Make your relationship a priority.
The mental shift from me to we can be startling: You’re a team—responsible to someone else in a new and profound way. Claudia Arp, who with her husband, David, founded Marriage Alive International and co-authored marriage books including 10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage, comments, “We see a lot of husbands and wives who never, ever reprioritize their relationship after marriage. They’re still entwined with their family of origin, putting their parents and siblings first. Or they’ve been on their own for years and don’t realize that their friends or job or other interests no longer take precedence. You need to be able to say ‘My spouse comes first.’ This is your anchor relationship. If you establish this now, it will be easier to hold on to when life becomes more complicated later in your marriage.”
Marriage and sex therapist, Pat Love, Ed.D., says, “In our culture, we don’t do ‘we’ very well. We’re better at autonomy: I can take care of myself, I can give to you. But being a real unit means taking another step: making the relationship itself a priority. Other cultures do this much better—the Japanese have a concept called amae, which loosely translated means the delicious experience of interdependence. It’s a goal worth striving for.”
Create couples rituals.
Establishing a healthy boundary around your union isn’t always easy: When University of California, Los Angeles, researchers interviewed 172 newlywed couples, problems with in-laws and other relatives ranked with communication, money management, and moodiness as top challenges. Do something regularly that bonds you, such as 10 minutes to chat before bed, always having morning coffee together, listening to music, or saving Saturday for date night. Give yourself permission to cocoon.
Check in daily.
Marriage experts recommend couples do something that big business has employed for decades to keep workers happy, productive, and in the loop: hold regular team meetings. Luckily, yours will be more fun than listening to Bob from accounting go over the last month’s sales numbers. One version of the daily check-in helps couples keep communication flowing freely with an agenda.
• Start by appreciating something about each other.
• Offer up some new information from your day.
• Ask your spouse about something that has bothered or puzzled you (or something about yourself).
• Make a nonjudgmental, complaint-free request (“Please fold the towels when you do the laundry. I couldn’t find any this morning after my shower.”).
• And end with a hope that could be small (“I hope we can go see that new movie Friday night”) or lavish (“I’d love to retire at age 50 and sail the Mediterranean with you.”).