For service members, a loving, resilient marriage is both a matter of personal happiness and family readiness. When family relationships are strong and healthy, service members are free to focus on their mission and daily duty requirements. Like any good relationship, marriages take work and attention. From rediscovering dating, to intentional communication and navigating conflict, with a little effort you can have an amazing marriage.
How can you strengthen your connection?
Good, rocky or somewhere in the middle, every relationship can benefit from tips, techniques and resources to help you keep your relationships strong and healthy. Strengthen your connection with these strategies:
- Adjust your expectations. Accept yourself, your spouse and your relationship as they exist today. It's natural to want the honeymoon phase to last forever. But people and relationships change over time, and each new milestone brings different dynamics and routines.
- Date each other. Time together without distractions can remind you of what brought you together. Check out the Recreation and Travel topic on Military OneSource for fun ideas available near you. With the unique demands of military life added to regular family demands, you might have to schedule time to be together. Your marriage is important enough to be a priority.
- Take turns planning your activities. Romance should be an ongoing part of your relationship, not just special occasions. Be thoughtful in your plans and consider what your spouse enjoys.
- Create rituals. Routine and rituals can help hold a relationship together. A goodbye kiss before work, breakfast in bed with the crossword puzzle on weekends, weekly date nights or a walk after dinner are the little things that count.
How can you maintain your relationship?
Just like our cars need maintenance, marriages need care to run smoothly and last a long time, too. Here are a few practical tips for a happy, high-mileage marriage:
- Take the pulse of your relationship. Look carefully at your relationship from time to time. Figure out what's working and what isn't. Decide together on the compromises you're willing to make.
- Discuss how much time you spend together. Do you wish spending time together was a higher priority? Are you communicating clearly, honestly, and frequently about things that bother you? Discuss the changes that will bring you into harmony.
- Make a habit of talking frequently. Being in contact can keep you both connected. Some people use a phone call during the day to settle family business, so they're free to enjoy time together when they get home.
- Plan for roadblocks. You won't always agree on everything. Think about and discuss situations you know cause friction, and plan to treat one another with respect before a disagreement happens.
- Share household work. Running the household together takes work by both partners. Be willing to work out who does what so you're both satisfied.
- Give each other space. Your relationship will be stronger and more interesting if you give your spouse time and space without you. Remember, one person can't possibly meet all your needs. Both you and your spouse must keep and nurture outside friendships and interests.
Are there ways to fight fairly?
Conflicts and disagreements are a normal part of a healthy marriage. The disagreement is less important than both of you being willing to fight fairly:
- Don't say hurtful things when you fight. It's hard to show restraint during an argument, but your discussion will be more productive if you're able to express yourself without being mean-spirited.
- Debrief after a disagreement. Talk about what happened when both of you have cooled off. Choose a time that's convenient for both of you and a place where you can really concentrate and hear each other.
- Be respectful. Listen courteously while your spouse expresses feelings and needs, and acknowledge them.
- Use "I" statements to express your feelings. For example, try "I feel hurt when you leave the table without thanking me for cooking," instead of "you" statements, such as "You're selfish because you leave the table without saying thanks."
- Keep your focus on the issue at hand. Avoid the temptation to resurrect events and evidence from your history as a couple.
How can you solve conflict?
Learning to fight fairly is an important skill in a relationship. Learning to resolve conflict is another. Here are some ideas that may help:
- Trade off a bad habit. Over time, small annoyances can cause big problems. Strike a deal for both of you to drop a bad habit that bothers the other.
- Remember your spouse's good qualities. For every dirty dish left in the sink, your spouse has likely done a dozen wonderful things you simply couldn't live without. Get into the habit of looking for your spouse's positive traits.
- Notice and acknowledge what your spouse is doing for you and your family. Saying thanks will remind you of your spouse's efforts, and hearing it will make your spouse feel valued. Make a daily habit of showing and giving verbal appreciation to your spouse.
Where do you turn if you need more support?
If you think you need professional help, therapists and counselors can help you develop new perceptions of yourself and the way you relate to others, which can lead to a renewed understanding of and closeness with your spouse.
Military OneSource can help provide you with resources and connect you with a confidential non-medical counselor. Additionally, military and family life counselors are available to provide non-medical counseling services. Contact information for other counseling options, such as chaplains and the Family Advocacy Program, can be found on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.
No matter how you feel about the current state of your relationship, any marriage can become more satisfying if both of you are willing to work together. If the desire and commitment are there, then you and your spouse can keep your relationship fresh, strong and close.