Couple(Love and Marriage theme song plays)

…goes together like a horse and carriage…

...and you can’t have one without the other...

(music slowly fades)

This song came to my head as I was writing this post and I thought it would make for some nice intro music. I’m happy to see Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill) making his comeback on Modern Family. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here (click the link even if you do know what I’m talking about, it will bring back memories – especially the fountain).

Anyway, I can bet that you’re reading this post for one of three reasons:

1. You don’t get along with your spouse and hope to find something…anything that might help,

2. You get along well with your spouse and want to confirm your strategy with the ones in this article, or

3. You’re currently in a serious relationship considering to take the next step, have heard or seen horror stories about how marriage kills relationships and you are trying to get as much evidence that taking the next step will be ok.

If you didn’t come for any of these reasons, please leave a comment letting us know why you decided to read this article.

In the meantime, let’s move on.

I don’t like to get too personal but I have to admit – I’m one of those lucky guys who gets along with his spouse.

This doesn’t mean we don’t argue but in the rare times that we do, we don’t get angry, scream or give each other the silent treatment. We openly say what’s on our mind and then deal with the issue. Other times, we are just amazed at how long we’ve been together and have a good time enjoying each other’s company. We’ve even set up our finances to prevent money from ruining our marriage (Click here to see what we do step-by-step).

I consider myself lucky because from my experience and observations, this is more the exception than the rule.

I know I know, you are rolling your eyes thinking “I get it. You have a happy and blissful relationship. That’s nice but what about me? When are you going to give the guide that you promised?

Good point. We’re all busy people so let’s get to it.

Here are the key components you’ll need to get along better with your spouse immediately:

Make Getting Along Your Goal

One of the reasons couples fight is because they lose sight of what their goal should be. My goal is to have a happy and nurturing relationship. What’s yours?

I’ve found couples who fight often have bad goals. Their goal is usually proving themselves right and not building a loving relationship. Always keep your goal in mind and make sure your actions are aligned with your goal – this may mean resisting the urge to point out how right you are no matter how much evidence you have.

Accept Your Spouse

Most couples don’t get along because they are constantly wishing their spouse was someone else: a better listener, a thriftier spender, a sexier lover, etc. This type of wishful thinking is harmful to your relationship and will only lead to frustration because you can’t change anyone who doesn’t want to change.

So if you are trying to do just that, stop right now and save your energy for something more productive. Accept your spouse for who they are and change your reaction to their “bad” habits. Keep in mind that just because you can’t change your spouse, it doesn’t meant they can’t change themselves. The important thing to remember is that it’s their choice and right, not yours.

Give Them the Benefit of the Doubt

Almost all disagreements between loving couples occur due to miscommunication. What’s ironic is that two people miscommunicating don’t know they are doing so or else they would stop. No matter how big the argument, keep in mind that you got married because you care for, trust and love each other. One of the best ways to handle miscommunication is to always give your spouse the benefit of the doubt and be curious why someone with good intentions would act the way they did.

So how do you become curious?

Ask – Don’t Interpret

Most fights happen because we misinterpret our spouse’s actions or expressions. Just because our spouse yawns while we talk, it doesn’t mean what we are saying is boring.  There is a good chance that it was a long and tiring day but then again maybe it was because we’re boring. The only way to know for sure is to ask. Hopefully by now, you’ve built up a trusting and accepting relationship where your spouse can tell you the truth without any negative consequences.

Be specific when you ask your spouse questions and don’t assume. Instead of “Why are you mad?”, you can ask “I noticed that you are pursing your lips and furrowing your brow, what does that mean?”

Of course that example may be a bit extreme but you get the point.

Before you assume you know what your spouse is feeling, ask them to clarify the specific actions (i.e. loud voice) they are exhibiting as opposed to reacting to your own interpretation of their action. You’ll be surprised at how many fights end because of open communication. Listen not only to the words but also the underlying emotions.

Men and women communicate differently and unfortunately they are really bad interpreters for each other. Let the other person translate for you because John Gray was right – Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.

Give Each Other Space

This may sound strange but one of the key reasons my wife and I get along is because we have our own lives outside of each other. That sounds bad but it actually works out really well.

We work in separate companies and have our own hobbies/interests. We have “common” friends whom we hang out with together and our “own” friends whom we hang out with apart. Striking a good balance between being together and being apart really helps to keep the relationship strong.

Would I hang out with my spouse 24/7? Yea I would be able to and I enjoy her company very much but for some reason having and pursuing our own interests just works.

I understand that this may still be a bit counterintuitive for you but I encourage you to try it and then decide for yourself.

The only time where giving each other space would be bad is if the purpose (and you know your purpose) was to get away from each other because you can’t stand each other. If that is why you’re getting out of the house, you really want to explore what makes you feel that way towards your spouse and to openly communicate this issue as soon as possible.

Respect, Appreciate and Admire

I used to take people closest to me for granted. The closer they were, the more I took them for granted. I rarely said thank you and I didn’t show them the appreciation they deserve.

Being aware of this, I strived to change my behavior and I can see a real difference in my relationship with those closest to me.

Here is the simple 3-step approach that I use with my spouse:

Step 1 – It really all starts with respecting the other person. There is no reason you shouldn’t respect everyone that you meet. It should be enough that they are a fellow human being but what really makes it much easier for me is the belief that every person is better than me in some way and I can learn something from everyone.

Step 2 – Once you genuinely respect your spouse for being who they are, appreciate them for what they do. My wife does many things for me without my asking and I like to acknowledge and appreciate her for doing that. Being on the look out to appreciate allows me to be more aware of all the things she does and this encourages me to reciprocate by doing things for her which she in turn acknowledges and appreciates. This creates a wonderful upward spiral.

Step 3 - Taking respect and appreciation once step further leads to admiration. When you admire someone, it’s really easy get along with them. I admire my wife for the person that she is. It’s not really about all the things she has accomplished and all the things she does for our family but who she is inside.

Even though this article was written in the context of a married couple, you can easily use these tips to help you get along with anyone that you encounter. The great thing about these strategies is that they begin to work almost immediately.

As a quick review, to get along with your spouse (or anyone):

  1. Make “getting along” your goal and make sure your actions are aligned with that goal.
  2. Accept your spouse for who they were, are and will be.
  3. Recognize your spouse has good intentions and give them the benefit of the doubt.
  4. Don’t assume or interpret, ask your spouse how they are feeling.
  5. Give each other space.
  6. Respect, appreciate and admire your spouse.

If you enjoyed this article, please share with it with others.

Also, I would love to hear your tips for getting along with your spouse or your experience in trying out these suggestions or both.

Photo by Angelo Gonzalez
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Robert Chen

Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. If you would like help applying the concepts in this article to your life, contact Robert for a free consultation by clicking here. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.

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19 Responses to 6 Tips to Get Along With Your Spouse that Work

  1. Google says:

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  2. jamie says:

    i believe what you are explaining here is to be true. but if all steps are not followed through then everything ends up crumbling all over again. i will take your advise with these steps and make my energy i use toward my relationship with my husband in a positive manner instead of yelling and fighting over who has been a better this and that, instead listen to eachother not just lable one another. i love my husband and im willing to appreciate him more so we can love eachother like we once did and enjoy life together. i think every aspect of life will be better for my whole family. thank you for giveing me hope it can and will change out from this rutt we have had for a number of years now. looking forward to haveing our life better.

    • Robert Chen says:

      Hi Jamie,

      Thank you for sharing.

      Have patience when you first start. Understand that it’ll take some time to break the negative conditioning that has been built up. Keep up the change in your thinking and actions knowing that it will eventually change his response and the entire situation. Always remember your outcome is to be loving and happy together. It is not to prove each other wrong or to prove yourself to be right. Also, check out The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

      Good luck.

  3. Fred Bassett says:

    You asked why I looked. My partner found your blog after we had the first miscommunication – or whatever it was – of our relationship. We are 60-somethings who both have had several long-term relationships and who found each other magically on an on-line dating service a little over a year ago. We began living together about three months ago. The fact that she was upset enough and committed enough in our relationship to search out your blog and share it with me means the world to me and gives me great hope and assurance that, with care, we will not fall into some of the traps of long-term relationships you illuminate.
    Because of our experience in relationships, we both are fully aware of and practice many of the hints you give, but, because of the differences in our experiences, are finding that we approach our relationship in slightly different ways.
    My most recent relationship was with my wife of 25 years (we were together 27) who died 6 years ago. I was used to spending nearly all of my time with my late wife. We worked together, played together, raised our children, and even home-schooled them through high school, together. For four years we spent nearly every spare moment building our own house together. This really worked for us. The times that we worked at separate jobs and were apart from each other for long periods were the most difficult.
    My new partner’s most recent relationship was a marriage of 27 years in which she and her husband grew gradually apart. In the end, she said, they were doing nothing together…two people living separate lives in the same house.
    So the chord that strikes the most harmony for us in your blog is the one about having separate lives. The challenge for us will be to find our own balance of together and apart time that satisfies and keeps the fires of love burning at home.
    Thanks for your thoughts and for sharing them.
    Fred

    • Robert Chen says:

      Thank you Fred for your comment. It is always difficult to adapt to new situations but it sounds like you’re both committed to making it happen. What I find helpful is to always realize that the other person has the best intentions and give them the benefit of the doubt. We get into trouble when we jump to conclusions and misinterpret the other person’s actions and words. When in doubt, ask – open communication is key.

      Best of luck to you.

  4. Mark says:

    Everything in this article I do. But if both parties aren’t doing the same thing, it’s a receipt for disaster. I’m kissing my wife’s ass all day while she is treating me like shit. And she knows she treats me like shit . She says its because I sometimes go out if my way to purposely do back to her what she dies to me that posses be off. How else would she know how it feels and attempt to stop doing what pisses me off.
    When I tell her about she could care less. She just continues to prove her point how she is right and I’m wrong. I just keep my mouth shut and say yes. When I open my mouth it’s a waste.
    Anyhow, thus article is well written and would probably do must couples well if both people complied. Thanks for sharing.

    • Robert Chen says:

      Hi Mark,

      It must be frustrating when it seems like you are bending over backwards but the other person doesn’t move an inch. Fighting fire with fire never works. It leads to a vicious cycle where you build even more contempt for each other.

      People change when they want to change. We can only change how we respond to others in hopes that a change in our response will change their actions. Perhaps you can focus on not letting her actions piss you off. You may want to check out this article: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/how-to-stop-being-angry.html

      Give her the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes it’s easy to find evidence for a crime that you’re looking for.

      I hope this helps.

  5. Job says:

    Mark,

    I’ve been married for 4+ years and I have a 3 year old son that is just a bundle of joy. I’m not an expert and I understand that every situation is different, but please allow me share my personal experience.

    Your story sounds very similar to my own. I felt (in the beginning of the marriage) that I was bending over backwards and got nothing in return. I felt cheated and used…and my wife even called me “selfish”. I fought fire with fire in hopes that I would get through to her, but that didn’t do much but perpetualte the situation.

    It wasn’t until I reached the cliff (ready for divorce) that I started to think about life without her. I thought about all the good times we had, all the things we did together, the trips we took, the memories we shared, etc. I knew I wanted to be with her, but I just didn’t know how to get through to her.

    A few weeks after, I realized (through reading books and taking advice from family and friends) that the key to it all was to start with myself. It wasn’t until I read a quote that said “Victory by surrender” that it all made sense. Surrendering yourself means to look for honest answers to the questions “Who am I?” and “Who do I want to be?” and then confronting your fears and imperfections head on.

    I realized that I was “inhibited” (unable to act in a relaxed and natural way because of self-consciousness or mental restraint). The moment I realized who I was, the burden seemed to have been lifted off my shoulders. Then I focused my energy on who I wanted to be…a caring father and a loving husband. My wife has seen and felt the change in me and I’ve noticed the positive “upward” spiral that this has brought into my marriage and my life.

    I’m glad to say that I’ve been through the peaks and valleys in my marriage and I’m looking forward to what the future brings. I would also suggest that you keep a good supporting cast around you because negative energy always pulls you into a downward spiral. I was extremely lucky to have a great supporting cast (my family and friends) and I can’t thank them enough for their guidance.

    Job

  6. Charlotte Quevedo says:

    This is very on point. I have had trouble getting along with lots of ppl and looking at tge steps above, I can see why. Getting along has never been my focal point. I also tend to assume the worst of ppl and not accept their limitations. The thing that annoys me the most is when someone insistently gives me advice without realizing that my situation is different, my opinion is different, and their advice does not work for me. I tend to take criticism harshly instead of owning up to stuff. I think I would get along better if I were more willing to change the things about myself that are the most difficult for me. Accepting that ppl want to help and be honest and sometimes that means having to look wrong, accepting that I can’t control others or change how they perceive me. I have been trying to research how to improve my social skills and this is the best article I have found.

    • Robert Chen says:

      Thank you Charlotte for your kind words. I’m glad that this article provided you with some insights to help you with your relationships. Our lives are dominated by the stories that we tell ourselves. We give meaning to situations with these stories and we can change the situation by changing the story. A person who cuts us off on the highway can be both a jerk who has no respect for others or a loving husband rushing home to his pregnant wife. Your reaction will depend on which story you tell yourself in the moment. I’ve found giving people the benefit of the doubt has made my life both easier and happier.

      Best of luck to you.

  7. Shawn says:

    I read this article to gain a better and possibly ‘more sensitive’ approach to dealing with my marital arguments. I think getting along with and accepting my spouse for who she has become my first and most crucial step.

    We tend to be aggressive with one another when the going gets tough. Our life has changed dramatically since we had our daughter two years ago. She is a GREAT and smart child, but extremely willful, stubborn, and full of energy. Thus, we have NO time with each other, none.

    With nobody on her side of the family to help and nobody on my side to help, we are without support and/or guidance on being parents. We have no baby sitter either because my wife feels that since we decided to have a kid it is our responsibility to care for that child and sacrifice ALL things that we used to do for ourselves and with one another.

    So, I am being cultivating patience and hoping for a date night sometime in the next couple years :)

    If we can’t work on us, I fear that we will end up resenting each other.

    Any other advice on this matter?

    Thank you for your educational article. I will try to practice some of it’s key points.

    • Robert Chen says:

      Shawn,

      Thank you for sharing your situation. It is not uncommon for parents to be overwhelmed when they don’t have help from their families. I’m sure it must be frustrating to handle the stresses of work, raising a child and keeping a happy marriage without time to decompress. I look at date night and other ways of relaxation similar to how I look at sleep – it is necessary to get enough of it so you can be more effective.

      If you and your wife don’t get along, it’s going to adversely affect how your daughter feels when she observes your interactions. Date night is good for the entire family not just for you and your wife. If you find it impossible to carve out time for date night, collaborate with your wife to come up with solutions to this challenge.

      I hope this was helpful and let us know how it goes.

  8. Silvi says:

    Hey thanks for the interesting article. I read cos we are having some difficulty after moving in together a year ago. We do all the points you raised – plenty respect, attention, great communication without anger, positive attitude, lots of laughing and equal time together and apart etc. We both feel loved wanted and make each other feel special. We love spontaneity on weekends.
    But we still do not get along! Maybe more a personality clash? I feel irritated regularly by my partners phobias and he talks incessantly about them every text, phone call, discussions every single day to the point I cannot listen anymore. He borders on OCD obsession with germs, illnesses, diet (overindulgence followed by detox every month), home security to superstitions eg taking christmas decorations down on the correct date otherwise bring bad luck on us. Seriously! I have a SOH & joke with him. But wearing thin now. I don’t like that our house is so sparse (he likes the minimalist look) I feel I am not able to express myself through colour, art, individualism and does not feel cosy or homely. We have talked hundreds of times about all of this but stays the same. If I bring some new thing into the house he gets very upset asking me to consult with him in advance even down to trivial items eg towels.
    I have tried hard but feel stuck.
    Everything else in relationship is great he is an awesome partner. We are good at supporting each other except for this issue.
    Some advice would be most welcome.
    Thank you so much!

    • Robert Chen says:

      Silvi – thank you for sharing your situation. Can you see yourself living for the rest of your life with your partner’s habits? If not, you may want to take a step back and think things through. You won’t be able to change your partner but at the same time, you have to ask yourself if those issues are really a deal breaker despite all the other great qualities of the relationship. It sounds like you both have clashing values which in my experience usually don’t end well in relationships. It’s not an easy decision so make sure you are putting this decision in the right perspective.

  9. Wendy Gale says:

    Why I read this article? I own http://www.olivebranch.com and am looking for material for my blog http://olivebranchlove.wordpress.com/ Hope you dont mind if I link to your site. Feel free to check out my site. I’ll check out yours.

  10. Felicia says:

    I’m so glad I came across your article today. I needed to read that. For myself and my relationship. My boyfriend and I have been together for over three years and just recently moved in together. I know they say the first year is always the hardest, but I just don’t think we take into consideration the points you made. We’ve discussed them before when we would fight, but we go back to our old ways. I guess we’re lazy on the subject and selfish about it? I’m not sure why I’m saying all this either. I just really appreciate the post! I’m going to show I to him tonight & pray we ca. Really discuss it and live it out. He’s the love if my life, but things are really tough right now. Thanks again!

    • Robert Chen says:

      I’m glad you found this article helpful. I can tell that you really want to make this relationship work and I hope you’re able to apply these tips to help you. Let me know how it goes and if you want to delve into any one of these tips further. Best of luck to you and remember to focus on the outcome you want and whether your actions are aligned with that outcome.

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