Whether you’ve been married for a couple of months or a couple of decades, being the best spouse you can be for your partner is one key to a happy and satisfying marriage. No matter how long you’ve been together with your spouse, you may find yourself at times wondering what the most important things in a marriage are.
Establishing healthy patterns early in a relationship can be especially helpful when you’re still in a “honeymoon” or newlywed stage. Early on, learning how to be supportive of your partner in ways that they appreciate can help your love relationship get off on the right track. If you never had the opportunity to establish a healthy pattern, now is a good time to pick up on some connecting habits that include three of the most important things you can do for your spouse in your marriage.
For many couples, creating a satisfying and happy marriage filled with compassion, openness, and acceptance can be challenging when daily stressors seep into your lives. From working full-time jobs to having your own personal hobbies and interests, life can easily get in the way of your relationship and can prevent you from finding the connection you need together in your marriage, especially during the times that you need it most.
If you struggle to find the time for your marriage to reconnect, you’re not alone. At Loving At Your Best, we’re here to partner with you and your spouse to help both of you create the marriage of your dreams. We integrate the top models in marriage therapy, including Gottman Method Couples Therapy, Emotionally Focused Therapy, and Schema Therapy. Combined, we can help you and your spouse rebuild the ties that brought you together in the first place.
Can you imagine what your marriage would be like if you could do three things to reignite, recharge, and revitalize your marriage? Think of the connection and compassion and love that you could light within each other before slight cracks become breaks? Your marriage and spouse are worth taking on that kind of support and contribution.
I put together a list of the three most important things you should be doing for your spouse so that you can rebuild, repair, and reignite the passion that brought you together stronger than ever before.
1. Take Care of Yourself
Yes, this may sound selfish at first glance, but how can you be the best version of yourself if you’re not in touch with your truth, and living authentically every step of the way? Self-care is critical to your own mental health, and if you’re not feeling like your true self, you’ll struggle give your best self to your spouse.
Rather than being selfish, self-care involves doing what you can to equip yourself with the tools, understanding, awareness, and presence to provide your spouse with all they need to feel loved and supported as you journey through your life together.
It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time to invest in yourself, and even just a few minutes a day of activities including journaling, exercising, and connecting can help give you the “recharge” you need to feel fully connected to your passion and purpose.
Taking the time to take care of yourself can help you be more available and present with your spouse. Prioritizing self-care is one of the most selfless gifts you can give your spouse in your marriage, and one of the most important things you can do for your marriage.
2. Keep the expectations of your spouse realistic.
We all have expectations of people in our lives. You probably have expectations for your co-workers and employees at work, friends in your personal life, and children you may be raising. Your expectations may be especially high for your spouse, considering how important they are to your overall happiness. Research consistently shows that maintaining a healthy love relationship, whether in a marriage or partnership, is the strongest influence on happiness and longevity.
For instance, being in a distressed relationship beats out even smoking when it comes to factors that hit your longevity. If you’re in a highly distressed marriage, your immune system is liking taking hits regularly – enough to take off up to 9 years from your lifespan, two years more than smoking, on average. to your children and especially when it comes to your spouse. And while there are expectations that can make a marriage great, there are also unrealistic expectations that can destroy your marriage from the inside out.
Having realistic expectations of your spouse can help sustain a great marriage and life together with your spouse. However, if you have an Emotional Deprivation schema, defined as a sense that you will never be understood and that your emotional needs will never be met, you may set unrealistically high expectations for your spouse. The moment your spouse meets one of your expectations, for instance, the higher you raise your bar. If your expectations for your spouse solely define your happiness, you’ll likely create unrepairable cracks in the foundation of your partnership. Unrealistic expectations place immense pressure on your spouse to satisfy your “wants,” even if they don’t actually meet your “needs.” You may unintentionally set your spouse, and your marriage, up for failure. and it sets them up for failure from the start.
In schema therapy for couples, we define unrealistic expectations toward your spouse as “emotional demandingness.” You may feel chronically disappointed in your spouse, expecting them to continually let you down. This isn’t a single experience, but a long pattern that develops over time with your spouse that you likely had with previous love relationships. You may have concluded that romantic partners just can’t be there for you to meet your emotional needs, another key sign of the Emotional Deprivation schema.
The Emotional Deprivation schema develops early in our life, usually through the absence of nurturance, guidance and protection from key caregivers who raised us. Something is missing in your life, and as a child, you likely would not have even known you were missing something that you had never been exposed to on an emotional level.
Key signs of Emotional Deprivation in marriages include:
· You feel your spouse should understand what you feel and what you need without you telling them – if you have to express it, you think it doesn’t count
· You become angry toward your spouse on a regular basis, demanding that they take care of your “wants” even if your demands don’t address your “needs.” This may include constantly accusing your spouse of not caring about you, which often ends up in pushing your spouse away and making you feel more lonely
· You become hypersensitive to signs of neglect from your spouse, expecting them to anticipate all of your needs, and lash out at them when they aren’t able to achieve the impossible
· You may act as if you are entitled to get your needs met, constantly placing demands on your spouse, regardless of how nurturing your spouse is to you
If you have the Emotional Deprivation schema and you become overly demanding, you likely grew up in a family environment where you learned to fight against your feelings of deprivation by becoming very demanding of others, but especially about superficial “wants.” Because your emotional needs weren’t met by your caregivers, you didn’t learn to identify your needs, let alone having the experiences to practice inviting other people to meet your needs. Your caregiver, usually a mother or father, may not have responded when your emotional needs were activated. However, your caregiver may have allowed you to be demanding about what you wanted, which allowed you at least some way of getting something from them.
Specific examples of emotional demandingness may include:
· You become overly demanding about what you eat, how you dress, who you are with, and where you go
· You have extraordinarily high demands for material objects – poor substitutes for the understanding and care you’re needing. You crave rewards, but your emotional needs never feel satiated
If you or your spouse practice emotional demandingness, there may be a certain inauthentic quality to your marriage, since the connection may feel somewhat superficial and shallow.
Unrealistic expectations create a bar that is too high for any spouse, demanding responses that your spouse wasn’t meant to provide. So, what are some healthy expectations you can bring into your marriage?
· Give your marriage a chance to work – confront the part of you that expects your spouse to meet all your wants
· Identify your “wants” versus your emotional “needs”
· Invite your spouse in a warm and welcoming way to response to your emotional needs
· Share your vulnerable emotions with your spouse, including your fears, sadness, and/or shame. Help your spouse care for your vulnerability
· Stop criticizing and blaming your partner for not being perfectly responsive – ideal marriages only respond in ways that meet our needs 60 to 70 percent of the time –we see these missed moments as opportunities to learn and grow closer together during the 30 to 40 precent when the need is missed
3. Continuously pursue your spouse!
What they say is true, time and time again—never stop dating your spouse. When you’re always in a “dating mode” with each other, you’ll be able to find the fun in everything that you do. You’ll find that you communicate more effectively and are more in-tune with each other’s needs and desires.
You’ll grow to become an unstoppable team that’s working toward your goals together and contributing to each other every step of the way. Think about that feeling you had when you first started dating or even got engaged. Remember some of the dreamiest times, like staying up all-night having conversations together under the stars.
Understandably, with all of the stressors we have in our lives, it takes a lot of work to keep “dating” your spouse. Developing a structure in your lives to make time for date night is crucial, every week. Whether date night is sitting outside talking and sharing about your day or week, or going out to dinner and getting a babysitter for the kids, taking time to connect with each other with no distractions and to create some fun moments fulfill needs in your marriage.
Be sure to pursue your spouse as you connect and talk, amplifying moments of laughter, joy, fun and romance – even if you thought it had burnt out.
The Loving at Your Best Plan helps strengthen your marriage through an integrated, compassionate couples therapy designed to bring you and your spouse back together to rebuild your relationship stronger than ever.
Re-discover the intoxicating feeling of getting to know your spouse all over again by taking on these three important things you can do for your spouse today.