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Dr. Hallowell’s 15 Tips on Staying Connected with Your Spouse

1. Remember what you like about the other person. Keep it in the back of your mind for those moments when you’re angry.

2. Think not just about what the other person can do to make things better, but what you can do to make things better.

3. Couples are too busy these days. You’ve got to make protected time for each other, time just for the two of you. Many couples spend more time exercising than being with each other. One way around that is to exercise together!

4. Respect. Respect. Respect. Try always to treat your partner with respect. Repeated put-downs can become a habit and mark the beginning of the end of a relationship.

5. Play. Let yourselves set aside your inhibitions and be silly. Do foolish things together. Have a pillow fight. Play tag. Tell jokes. Never take yourselves too seriously. As long as you can laugh, you’ll be ok. Have fun together.

6. Celebrate. Studies show that it is more important to be there for your spouse to celebrate good times than it is to be supportive in bad times. Of course, support in bad times matter, but it is even more predictive of success in a relationship if you can celebrate good times together.

7. Say something nice, something you like about your partner at least once a day.

8. Pay compliments. You can never pay too many compliments. Even if they are mocked or rebuffed, they will be appreciated.

9. Give your partner permission to have a life of his or her own outside of the relationship, be it friends, groups, career, hobbies, or other activities.

10. Avoid the pattern of The Big Struggle. Attack and defend, defend and attack. This can become a habit, a very demoralizing and destructive one.

11. When you see an argument or fight getting started, try to catch yourself and say to yourself, “Let me try to do this a little differently this time.” If you usually yell, fall silent. If you usually get quiet, speak up. If you usually cry, don’t. Just try to vary your usual way of responding.

12. Try never to use money as a tool of power. This builds huge resentments over time.

13. Try to keep up an active sex life. If sex tails off, this may indicate conflict. Try to get at the heart of the conflict. Usually, sexual activity will pick back up.

14. T.I.O. Turn It Off. When you are together, turn off your electronic devices, at least for some of the time.

15. Remember, no relationship is constantly happy, perfect, and blissful. When times are tough, hang in there with each other. It is easy to be there for each other in good times, but in hard times, this is when you really need one another. Don’t give up. There is always, always hope.

Adapted from : Married to Distraction: Restoring Intimacy and Strengthening Your Marriage in an Age of Interruption, Ballentine, March 2010

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