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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

6 Little Ways You Can Strengthen Your Marriage in Just One Day

No, this isn’t couples therapy voodoo. Sometimes all it takes to boost your marriage are a few little tweaks in your mood or daily habits.

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Choose a positive filter

When your spouse falls short—even just a little short—of your expectations, it’s easy to get frustrated fast. But before you send off another snippy text message, consider this: Positive thinking can transform your life and your marriage immediately. Studies show that positive thinking can reduce stress levels and may increase lifespan, improve cardiovascular health, lower depression levels, and even cut down on the common cold. Having a positive attitude can take practice, but the contagiousness of positivity can save your marriage. If, say, your partner didn’t empty the dishwasher like he said he would—but he did carve out 20 minutes to work with your kid on his baseball throw or family history project—try to focus on the checked-off To-Dos instead of the unfinished ones. We all have hard days—and it’s basically impossible to be positive 100 percent of the time—but being mindful of your attitude is the key to making positivity an outlook you can attempt on the hardest of days. Here’s some happy marriage advice every couple could use.

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Keep a gratitude jar

Yes, it’s cheesy—but it works. Together, decide how often you’ll contribute to the jar (daily, weekly, etc.), then jot down a note about something your spouse did or said that you feel grateful for. Keep it front and center—say, on your kitchen counter or dresser in your bedroom—so there’s a visual reminder to contribute. A gratitude jar is a great way to not only show appreciation for your spouse, but to truly see all the things that they do for you. On bad days, pull out the jar and read through all the notes you’ve written to flood back memories of appreciation for the little things.

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Before you speak, take a minute to listen and empathize

After years of being together—and rushing to get dinner on the table, laundry in the machine, homework back in the backpacks, you name it—stopping to listen to your partner sometimes seems like a luxury you don’t have. But try this one next time he or she is venting about a work issue or a frustration with a friend. Few people know your spouse as well as you do, so he or she will undoubtedly appreciate the power of your full attention. Showing empathy can improve communication and shows your spouse that you’re “in it together.” The first step: Stop and listen to what your partner is saying. What are they feeling and what do they need? Put yourself in your partner’s shoes, and imagine how you would feel and want to be treated.

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iStock/Martin Dimitrov

Take 10

If you find yourself in the middle of a heated argument, take 10 minutes to calm down and reconvene when the stress has left the room. Go for a walk, listen to a couple of your favorite songs, or agree to take a break together to put your disagreement aside. When you’ve both relaxed, you’ll be able to come back at your discussion with a fresh perspective. These wise quotes can stop an argument in its tracks.

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Plan something (anything!)

Have you heard the saying, “The couple that plays together stays together?” It’s true. Sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day living and stresses of work, commuting, cleaning, and cooking, that we feel like we don’t have time to have hobbies. Or maybe you have hobbies, but they don’t involve your spouse. Sit down together and put an activity on the calendar you can both look forward to. What would you both like to do together? Get in shape? Volunteer? Hit a nearby winery? There are countless hobbies that you can start together that take very little time or money, but can strengthen your marriage considerably. Or, if you haven’t had a vacation in a very long time, plan a trip—even a one-night getaway counts. The excitement of going somewhere new together can be a great way to bring you closer as a couple. The much-needed time away from home can be refreshing and rejuvenating.

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Remember your dating days

Do you still have a box full of love letters that your spouse wrote to you when you were first dating? Or maybe a photo album of some of your favorite moments together? Sit down and reminisce. Remember where your relationship started and what it was that brought you together in the first place. Revisiting some of your old stomping grounds together can be a wonderful experience to share and will bring about new memories for your long, happy future together. Check out this marriage advice from people married more than 50 years.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest