A marriage is like a car on a muddy road -- apt to get bogged down and stuck unless you have the right tires and a skilled driver. You can improve your marriage and get back on track by replacing old, threadbare arguments with strategies that work. While you're working on replacing your wheels, however, behave as though your marriage is the best in the world, and you'll begin to see immediate change.
Rewrite Your Script
Married couples tend to get trapped in patterns of communication that serve only to reinforce negativity in the marriage. Break this pattern in your marriage by deciding to focus on the positive rather than the negative. For example, if you would normally criticize your husband for playing golf all day with his friend, surprise him with a compliment when he gets home. Tell him, "I'm so glad you got a chance to relax today. I'm so proud to be married to such a hardworking man."
Stop Being Right
The next time you and your spouse are about to engage in a knock-down, drag-out argument -- or even a minor one -- consider the cost of arguing your point. Stop engaging in an "ego-driven power struggle," says psychologist Phil McGraw, Ph.D., on his website. While your belief that your wife could have found a better deal on the new smoke detectors at a different store might be correct, your marriage will be better off if you simply thank her for taking the trouble to take care of the problem, for example. And lay off correcting factual information, says psychologist Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., in an October 2012 article in "The Huffington Post." In other words, it isn't worth arguing over whether or not the distance to your cousin's house is 150 or 175 miles.
Go With What Works
Don't be afraid to change methods that aren't working, says McGraw, as commitment is more important than technique. In other words, if having a tense argument about money each month when the bills are due hasn't solved any financial problems, try a completely different approach, such as handing the responsibility for the bills over to your spouse and complying with his budget. Keep trying possible solutions to a difficult problem until you both either find one you can live with or decide to accept that you will always disagree in that area.
Invite an Imaginary Guest
If you imagine that you have a proper British guest who can overhear every unkind word or argument, says Lerner, you'll be less likely to react angrily when your spouse does something that displeases you. For example, when your husband saunters into the house with muddy boots after a day spent fly fishing, staining the carpet, you'll be more inclined to ask him to help you with the carpet cleaner and less likely to call him an unsavory name. Your marriage is likely to see so much improvement that you might want to issue your imaginary house guest an ongoing invitation.