Pause to look at the elements that have enriched your marriage and your personal lives over the past year. As you share with each other, focus on what you did that felt productive, enlivening, and bonding. By taking the time to acknowledge and share both your individual and joint successes, you will naturally retain and recall those memories more frequently. As with any behavior, that which we focus on will become more and more a part of our neurobiology! Give great attention to the successful elements of your lives!

4. Set couple goals for the new year. As you move into another year together, itís important to create goals for your partnership. Some objectives may be sensible and businesslike, such as paying off the car loan or setting up a savings account, while other important goals may be less pragmatic, such as taking a summer vacation or diving into a lovely bathroom remodel. Itís important to also include goals for the relationship that might include weekly date nights, walks together, or other bonding activities. Whatever your joint objectives might be, make them simple and user-friendly to avoid feeling discouraged or overwhelmed. Craft goals that you both find attainable and positive! Then, make a commitment to each other to follow through to make the goals become reality! Your marriage is worth every bit of effort you give to it!

“ Your marriage is worth every bit of effort you give to it!”

5. Practice supporting. Many couples get off track by leading separate lives. Itís important to be an independent individual, yet itís also vital for couples to create interdependence. Otherwise, spouses ultimately grow apart and move their separate ways; a void results and leaves two disengaged people leading disconnected lives. In the end, such a marriage is nothing but a shell. When a couple practices supporting each other, bonding results. Creating supportive communication and interdependence takes time and energy, yet the benefits are astounding. There are many ways to practice supporting your partner:
a) Listen quietly to work-world issues.
b) Remember that your greatest gift of support can be simply to listen, not to fix.
c) Leave supportive love notes in easy-to-spot places.
d) Make your partner a cup of tea or hot chocolate.
e) Notice when your partner is "off" and invite sharing.
f) If your partner asks for your help, follow through with actions that show your support.
g) Take an interest in your spouse's work by displaying attentiveness to work accomplishments, etc.
h) Offer daily doses of hugs, kisses, and other connective ways of showing that you love and support your partner.

Create a list of your own; keep it in your wallet or purse, and let your spouse know that they really matter!

6. Share individual goals for the new year. Just as your marriage will benefit from joint goals, individual goals will keep you moving forward in life. As you share your individual goals with your spouse, remember to set your sights on targets that are achievable and revisable. Many resolutions fail because the goals are big and overwhelming. Other resolutions are left by the wayside after one or two disappointments along the way. For example, many a weight loss program is abandoned entirely after a prohibited sweet or fatty dinner is gobbled. When partners team-up to supportónot nagóeach other, individual goals may seem more achievable. If disappointments arise, a caring spouse can offer support and loving guidance to keep the journey moving ahead. Your husband or wife will be truly appreciative, and your marriage will benefit from the positive bonding experiences!

“ The more you foster kindness and compassion in your marriage, the more it will take root and become part of your own daily life.”

7. Practice nurturing compassion. Most of us start off the new year with wild hopes that the days and months ahead will be a breeze. Although it pays to have a positive attitude, life brings a fair share of losses and challenges. So as you move into the year ahead, make a renewed commitment to yourself and your spouse that you will be there through thick and thin. Take the time to look into your partnerís eyes and confirm that your love and support will not fade when things get trying. When you repeat such vows to your spouse, you are affirming your devotion. As you utter the words aloud, you also benefit by hearing your own nurturing and compassionate voice. The more you foster kindness and compassion in your marriage, the more it will take root and become part of your own daily life.

8. Share disappointments and frustrations. Take a bit of time to honestly share with your husband or wife any disappointments and frustrations that werenít addressed in the prior year. The idea is to notice what didnít go well in order to avoid the same errors or challenges in the coming year. As you embark on this, remember to use "I-messages" and to avoid shaming or blaming yourself or your spouse. This is not the time to vent or unload; the goal is to share only those items that can be shifted in the future. This tip is vital, for errors can be fertile ground for learning and improving the self and relationships! If you donít pause to attend to errors, positive change simply canít occur!

9. Reframe disappointments to positive intentions. After sharing frustrations and disappointments, reframe each one to create a positive intention for the new year. For example, a husband might say, "I often felt angry when you seemed to put the children in front of me every evening. I want to sit down after work and share my day with you, but you seem busy and distant. I feel discarded when I donít get to spend time with you until our heads hit the pillows." This might be reframed to, "I would feel so loved and appreciated if you would sit with me for 10 minutes every day when I come home from work. Maybe we can let the kids play games while we do this. After that, I can help them with their homework while you get dinner. Then, we can have a more couple time later each evening." By taking the time to notice what didnít work, partners can then revamp situations and behaviors to create more of what they do desire! Be specific, be encouraging, and be open to positive change!

“ If you donít pause to attend to errors, positive change simply canít occur!”

As you use the above tips with loving awareness and care, your marriage will reap the benefits. Youíll find that you become more tuned into your partner, and your spouse will become more attuned to you. By utilizing the tips with conscious consistency, your marriage will strengthen and become more enriching throughout the days and years ahead. Remember, every marriage requires care and maintenance; the more you invest in your marriage, the more it will develop and shine!

As a clinical psychologist in Sonoma County, California, Dr. Carla Marie Manly maintains a focus on helping clients transform their lives and their relationships. Using a body-mind-spirit approach that underscores the importance of overall wellness, Dr. Manly works with her clients on a highly individualized basis to uncover the core concerns that often manifest as psychological, behavioral, and somatic symptoms. Combining traditional depth psychotherapy with somatic therapy, Dr. Manly offers her clients a specialized approach to creating passionate, joy-filled lives. Working in both individual and group settings, she strives to promote change by increasing her clientsí personal self-awareness and insight. †A devoted writer, speaker, and yoga instructor, Dr. Manly is dedicated to helping others create the lives of their dreams.†California License: Psy25539. For more, visit and follow her on Google+.

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