A senior black couple piggyback together on the tennis court. Concept for marriage tips.

You might have read the title of this blog post and thought, “Marriage tips from a divorce attorney? What do they know about happy marriages, when all they see is unhappy ones? And isn’t giving marriage advice bad for their business, anyway?” The truth is, sadly, that there will always be plenty of couples getting divorced. The good news is that you and your spouse don’t have to be one of them.

If you think about it, who better than a divorce attorney to give marriage tips? We spend our days with people who, mostly, were happily married until something went wrong. We listen to their stories about how their happy marriages became unhappy ones. And while every one of those stories is unique, some common themes emerge. We’ve taken those themes and distilled them into marriage tips that we hope will keep you from ever needing our divorce services.

Assume Best Intentions.

We may not think about it consciously, but we tell ourselves stories all day long. And our internal narration affects how we respond to the people around us. If someone cuts you off in traffic, you might assume they’re an entitled jerk. If you knew they were rushing to the bedside of a dying family member, you would no doubt feel more compassionate. The other person’s action didn’t change; your interpretation of it did.

We do the same thing with our spouses. You might assume your spouse’s distraction when you’re talking means they don’t care about the rough day you had; in fact, they might be sad or worried about something else entirely. If you assume the worst of your spouse, you’ll respond angrily. Assume the best, and you’ll respond more kindly. Over the course of years, giving your spouse the benefit of the doubt leads to warmer interactions, more open communication, and strengthens the fabric of your marriage.

Learn to Ask for What You Need.

It’s wonderful when someone is able to anticipate your needs without you having to tell them. It makes you feel known and cared for. Sometimes our spouses know us so well that we don’t have to express our needs out loud. But it’s unfair and unreasonable to expect that that will always be the case. If you don’t communicate what you need, there’s a good chance you won’t get it—not because your spouse doesn’t want to meet your need, but because they’re not aware of it.

Let’s say you come home after a bad day at work and are griping to your spouse, who barely responds. You may feel that if they really loved you, they’d know you needed them to be more attentive. You might even feel that if you have to ask for their attention, any attention they give you “doesn’t count.”

In fact, learning to articulate your needs to your spouse is a gift for both of you. It saves them from having to guess what you want or inadvertently hurting you. And it increases the likelihood of you actually getting your needs met.

Be Respectful.

Communicating your needs is important, but how you do it is just as important. We tend to be on our best behavior with people we meet publicly. We let down our guard with those closest to us, sometimes talking to them in a way we never would to a boss, client, neighbor, or store clerk.

Being respectful doesn’t mean that you don’t argue or get angry. It means that you challenge ideas, rather than attacking or insulting your spouse.

Learn to Set, Communicate, and Respect Boundaries.

A lot of the conflict in marriages stems from one spouse’s frustration at the other spouse’s behavior. It’s important to remember that you can’t control your spouse’s behavior—only your own. You can’t make your spouse stand up for you when their parents are unkind. You can’t make them be faithful. You can’t even make them leave the toilet seat in the position you want.

What you can do is decide what matters to you, what behavior you’re willing to accept and not accept: your boundaries. Setting boundaries is scary; if you set a boundary, and your spouse repeatedly violates it, you have to decide what action to take. That might mean doing something you’d rather not do, like leaving the marriage.

Ideally, though, setting boundaries and communicating them clearly leads to you and your spouse treating each other with greater respect. That, of course, strengthens your marriage.

Build Your Team.

There’s a reason that companies that want to improve productivity have retreats and recreational activities for their employees. Having fun together helps people be a more effective team. That’s true in marriage, too.

In the beginning, marriage is new and romantic. Soon, it becomes a lot of work. There are bills to pay, housework and other chores, and perhaps eventually, all the work that goes with raising children. As wonderful as they can be, children also consume a lot of attention that parents once had available for each other. It’s not bad to pay attention to your children! But it’s essential to pay attention to each other, too. Have date nights and weekends away if you can get child care. Have date nights at home after the kids are in bed if you can’t. But prioritize time together and prioritize having fun together. The fun is what reminds you why the work is worthwhile.

Look for the Good.

As a general rule in life, you’ll find what you’re looking for. There’s good and not so good in every person, every situation, every marriage. If you look for flaws in your spouse, you’ll find them. If you look for reasons to leave your marriage, eventually you’ll find those too. But you can also look for reasons to stay.

We’re not saying that you should tolerate abuse or serious boundary violations. You’re not obligated to put on a happy face and ignore the fact that someone is actively harming you. But if you have a choice between focusing on the positive in your marriage and ruminating on the negative, looking at what’s good will help you build on it and feel more warmly toward your spouse.

As family law attorneys, our goal isn’t to end marriages; it’s to help our clients have the best future possible. If these marriage tips help you to do that, we’re glad. If the path to your best future does involve a divorce, we’re here to help. Contact Mundahl Law at 763-575-7930 to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Relationships