Almost everyone has the dream of a love that lasts a lifetime. And while it’s not the impossible dream, it does take more than white lace and promises to turn it into a reality. Married psychiatrists Philip Lee and Diane Rudolph of New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center offer eight tips on how to keep the flame burning — even after decades together.
1. Be diplomatic.
Instead of screaming and throwing a tantrum about the things that make you upset, praise your partner for doing the things that are helpful to you.
2. Give your partner space.
Give yourselves a chance to unwind before tackling the evening’s chores. You both need some transition time after work, and once you’ve had that time you will both be much better listeners and probably more willing to cooperate with each other.
3. Remember the good old days.
Almost everyone remembers the “early days” of the relationship as more fun than the present. It’s probably because you weren’t arguing about how to get to the restaurant, where to sit or how much to drink.
4. Be polite.
Try being polite for a week. There’s no shame in saying “Thanks for picking up the kids” or “Great looking dinner! Can’t wait to try that chicken.” While it may seem silly to talk that way to your partner, just remember you would do the same for a business partner, employee or your child.
5. Break the cycle of arguments.
You don’t have to voice your displeasure about everything. Rather than “expressing yourself” in a negative way, break the cycle of blame and recrimination by treating your spouse more like a friend or co-worker. You wouldn’t argue with your coworker about mundane details because you want to have a civil relationship with this person.
6. Never say never.
Don’t begin sentences with “You never…” As in: “You never clean up after…” or “You never take my feelings into account…” or “You never think of anyone but yourself…” This places your spouse on the defensive and accomplishes nothing. It is a losing start. Try this instead: “You know what would be really great?” or “It would really help me if you could…”
7. Say “thank you.”
Show your appreciation for all the things that your partner does no matter how small or how you may really feel. Something as simple as a “thank you” can make a dramatic difference in your relationship in a matter of weeks.
8. Just listen.
Try just listening to your partner without offering suggestions, criticism or a solution to his/her problems. Most of the time your spouse just wants you to listen and calmly empathize without saying any more. Even if it seems pointless to you, that’s often all that the person needs.