It’s no secret that it takes work to protect, nurture, and grow a marriage. Between work schedules, children, and other obligations, sometimes it can seem impossible to maintain that partnership. And when problems arise, for some couples it’s healthier to divorce and go your separate ways, while for others, it’s a better choice to work on your relationship.
If you want to stay with your partner but navigate the bumps in the road, there are proactive measures—from improving communication to infusing more romance in day-to-day life—you can take to prevent divorce. Here are 13 ways to improve your partnership.
Rule Out the Idea of Divorce
Just toying with the idea that you might be better off outside of the marriage can put a major strain on the relationship, even if you never voice those thoughts. In fact, that thought alone can cause a major break in your motivation to make the marriage better. To combat this risk to your marriage, decide ahead of time that divorce is not an option. Making this commitment will help you focus on how you can make the marriage better and stronger, rather than thinking about what life might be like outside the marriage.
Honor and Respect Your Partner
People inevitably change over time and understanding, appreciating, and adapting to those changes is critical. To help remind yourself of the wonderful person you married, make a list of their best qualities. This exercise will help you remember why you fell in love in the first place. It also helps to vocalize how much you appreciate your partner’s quirks and eccentricities.
Let your partner know every day—through compliments or thank yous—that you appreciate all that he or she does.
These little expressions are like deposits in the bank. You don’t want to make withdrawals from your marriage without ever making any deposits. So, be sure you are doing things that honor your partner for who he or she is.
In the age of smartphones, Netflix, and work-from-home lifestyles, it’s easy to get distracted and go days without having a real conversation with your spouse. Communicating openly about your life, interests, dreams, frustrations, and feelings is an important way to foster intimacy in a relationship. Likewise, it’s crucial that you listen to your partner voice his or her thoughts, too. Sometimes it’s helpful to set aside 30 minutes each day without interruptions where you can talk without any distractions.
Share Financial Expectations and Budgets
Many marriages are fraught with disagreements over finances. Often couples bring different expectations about money to a relationship and find it difficult to see the other person’s perspective. Coming to an agreement on how to handle money together is a critical component of successful marriages. Agree on a budget and an approach to debt and then live within your limits.
For some, it’s important to differentiate between a need and a want. While both are legitimate, couples face problems if they try to fulfill all their wants without considering their budget. Likewise, it’s important to incorporate some flexibility in your budget to allow for entertainment, gifts, vacations, and other activities that help strengthen the marriage.
Give Each Other Space
One of the hardest things to balance in a marriage is the right amount of time to spend together. Too much can feel like smothering while too little can be interpreted as inattentive. So, when your partner needs space or a night out with friends, offer to watch the kids or run the errands so they can easily get that time.
It’s also important that you make time to spend with your partner. If babysitting issues or financial constraints make that difficult, plan a fun, cost-effective date night at home. The key is that you both are making a concerted effort to spend quality time together but allowing one another the space to have an outside community as well.
Ditch the Sweatpants
It’s easy to get into a routine of being overly casual, especially if you’ve been with your partner for many years. But an easy way to rekindle romance is to think back to those early days of dating—preparing for date night with an at-home manicure, getting a fresh shave and haircut, or choosing a fun outfit.
And while that may sound superficial, there are other ways to remind yourself just how attractive and energized you are. Keeping up with your physical fitness boosts confidence and well-being, and can double as a way to spend time with your partner, whether it’s taking a new workout class, training for a 5K, or prepping healthy meals together on Sundays.
Keep Up the Courting
Another way to keep the flame burning in a marriage is to continue courting your spouse.8 Make time for a date night every week, even if it’s to get ice cream or cook a new recipe together. If money is a concern, trade babysitting with another couple, or put the baby in a stroller and walk around the mall or go to the park.
It also helps to continue doing the things you did when you were dating. Leave your partner little love notes where he or she will find them. Make them coffee in the morning. Buy their favorite snack at the grocery store. Many couples report that these types of small gestures help them feel like newlyweds.
Often marriages begin to fall apart when one person holds a grudge. In fact, research has shown that feeling contempt toward your partner almost always festers and can lead to divorce if it’s never resolved. As a result, try to forgive your partner as quickly as possible.
Remember that forgiveness is just as much a gift you give yourself. Holding a grudge takes up mental and emotional space and almost always impacts your health and stress levels. Opt for a forgiving spirit and reap the positive benefits, which range from better sleep to stress relief.
And, if you have wronged your partner in some way, be sure to sincerely apologize and ask for forgiveness. Truly listen to what your partner has to say and why he or she is upset to understand how to do things differently in the future.
Don’t Try to Control Your Partner
Give your spouse room to be the person he or she is and learn to collaborate on decisions. In healthy marriages, both partners have mutual respect for one another and don’t demand their own way. They also give their spouse the freedom to come and go without having to ask permission. They don’t monitor or control one another. Be sure you’re collaborating with your partner on any big decisions, from spending to raising children.
Partners who try to control one another often become emotionally abusive or display signs of financial abuse, which frequently leads to divorce.
Get Help Before It’s Too Late
If you’re still having challenges or you fear that divorce might be imminent, consider counseling or couples therapy. Often your or your partner’s workplace will have access to an employee assistance program (EAP), where you can receive some initial help or get a referral. You also could consider meeting with a trusted religious leader if you share faith and then move beyond that if needed.
A Word From Verywell
Navigating issues in a marriage can be extremely challenging. In order to persevere and to prevent divorce, it takes both partners to do the work and put in the time. And while the goal is to save the relationship, ultimately, you have to decide if staying together is the right choice for you. If you’re unsure what to do, talk to loved ones or a therapist who can help you better understand your situation.