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Overview

In this guided solution we will provide some simple steps to help you strengthen your relationship and put it back on the path toward happiness. In many cases this is going to take some time and some work to get the spark back. But don't let this discourage you. If you are ready to make your relationship a top priority, we can help you succeed. Ideally you would work through these steps with your partner, but if that is not possible, there is still plenty to learn and do on your own.

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  • Have you been snapping at each other?
  • Are you easily irritated and annoyed with your partner?
  • Are your feelings disconnected?
  • Is your relationship feeling empty?

Even if all of this is true, it does not necessarily mean there is anything terribly wrong with your relationship. Most likely, your relationship is just hungry.

If you were feeling physically hungry, you wouldn't panic and go running to the doctor with fears that you have some deadly stomach cancer. Instead, you would get lunch and in a few minutes you would feel better.

Similarly, relationships can suffer from a lack of nourishment that can leave them feeling empty, but this does not mean your marriage is falling apart. Instead, the irritated, tired, and empty feelings are telling you that your relationship is in need of nourishment. It needs to be fed. You would not ignore hunger pains for long, and you should not ignore the signs that your relationship is starving.

Did You Know

According to infoplease.com, the median age that women are getting married today is 26 years of age, up from 22 years of age in the year 1890.

Now let's be clear, if you have been starving your relationship for a long time, your relationship is probably at risk, but even most starving people on the verge of death recover over time once their bodies receive nutrition. Whether your relationship is just a little hungry, or on the verge of starvation, the remedy is exactly the same.

You can restore your relationship to health and happiness. Ideally both partners will work on this together, but don't underestimate what you can do all on your own. Even if your partner is not yet ready to participate in actively building your marriage, you will still make a big difference. When one partner starts feeding the relationship, it will revitalize the marriage. The positive efforts of one person become contagious and will kindle hope and inspire action in the partner. So, don't worry if your partner chooses to remain distant for now. Don't blame him or her for not doing what you expect. Just focus on what you can do. You will be surprised what happens when we stop blaming each other and start focusing on our own choices and actions.

Step 1 - Take the Divorce Risk Indicator

If you have not already done so, take the 20-question divorce risk indicator to evaluate any potential dangers in your relationship:

Take an Evaluation

Step 2 - Understand What Makes a Successful Marriage Relationship

What does it take to have a good relationship? Is it enough if you started with two good people? Good people make good relationships possible but it's not enough. That would be like saying good seeds and good soil grow a good garden. It is a wonderful starting place, but gardens and relationships need a little more than that.

Play this word scramble game to discover ingredients that build a good relationship.
Exercise

Five Essentials For Good Relationships: The Five Ts

When you completed the last exercise, you may have started to feel a little overwhelmed by all things you need to do to make a relationship strong and healthy. Luckily, you don't have to memorize the list and try to do them all. Each of the essentials on the list fits into one of five categories, which we refer to as the “Five Essentials for a Happy, Healthy Relationship.”

Take a look at the list below. Click the links to each element and find out more about how these elements work individually and how they all come together.

  • Time - Be engaged together in the same activity for at least 30 minutes a day. Listen Now
  • Talking - Chat about you for 10 minutes each and every day. Don't talk about schedules, kids, or heavy topics. Share your day, your thoughts and your feelings. Listen Now
  • Tasks - Serve each other every day, especially in ways that fall outside your normal tasks. Don't look for credit or recognition. Listen Now
  • Touch - Make physical contact 8 times every day. Hugs and kisses before leaving the house, and hugs and kisses when you return home adds up to four points of contact right there. Hold hands in the car, cuddle in bed at night while you talk, it's easy when you work together. Of course, it does not count as 8 touches if you just pat your spouse on the back 8 times first thing in the morning or if you brush shoulders 8 times when passing each other in the hallway. Touches should be deliberate and meaningful. Listen Now
  • Thanks - Appreciation, especially for men, goes a long way. When was the last time you said thanks for all he or she does with the kids? Or when was the last time you said thanks for a long, hard day at work? Share your gratitude at least twice a day, every day. Listen Now

Some of you may have heard of the book called The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. He has a similar list.

Chapman's List

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

The Five Ts

  1. Time
  2. Talk
  3. Tasks
  4. Touch
  5. Thanks

Can you see how these lists overlap? Chapman suggests that you find out which are your love languages and which are your partner's love languages. In other words, we all have preferred ways to express love, and it's important to keep in mind that your partner might express love in a way that is different from you. If your partner's preferred “love language” is touching and yours is talking, can you see how the two of you might come into conflict with both of you trying to express and share your love and both of you feeling frustrated that other doesn't seem to understand?

Without consulting with your spouse or partner, think about the five essentials again, and answer the two questions that follow:

TimeTalkTasksTouchThanks

  1. Which one of these makes you feel the most secure and confident about your relationship?
  2. Which one, when it is missing from your relationship, causes you the greatest distress?

Typically, individuals will find that one or two of these essentials play a big role in making them feel loved and cared for. Now compare the elements you chose with the ones your partner chose. Did you learn something new about each other?

For more information on Step 2, “Understand What Makes a Successful Marriage Relationship, “ see the following resource:

“When Was the Last Time You Fed Your Relationship?” - Article by Brett Williams LMFT

Step 3 - Develop a Strategy for Strengthening Your Marriage

Having completed the assessment and learned more about what makes a successful relationship, the next step is to develop a strategy to strengthen your marriage. Even though you and your spouse may have certain preferred ways of expressing love, we suggest you use all the elements, because they each serve different functions and fill a different need within the relationship. One or two of these may touch you or your spouse in a special way, yet some of the other essentials serve the person giving, and still others serve the relationship as a whole.

Now let's evaluate how well you have been doing so far in using all of these relationship essentials. Perhaps you have already started thinking about where you stand. Click on the link to evaluate your marriage with a Relationship Rubric.
Exercise

Using the five essentials is like getting a well-balanced meal for your relationship and you need all the nutrients every day. Based on the information provided from the Relationship Rubric it is easy to start to develop a healthy relationship strategy.

This chart can be used to keep track of how many times each day you are completing the five essentials.
Exercise

Step 4 - Boost Your Success with a Marriage Intervention

The strategies you learned in steps 1-3 should not interrupt your lives in any significant way; they are simple steps that make a huge difference. In this next step we are going to introduce you to another strategy that can radically transform your marriage, but this one will require a little planning to pull it off successfully. We are calling it a “marriage intervention” because it is a therapeutic step that will pull you out of your regular routine and require you to really take notice of your partner and your relationship—it's a date night.

Were you expecting us to suggest something more innovative and new? Well, before you start telling yourself that you have already done that, or that you just don't have time, consider this: the number one recommendation by psychotherapists around the globe for marital discord is going out on a date once a week.

It is quality time together that your relationship craves. It may sound counterintuitive to say that couples who are feeling frustrated with one another need to spend more time together, but it is true. But let's not go about it in your old way of dating. Dating is about paying attention to each other. Just because you ride together in the same car, get out and walk into the same building, and then participate in the same activity, it does not mean you have gone on a date. It only counts as a date if your primary activity involves paying attention to each other.

The planning is always the most difficult aspect of a good date night. Most couples don't put the time into planning and therefore don't have the most productive evening together.

Four Rules for Great Dates

  1. Don't get hung up trying to pick something that you both like to do! Instead, trade off, alternating between your needs and your partner's needs. Otherwise, you will run out of ideas very quickly.
  2. Do not go to the movies! In fact, avoid any other activity that prevents you from interacting or talking with each other.
  3. Be different! Variety is the spice of life and if you want some spice back in your relationship, start adding it to your dates. It's easy to do. If you like to go out to eat, choose a different restaurant this time, or if you go to the same restaurant, choose something on the menu that you have never eaten before. Whatever you choose to do, think of a way to make it different and new.
  4. Use the five essentials on your date. Here are some ideas:
    • Time - Spending time will be easy if you stay off the phone.
    • Talk - Take turns and chat about your day and week.
    • Tasks - Opening doors for your wife or taking time to plan the date are important ways to serve each other.
    • Touch - Make sure you hold hands.
    • Thanks - Take the time to tell each other what you appreciate. Thank each other for your favorite parts of the date.

Planning dates that will transform your relationship takes time and a little flexibility. In this exercise we will help you come up with some good ideas.
Exercise

Remember date night is not about getting food, but about going out and feeding the relationship. Be creative, bring some thought and planning to your evenings out. The results will be a happier and healthier relationship.

For more information on Step 4, “Boost Your Success with a Marriage Intervention,“ see the following resources:

The Date Night Deck - An innovative product that will help you connect, rekindle, and deepen your love
“Dating to Keep Your Marriage Strong” - Audio by Dr. Rozario Slack PhD, Pastor

Step 5 - Learn More about How to Enrich Your Marriage

Now that you have completed steps 1-4, you can follow up on what you have learned by exploring some of our best resources on your particular situation. The purpose of this guided solution is to provide you with some simple steps to help you strengthen your relationship and put it back on the path toward happiness. Feel free to browse some of the resources we are recommending below. We add new resources frequently, so check back often.

In-depth Couples Communication Workshop
The goal of this workshop is to help you communicate with your partner in ways that allow you to understand each other at a deeper level and find solutions to your problems.
Workshop

MyExpertSolution’s Top Choices for Learning More about Marriage:

Do you want to improve your sex life?

“Hot Monogamy” - Audio by Dr. Kevin Skinner LMFT, Kenneth Patey MS

Are looking for more help on getting close again after you have drifted apart?

“Marriage: Drifting Apart” - Audio by Dr. Kevin Skinner LMFT, Kenneth Patey MS
“Insights That My Clients Have Taught Me: Empowering your Relationship” - Article by Dr. MK Downing PhD, MFT

Do you find that many of your conversations end up with a fight?

“What Are We Fighting About Anyway?” - Article by Dr. MK Downing PhD, MFT

See all marriage resources
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