- Ask each other for what you need. Husbands and wives require different things from each other when they're stressed. Your partner may want to talk about what's on his mind, or she may want to take a walk or cuddle up in bed. Other times, your partner may prefer to be left alone. The more direct and specific you are about what you need, the more likely your husband or wife will be able to respond. Men seem to have an especially hard time asking for support. Some men (and women) fear that such requests are interpreted as signs of weakness. It's important to trust your partner enough to say, "I'm having a really hard time and I feel overwhelmed. What I need from you is ... [state specifically what you actually need]."
- Forgive yourself and your partner. A lot of marital stress is caused by relatively small incidents. Some couples have major fights after they discovered that one of them forgot a piece of luggage at an airport on their way to a Caribbean vacation. Next thing you know, a two-week vacation was ruined. Assigning blame never helps a marriage. In the end, it really doesn't matter who is at fault. What's most important is that married partners don't allow the good feelings between them to be destroyed by finger pointing.
- Don't expect perfection — from your partner or yourself. Perfectionism almost always ends up creating unnecessary stress because it's impossible to achieve. There's no such thing as the perfect spouse or the perfect parent. It's also self-defeating to expect a trip — or even an evening out — to come off without a hitch. Something can always go wrong — even though it's usually inconsequential.
- Find ways to take care of your partner — and yourself. Take turns massaging each other. Take a hot bath together. Go out for a special dinner. Buy tickets to a show or concert you've both wanted to see. Be thoughtful and creative when you select the kind of special care that most effectively addresses your situation.
- Change the scenery. Planning some time away from your normal routine can help both of you relax and approach your stressors more productively. You don't have to go on a lengthy or exotic vacation. One night in a hotel in the country — or even across town — can recharge both your batteries and give you a fresh perspective.
Excerpted from Making Marriage Work For Dummies™, published by Wiley Publishing Inc.
For more information on "Making Marriage Work For Dummies®", or other books, visit Dummies.com.