Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Manners Monday - 5 Ways to Step Up the Manners in Your Marriage on V-Day


When it comes to long term marriage, manners can seem quite elusive. Once you've put in about seven years plus (they don't call it the seven year itch for nothing!) with your spouse sharing living quarters, exhaustive child rearing and/or opinionated in-laws, it's very tempting to bark orders and let your pleases and thank you's slide. Add to that already fragile recipe, a relentless work schedule and 24/7 access to online flirtations, and it's no wonder we are experiencing staggering divorce rates! Perhaps we should turn back the time and take a few cues from the "Downton Abbey" era. Resuscitating these formal niceties may be just the remedy to combat a comfortable rut between spouses. I imagine many a mate would prefer that their significant other stand at attention when they enter a room, rather than fart in it. They would appreciate a spouse who will offer to pull out their chair to be seated as opposed to seating themselves first. And, any partner who will take out the garbage when it is full rather than recklessly trying to cram in one last piece, comes across as incredibly thoughtful.  You see every little action, thought and reaction counts ten-fold in the days leading up to this Hallmark holiday. To ensure yours goes smoothly, here are 5 simple ways to step up the manners in your marriage on Valentine's Day and every day.

Sweat the small stuff. When it comes to marriage, the smallest gestures can make the biggest difference. If that means picking up your dirty clothes from the floor and putting them in the laundry, twisting the cap completely closed on the toothpaste, or greeting your spouse with a warm kiss instead of a grunt when you walk through the door, then so be it. Don’t give them any reason to get upset during this day devoted to love.

Make a new plan.  After many years of togetherness, married couples will take on certain roles. If you're the one doing the driving and shopping, as well as the cooking and the carpooling, your partner should offer to plan something interesting and romantic for you two to share in together. This may take some imagination, but it doesn't have to break the bank. Involve your spouse to make sure you are on the same page, but then show some initiative and confirm all of the arrangements on your own. 

Lose your tech. Technology has succeeded in separating us. When texting "I Love You" becomes easier than saying it face-to-face something is going terribly wrong. Do whatever is necessary to complete your work and show up in person for your spouse. Nothing is sexier than being present, especially if you travel for work or have your smartphone glued to the palm of your hand.  Ask your spouse meaningful questions and really listen to the answers.  This will automatically bring you closer, guaranteed.

Meet them where they are.  It is rare for a married couple to be exactly alike. As much as they have a shared love for one another, what may sound amazing to one partner may be a complete nightmare to the other. You know your spouse better than anyone, so put yourself in their shoes and try to find a happy medium you both can enjoy.  If they are a traditional romantic, put on some relaxing music, cuddle under a blanket, light a fire. If they prefer to loosen up a bit first, join them in a cocktail (or pressed juice smoothie) to take the pressure off. If they want to experiment Fifty Shades style, by all means go rogue, but be safe. Next time, you get to choose.

Communicate Considerately. Long time marrieds have a tendency to address their significant other in the same way they address their children when they are harried or upset. Your delivery doesn't have to be as formal as Lady or Lord Grantham's, however, speaking in a softer tone of voice, being selective with your choice of words, and daring to put a smile on your face can change the atmosphere in the room to a more positive one, almost immediately.

After many years together, you may be looking for some marriage validation. Great news! The book, Love Illuminated, by Daniel Jones, editor of the NYT's "Modern Love" column brings it. I haven't read it yet, but apparently after reading hundreds of thousands of email submissions from readers searching for love, he has found that most everyone is looking for the same thing - marriage and a committed relationship.  Happy Valentine's Day. 


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