Often in marriage, especially in the early years, there is a choice: You can be right or you can be happy - not both. Choose wisely.
As a friend of mine said after his first year of marriage: "I finally figured out that the sun will come up tomorrow if we do it her way."
1. Learn the gentle art of cooperation. Related to wanting to be right, competition in a marriage is corrosive - it eats away at all the good stuff.
2.If you are going to compete, compete together to have the very best marriage you can have.
3. Talk about the important stuff. Most couples spend more time planning a vacation than they do planning for their relationship. Create a relationship vision by asking: "If we could have it exactly like we want, how would it be?" Build from there. If you get stuck, ask or hire someone to help.
4. Forgive as much or more than you would like to be forgiven. Sometimes forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, especially when you do not feel like it. Forgiveness can release you from the pain of the offense.
5. Celebrate what you want to see more of. Appreciation can go a long way.
6. Listen to the heart more than you listen to the words. Focusing on the words can lead to endless and meaningless debate: "No, that did not happen on Tuesday, it happened on Monday!" Focusing on the heart behind the words can lead to resolution of conflict and to taking care of each other.
7. Don't be a Darren Stevens. In the old sitcom "Bewitched," Samantha merely had to wiggle her nose to make incredible things happen. Darren was always trying to get her to stop using her magical powers.
Even as a little kid, I thought the guy was nuts. He could have had anything he wanted. Instead he tried to get Sam to stifle her gifts. Encourage your partner in her gifts.
8. Check out your communication. While it's easy for two people to talk to each other, sometimes it is more difficult to really communicate with each other. Practice these two sentences: "What I think you're saying is . . . did I miss anything?" and "Please, tell me what you think I just said."
9. Take responsibility for your contributions to the struggle. We've yet to see a relationship problem that didn't have two sets of fingerprints all over it. Yet, we tend to focus on what the other person is doing. "If only you would . . . .,then everything would be OK."
One of the quickest paths to frustration and failure is to try to change someone else. Take responsibility to change your contribution to the problem, whether it's what you are doing and/or how you respond to what your partner is doing.
10. Don't assume that just because you are married, you know how to be married. Pay attention to what works for other couples. Read all you can. Go to seminars. Everybody needs a coach. Find one. It's a lot less expensive than divorce, financially and emotionally.