Simple Ways to Improve Your Marriage

According to Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale, while every home is “furnished” differently, every couple trips over their furnishings in the exact same way as the couple next-door.


When you’re in this perpetual dark pit of despair, you feel so all alone – that no one else could possibly be or feel this hopeless. Despite our glorious individuality, we are all fighting the exact same fight. We use the same words. We harden into the same positions. We feel the same alienation. We suffer the same distress. Marriage researchers have found us extraordinarily predictable. We start out with true love and great expectations. But we get into trouble for a very humbling reason: we don’t know how to handle the negative feelings that are the unavoidable by-product of the differences between two people – the very differences that attracted us to each other in the first place. A better name for “irreconcilable differences” would be “irreconcilable disappointments.”

Most people are surprised to hear me say that most unhappy couples don’t need therapy.
I truly have a passion for marriage counseling. I love what I do professionally. However, it’s often not the “therapy” or “fixing” we need; it’s the “education.” The best wedding gift you could give an engaged couple is a marriage education course. That should be on every bridal gift registry.

As couples, we need to learn very specific structures about how to go into a fight and come out of a fight where we both get some of our needs met. We also need to learn how to fight without doing additional damage, and it’s imperative that we learn how to listen! The most important marriage skill is to listen to your partner in such a way that he or she can’t possibly doubt that you love them!

Sign-Up for Marriage Education Courses

I know a woman who gives marriage education courses as wedding gifts. Regardless of the age of the couple, she gives the gift of a marriage course. I smile when she says, “You know what? I got tired of giving china, crystal and silver wondering who ended up with it in the divorce!” So, instead of complaining she decided to do something proactive that would help these couples build a lasting marriage. She also places these certificates for weekend marriage education courses in gold picture frames, to remind the couple of their goal – a golden wedding anniversary.

And, there is nothing better to give a new baby than a gift to help his or her parents have a happy, long-term marriage. Empty-nesters can also use a marriage course to tune things up and be sure they make the most of their marriage in the golden years, as well.

While in a course like this, most couples learn that you’re not alone – that other couples struggle in very much the same way. Perhaps that’s what instills the most hope. We soon learn that as human beings we all have the same sorts of conflicts – they’re just colored differently. We all want to be treated respectfully by our partners and find deep satisfaction in marriage.

Stay With (Don’t Stuff) Conflict

Again, remember that the number one predictor of divorce is not that we have the arguments over sex, money, time, or children; it’s the avoidance of those arguments – the stonewalling and distancing- that signals a marriage in trouble. Disagreement just means you have two normal human beings. And I believe that every conflict has every opportunity to breed intimacy and increased understanding if we practice good skills, many of which were mentioned in last week’s segment and can be found on our website (

I am also a big proponent for couples finding married-mentors; those couples who are tried-and-true; they have been through the rough patches and can be instrumental in helping another couple thrive in marriage!

Seek Out Successful, Married Mentors

Married couples need other married couples. We all need to seek out couples who are pro-marriage, solid, and successful, and develop a supportive, informal connection with them!

Some exciting research came out recently on the bond that’s strengthened when couples respond sympathetically to each other’s triumphs. These women are their husband’s greatest cheerleaders and vice-versa!

Share Sympathetic Joy

Both couples model this to perfection: each one of them actively supports their partner’s projects and achievements. Researchers examined the characteristics of 79 couples and found that it was the reactions to a partner’s victories that most predicted the strength of the relationship. Amplifying your partner’s triumphs is a powerful way to build intimacy. In order to do this you must be reasonably secure with your own abilities and accomplishments in order to truly honor those of your partner.

I’ve heard it said that marriage is like a submarine: its only safe when you’re all the way inside! Seal the door behind you. We can’t do marriage part-way…one foot in, one foot out!

Stay Committed to the Journey

Walk into marriage with the firm belief that divorce is not an option. Now, we all know that under extenuating circumstances it is and needs to be, but when our focus is on staying in, and only on staying in, we find ways to repair and rebuild. If I’m always contemplating “should I get out?” – I lose the focus, energy, and creativity it takes to make marriage a work of art. And there is no other way: marriage will always be a work in progress – let that challenge excite you! And every morning, wake-up and ask yourself, “What can I do today to make my sweetheart’s life more worth living?” Then do it!

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