You may be at a challenging point in your marriage where you feel like you need help as a couple to facilitate understanding, healing, and change, but your finances may not allow for it at this time. You may be asking, “We cannot afford marriage counseling. What can we do today to improve our marriage?” There is hope.
If your marriage is in an unhealthy state today, you can strengthen your relationship without marriage counseling. But it takes work and dedication.
3 Practical Tips to Improve Your Marriage Now
While many factors go into strengthening marriage, here are practical tips that can help you improve three core areas of your marriage today:
1- Practice Communication Skills
Whether it is a lack of communication or poor communication skills, communication is one of the top causes of dissatisfaction in marriage.
Effective communication provides a deeper connection and stronger intimacy.
Good communication isn’t totally about how things are said – much of it wraps around how you listen and respond.
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus
Practicing active listening can improve your relationship today:
Pay Attention: Pay attention to what is being said without interrupting. When your partner speaks, do not focus on what they or you are going to say next. Use body language that shows that you are attentively listening. Avoid looking at technology during a conversation – show your partner that they are more important than your phone, laptop, or television!
Avoid Judgement: Suspend judgment when your partner communicates with you. This does not mean that you must agree with everything that they have to say, instead, it means offering grace and respect for their opinions, feelings, wants, and needs. Avoid arguing your point.
Check Your Understanding: What we believe we hear isn’t always what our partner intends to convey. Practice summarizing and repeating back to your partner, “This is what I believe you are saying…” Or ask questions to clarify, “Can you further explain…” or “I am not sure that I understand, can you go into some more detail?”
Share: Once you clearly understand what your partner is conveying, share your own ideas, feelings, and suggestions.
Tip: Never assume that your partner knows what you are thinking. Tell your spouse what you are thinking but know when to simply listen. The conversation will help you and your partner see where things stand. Agree to shift the conversation to problem-solving and remember to use active listening skills as you do so!
2- Nurture Intimacy
A relationship described as close typically involves a mesh of both physical and emotional intimacy. While both of these types of intimacy are important pieces in a loving relationship, by nurturing and growing emotional intimacy, you create a solid foundation with an emotional bond that encourages deep connection.
Be friends with each other. Emotional Intimacy means that you’re able to tell each other just about anything – including sharing and understanding one’s feelings, as well as talking openly about your relationship. By telling your partner about the things that are important to you, you are communicating!
Emotional intimacy creates a deep sense of security within your relationship, allowing you to be wholly yourself, without feeling as if you’re putting the relationship itself at risk by doing so.
So, how can you grow intimacy in your marriage today?
Be Emotionally Available. This may consist of working on oneself (developing a mindset) for the benefit of your relationship. When we are emotionally available, we create an atmosphere where we are ready to listen and respond to our partner’s needs.
Allow Vulnerability (Create Emotional Safety). Being emotionally available involves being vulnerable. But we also support our partner’s emotional needs when we allow our partner to be open, honest, and vulnerable. As we create emotional safety in our relationship, we stand up for our special person even when they cannot stand up for themself. Our own fears are diminished, and we create a landing place that is intimate and emotionally safe.
Be Accountable to Your Words. Intimacy and trust are closely related. Be faithful to your words by following through with your actions. Follow through with what you say you will do.
Need additional tips, including practices that you can do today to create intimacy in your relationship? 10 Ways to Create Intimacy That Aren’t Just Sexual
3- Make Your Relationship a Priority
In the busyness of life, and with the stresses that come with it, it is easy to take what you have in a relationship for granted. You can easily become complacent and before you know it, your marriage can fade away to the background.
Be mindful that your marriage is not your only relationship, but it is your primary relationship.
Your partner’s emotional needs are just as important as your own. Your partner’s needs, feelings, and wellbeing take priority over other people or things.
You can take some practical steps today to help make your relationship a priority, such as:
Spend quality time together (couple time, away from devices and outlying obligations)
Stay connected and check in on each other (Ask how your partner is doing…)
Schedule conversation time (Away from the kids and responsibilities)
Remember, making your partner a priority isn’t just about being available physically:
Make emotional intimacy a priority.
Take the time to share and understand your partner’s thoughts and feelings. Each partner must share their thoughts and feelings without fear of rejection, shame, or stress.
Create a sense of security within your relationship – protect and nurture each other’s intrinsic wholeness.
Put your relationship first beyond any competing demands from the outside. The life that each partner has outside of the relationship should not sway or detract from the bond (trust, honesty, compassion, open communication, and emotional intimacy).
Related article: Making the Decision to Make My Spouse a Priority
Making This Love Work Even If You Cannot Afford Marriage Counseling
With a focus on improving communication, and intimacy, and making your partner a priority, you can improve your relationship today without marriage counseling.
You may also consider reading together and working as a couple from the books and workbooks I have listed as resources at This LoveWorks.
“The key is learning how to better attune to each other and make friendship a top priority.” – John M. Gottman, PH.D., The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
Make sure to listen to my podcasts where I discuss various aspects of marriage and relationships, such as Episode 6: Moving from Compromise to Win-Win in Your Relationships.