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Take time to focus on building marriage
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Most spouses know to give romantic gifts on Valentine’s Day, but the gift of time spent developing a healthy relationship is one that will last much longer than a box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers.
Cassandra Kirkland, family life specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said strong marriages are built on common-sense, positive habits.
“Everyone is busy, but couples need to make time to nurture their relationships,” she said. “Schedule a date night just as you would a dentist appointment. It’s important to make your relationship a priority in your life, because priorities tend to get our best effort.”
Some couples may need to get creative to establish this habit. If a date night is not possible, a breakfast date, going for a walk after supper, or swapping babysitting duties with another couple may provide an opportunity for “couple time.”
“Take an interest in things that matter to your spouse, and you’ll be surprised by the closeness this strategy can foster,” Kirkland said. “This is one area of give-and-take in a marriage where you each have your own interests, but in sharing what you love, you may find new common interests.”
Kirkland recommended kindness and thoughtfulness as other healthy relationship habits.
“Do something kind for your spouse at least once a week -- and I’m not talking about the usual chores or household tasks,” she said. “Raise the bar a bit and look for ways to show your partner you really care, whether it’s tackling a task you know your spouse hates or doing something he or she really needs done.
“If you treat your spouse the same way you would treat a best friend or someone you highly admire, your marriage will be on the right track,” Kirkland said.
Joe Wilmoth, associate professor of human development and family studies in the MSU School of Human Sciences, said deep friendship and a strong sense of attachment lead to a lasting relationship.
“Nurture your fondness for your spouse. Remind yourself why you fell in love in the first place,” Wilmoth said. “Focus on those feelings of fondness and appreciation instead of focusing on negative aspects of your relationship.”
Wilmoth, who has been married for 39 years, said all relationships will have challenges, but commitment is the key to longevity.
“One of the most practical decisions my wife and I made early in our marriage was that we would never use the word ‘divorce’ as a threat,” he said. “We promised that we would work together to solve any problems we might face.”
Good times come and go for all couples, but those with enduring relationships remain committed to each other during the hard times, Wilmoth said.
“Not only do couples need to be committed to each other, but they need to be dedicated to doing whatever it takes to have a successful, healthy relationship,” he said.
Wilmoth’s final tip: do your homework.
“Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard is to study your partner to learn what is important to him or her, and to use that information to find ways to show you care,” he said.
For more tips on building a healthy marriage, download Information Sheet 1830, “They Lived Happily Ever After: How to Keep Your Relationship on Track”.
Contact: Dr. Cassandra Kirkland, 662-325-0749