Many people enter marriage believing that it will fulfill their every need and all the things they have longed for. When we expect our spouses to fulfill us, we may be setting ourselves up for frustration, disappointment and unhappiness.
On the other hand, successful couples look for opportunities to give to their spouses.
Dr. John Mordechai Gottman, world renowned for his research on marital stability in couples, finds that couples who try to reach out to their spouses and make “deposits” will have a stronger and more successful relationship. Therefore, when couples make deposits into their “marriage box,” they fortify the walls of the box, building and strengthening the trust and love in their marriage.
As a marital therapist, I often see couples who are frustrated or angry that they are not receiving and getting love. Therefore, I ask couples to start making “deposits” into their box by giving to their spouses. The “giving” doesn’t have to be expressed by purchasing expensive jewelry or vacations, but by doing something that your spouse would enjoy.
For example, Sara was upset that Avi never took time to walk with her. Since Avi had a very busy learning and work schedule, he didn’t see the need or have a desire to walk with Sara. After we discussed the importance of giving to each other (in the way that your spouse would like, unless it’s an unreasonable or demeaning request), Avi was willing to compromise and walk with his wife.
Part of filling your marriage box is making compromises. Even though Avi was uninterested in walking, he came to understand how meaningful the walks were to his wife, which then put a deposit into their marriage box.
As couples make their deposits, they are actually working on renewing their love. People who are in healthy relationships don’t just express “I love you” to their spouses verbally, but they do so in many different way.
Here’s are 10 ways to express “I love you” that do not cost money and may be meaningful to your spouse:
1. Spend time together: Take a walk, read a book, play a game
2. Talk about and share your dreams, wishes, goals
3. Give your spouse a back rub, kiss or hug
4. Cook your spouse’s favorite dish
5. Plan a surprise for your spouse
6. Say something uplifting or encouraging
7. Write your spouse a letter expressing your feelings
8. Say thank you and show your appreciation
9. Smile in a loving and caring manner
10. Say “I love you”
When you make deposits into your marriage box, it does not have to be difficult or costly, but it takes forethought. By taking time to make a deposit, you are expressing how important your spouse is and how much you value your relationship.
Lisa (Elisheva) Rabinowitz is a local licensed clinical professional counselor. She can be reached at 410-736-8118 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her suggestions are for couples in healthy relationships and exclude those in abusive relationships.