Jessica Dell
About Author
January 24, 2020
Relationship Counseling

Marriage Advice I Swear By - Licensed Therapist Edition

It is no secret that everyone has problems and that we all need advice from those who have walked and loved before us. As I often say, relationships are actually quite simple when we break it down.

In my opinion, the following tips are the cream of the crop and what I swear by in my daily life and with my clients.

1 - People don’t magically stay together.

People meet, they get a good feeling (this is a very important step) and then they work towards building a relationship. All relationships have ups and downs. Arguing is a healthy component of any relationship. Sleeping well at night is also a healthy component of life. If you can argue and still go to sleep “happy” or at least “not mad” then you’re doing something right. It’s a mix of honest, hard conversations, emotional attraction and ability to make fun of each other.

2 - Choose your battles wisely.

Most couples do not argue on a daily basis over the “big stuff.” In most cases, couples are arguing over “the small stuff.” Examples of this include everything from who is going to walk the dog, take out the trash, clean the dishes after dinner, or pick up underwear off the floor (which is usually strategically placed right NEXT to the hamper). Couples who are experts in this realm, choose their battles wisely. They do not hold grudges or use passive aggressive behavior (like withholding sex or using a nasty tone of voice). They simply just get it all done, hopefully with a sense of humor. However, the “big stuff”, even for the experts, can be quite challenging. This is where you wait for the right time, the right environment, and the right frame of mind, to bring up whatever is bothering you, and you do it constructively. We do not condemn, we do not blame, and we do not shame. We also don’t do it in the grocery line or at dinner with our in-laws.🙅🏻♀️

3 - Stop comparing!

The grass is rarely greener. In fact, it almost never is. Life is a smoke and mirror show. It’s pretty obvious if you look at the majority of social media pages. Most people are not sharing images and videos of the arguments they’re having with their partner, or posting about how they haven’t had sex in 2 months. Let’s be real. Relationships are hard work! Even for the people who make it look SO easy. So, I have vowed in my own marriage, and I share this with my friends and clients on a very regular basis, to eliminate comparisons. After all, what am I actually comparing to? I don’t actually know, nor does anyone, what is going on behind someone else’s closed door.

4 - Listen to hear, not to respond.

Listening to hear is one important key to healthy communication. It reduces the likelihood of an inappropriate or defensive response. If we listen to hear, we have a greater chance of building emotional connection through shared vulnerabilities and validation of one another. Great listeners have more intimacy (emotional and physical), give and receive validation (verbal and non-verbal), and less arguments. This my friends, is important for ALL of your relationships. You will always be interesting, if you remain interested.🤔

5 - Be the change you want to see.

This is like role modeling. Only your not just doing it for your kids, your doing it for your partner. If you want more validation, give more validation. If you want more acts of service, pick up the pace and get shit done! If you want more physical intimacy, hold your partners hand, wrap your arms around them, put on some baby making music and express your desires through action. In general, being the change is a VERY vulnerable behavior, and therefore makes a big ripple effect when you actually follow through.

6 - Learn your partners love language.

❤️Treat your partner NOT the way you want to be treated, but the way you know they want to be treated. If you don’t ask, you won’t know. This is an important question for your partner. The answer may be words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, gifts, or quality time. Once you have the answer, ask more questions. Find out what they “really” mean when they say what they want and need. Ask for examples and get specifics. Then, you only have yourself to blame if you don’t speak their language. For more information on love languages, check out the work of Dr. Gary Chapman

7 - It works, if you work it.

This is not just a quote from the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is relationships 101. Relationships take WORK. Good ol’ fashioned hard work. That’s all I need to say on this one. You get the point.

8 - Be aware of perception vs. reality.

Life is not as it is, it is as we perceive it. Your partner perceives life one way, and you perceive it another way. It is important to remain open to others’ perceptions and acknowledge and affirm your partners version of “their reality”. Especially when emotions are high, in the midst of a heated discussion or argument, the acknowledgement of perception vs. reality may be all it takes to diffuse and find resilience.

9 - Eliminate the use of “always” and “never.”

This is a form of black and white thinking and a conversation killer💀 These words are often used unfairly and frivolously. Many of my clients struggle with this one. In therapy we work on eliminating the use of always and never so that we can replace those words with more realistic words such as often and sometimes which tend to reduce defensiveness and create more positivity. Additionally, we often find that there really aren’t many behaviors in life that our partner “always or never” does when we really take the time to think about it.

10 - Get rid of the mental filter.

It is vitally important to place greater emphasis on the things our partner does well rather than what they don’t do well. If our partner does 99 things well and 1 thing not well and we choose to focus only on the 1 thing that they did not do well, then we are going to create unhappiness in our relationship. If you want to feel happy in your relationship, focus more on the positive and allow for error. If you want to feel angry and resentful, continue to focus on the 1 negative. It’s your choice.👈

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