When thinking about my patients, I've noticed a pattern to the marital conflicts that they share. Here's my list of the top ten things that put your marriage at higher risk for break-up and the things you must do to strengthen it.
Putting-Down Spouse's Friends/Family
Don't badmouth your spouse or her/his friends, family or associates. Spouses need to know you appreciate their world outside of you. Rather, compliment her friends and family.
Not Using Good Listening Skills
This includes indulging pre-occupation, avoiding eye contact, looking somewhere else as the conversation unfolds etc. Rather, use good eye contact, wait 'til your spouse finishes talking and concentrate so much on what s/he is saying that you paraphrase it to demonstrate you really listened.
Lack of Love Making
This is a very ominous sign in marriage. If your partner has complaints that prevent him/her from wanting to engage you sexually, get help. Seek medical and/or psychological counseling, if necessary. Men, don't get hung-up on wanting intercourse all the time. Be able to frequently engage your partner slowly and tenderly in a merely sensual fashion. Don't worry, you won't explode because of pent-up semen.
Always Having the Last Word or Need to be Right
This includes lecturing, criticizing and over-correcting your partner. Narcissists are hard to love! Occasionally, admit that you made a mistake, don't know or compliment your partner as having made a "good point" (and leave it at that). Please be concise. Don't answer every question with a lecture on the topic.
Not Following Through
Actions do speak louder than words. Be reliable and trustworthy. When you commit yourself to doing something, do it. This builds the trust necessary to maintain a close relationship. Trust involves everyday things, not just fidelity.
Believe your spouse if s/he says that your teasing was hurtful or a put down. Don't give a lecture about why that wasn't correct. Just stop it. Ask yourself what s/he would find complimentary and say that instead. If you just listen to your spouse you can learn a lot.
Deceit, Lies and Falsehoods
Having lies and secrets creates distance and serious suspicions in your mate. This leads to lack of trust and robs your relationship of the fuel it needs to keep going. Swallow, bite the bullet, be considerate and be honest.
When you know you are annoying and you continue to annoy, it's immature and very wearing on a spouse. Find better ways to get attention and use healthy communication techniques to communicate your gripes.
You must handle conflict constructively even if your spouse doesn't. Having angry outbursts always makes you the loser, even if you are right. That's called being "self-defeating."