In recent years, physicians and fitness gurus have been encouraging us to "listen to our bodies." Pain is a sign of something gone wrong. Whether it taps us on the shoulder or smacks us over the head, it gets our attention. Sometimes the solution is as simple as a BC powder or a long nap. But when symptoms persist, we usually break down and go to the doctor. If we are smart, we keep up with our annual physicals to ward off potential problems. In between, we exercise, eat right and try our best to keep fit.
So why is it that we wait until our marriages are on their deathbed to seek help? Relationships, like the systems of the body, are very complex; but rarely do they go completely awry without some warning signals. Sometimes the signs are as clearly defined as a throbbing migraine. In other instances, they just gnaw at our guts. But, if we are "listening," we can sense that something is not quite right.
Like most women, I have fine-tuned my intuitions. I have learned to trust them, and they almost never steer me wrong. I have also learned to use intuition as my marital thermometer. Let me give you an example: Recently, I had this nagging little feeling that something wasn't on track at home. There just seemed to be an extra distance between my husband and me. (Have you ever had that feeling? If you've been married more than two weeks, I bet you have!) I couldn't pinpoint anything specific, but I didn't want to ignore it either. So, I brought it up. As it turned out, my husband had been stressed over some work-related matter that he had not shared with me. Although technically nothing was wrong in our relationship, by trusting my gut, I was able to open up a discussion and draw closer to my man.
I'm not suggesting that you panic over every little cooling period in your marriage. Passion runs in cycles and life circumstances can certainly put a damper on romance. It's also important to distinguish between real danger and imaginary threats. Nothing will irritate your mate more than constantly asking, "Is something wrong?" This is not about paranoia. It's about prevention in the form of honest, free-flowing communication. It's about taking care of the small stuff - warding off the virus before it invades the relationship. In a future issue, we are going to talk about the rough patches and how to survive the really tough challenges. But for now, let's focus on the everyday. After all, that is how strong marriages are built and rebuilt: one day at a time.
RX for a happy marriage
According to Mort Fertel, author and founder of the Marriage Fitness System for Relationship Renewal, "One of the most important skills to learn in order to succeed in your marriage is to 'put love first.' To have a good marriage, your relationship has to be the absolute highest priority in your life - bar none," he says. "But putting love first is not as simple as just saying that your marriage is important to you. You have to know how to translate that value into your marital lifestyle."
Are your priorities in the right place? Use Fertel's Priority Assessment* below to identify strengths and weaknesses.
Keep your finger on the pulse of your marriage. Use your intuition as a preventive measure. If something feels "off" in your relationship, don't slap a Band-aid on it by brushing it aside. Identify and fix it before it festers and makes your marriage sick. Share the priority assessment with your spouse. If your scores indicate a need for improvement, make the commitment to reprioritize. For a step-by-step marriage fitness plan, visit www.mortfertel.com and sign up for a free report: "Seven Secrets for Fixing Your Marriage."
*Priority assessment courtesy of Mort Fertel, a world authority on the psychology of relationships with an international reputation for saving marriages.
True or False
1. When my spouse phones, I almost always make time to talk.
2. If I'm with my spouse and someone else phones, I usually don't take the call.
3. I speak to my spouse about non-logistical matters at least twice per day.
4. When something significant happens in my life, I almost always share it with my spouse first.
5. I initiate positive, loving physical contact with my spouse at least twice each day.
6. When we go to a social function, I almost always spend at least half my time talking with my spouse.
7. When my spouse walks into the house, I almost always interrupt whatever I am doing to greet my spouse.
8. When I walk into the house, the first thing I usually do is greet my spouse.
9. I spend more time interacting with my spouse than I do watching TV.
10. I spend more time interacting with my spouse than anyone else in my life.
11. I usually interrupt whatever I am doing if my spouse wants my attention.
12. When I need someone to talk to, I almost always talk to my spouse.
13. I almost always recognize in a significant way my spouse's birthday, our anniversary, and other special days.
14. My spouse and I go out alone together at least once per week.
15. My spouse and I go on vacation alone together at least once per year.
16. I have photographs of my spouse in my office, wallet, or gym locker.
17. I have at least one personal and meaningful discussion with my spouse per week for a minimum of 25 minutes.
18. I do unnecessary, thoughtful things for my spouse regularly.
1-9: Out of shape. Your priorities are out of whack.
10-14: Average. This won't do if you're trying to revamp your marriage.
15-18: Marriage Fitness Champion. You seem to have your priorities straight.