5. Choose your battles, but don’t stifle your feelings. “There’s going to be toothpaste globs here and Post-it notes there; that’s human nature,” says Dr. Wish. “You have to be able to say, ‘this isn’t important.’” Or if it is, speak up. “Tell your partner why it bothers you and that you’d like to work on a solution,” suggests Dr. Wish. You’d be surprised what you could learn about each other. For instance, your spouse may not leave dirty dishes in the sink anymore if you explain that your childhood home was piled high with plates and you were stuck washing them. A simple request like: “Honey, it’d be great if you could pick up the dry cleaning while you’re out” beats getting mad that they didn’t offer to help with errands.
6. Log off. When your attention is focused elsewhere, your spouse is bound to feel unimportant. So make quality time a top priority and restrict tech gadget use if necessary, says Dr. Wish. “Pay attention to the concept of ratio: How much time am I spending doing this compared to how much time I’m spending with my family?” she says. Create a rule that works for your household and stick to it, whether it’s no devices at the dinner table, shutting down phones at 8 p.m. or going gadget-free on weekend afternoons.
7. Don’t use the “D” word. Even in the heat of an argument, avoid threatening to pack your bags or head to the lawyer’s office. Besides the “D” word being downright hurtful, repeated warnings may result in a spouse calling the other’s bluff. “We act as if the intensity of our anger gives us license to say or do anything,” says Dr. Lerner. “But threatening divorce is never useful, and it only makes the probability of separation more likely.”
Plus…let’s add one more law that every couple should know, but one that still manages to damage more and more marriages…
REALLY have each others’ backs
In other words, be wary of outside influences, like a friend putting relationship-threatening ideas in your head or work or hobbies competing for your attention. “Happy couples have just as much conflict as those who divorce, but they know ways to get through it,” says Dr. Castaldo. “A couple has to have a strong boundary around themselves and they can’t allow anybody to get in between.”