It’s easy to roll your eyes at suggestions about how to be a better partner.
You’ve been married to this person for … how many years now?
You know the things you should be doing, like scheduling a monthly date night.
But who has time for it all?
You do, actually.
Related: How to Pleasure a Woman—the Men’s Health Complete Guide to Becoming a Master Lover
The benefits that come from prioritizing your marriage make the effort more than worthwhile. And these low-maintenance tips prove that it’s actually doable.
Whether it’s a new habit to adopt or a simple tweak you can make in everyday conversation, here are 8 easy ways to get started.
Throw a party.
“When you’re tired, being fun can feel like a chore,” says life coach Elaine Beth Cohen. “Getting yourself excited might seem like the antithesis of what you want to do, but it may very well be exactly what you need.”
So pull together a just-because party—it doesn’t have to be anything fancy or elaborate.
Even just inviting a bunch of friends over for pizza will get you out of your routine, and will create fun memories that you both will look back on fondly.
Leave your Phone in the car.
“Looking at other couples while out to dinner the past few years, I’ve noticed how one spouse will be looking at their phone, while the other eats in silence,” says Dawn Michael, Ph.D., author of My Husband Won’t Have Sex With Me. “Talk about lack of respect. This is a nonverbal way of saying, ‘You’re not important enough for me to focus on.’”
So when you go out to eat, leave the phones in the car. Or on your entryway table at home. You get the picture.
It will feel weird at first, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you get used to it, and how much more able you are to focus on her.
Don’t ask “How was your day?”
Instead, try finding out how her day went.
“This changes the question from a fact-finding mission to one that digs into your partner’s heart and creates a deeper connection,” says couples’ therapist Marni Feuerman.
When your partner talks about a meeting with her boss or the new assistant messing up at work, ask about the impact it’s having on her.
Does this leave her scared, unhappy, or angry?
This offers the opportunity to empathize and show that you are there for her in an emotionally supportive way, Feuerman says. It also gives you more of a glimpse into her inner world.
Take a day off from being a husband once a month.
Or just an afternoon—whatever you can manage. You’ll probably feel guilty, but it’s going to help your relationship.
“We live in a society where men and women receive messages that we need to protect or take care of others,” says Courtney Geter, LMFT, a sex and relationship therapist.
“When we get in this habit, we neglect the most important person: ourselves. Constantly putting your spouse, kids, coworkers, clients, and family first depletes your energy.”
Schedule a golf trip, enjoy a hobby, take the dog for a walk, or just relax in the backyard.
Drop your expectations.
No, we aren’t suggesting you lower your expectations.
“People often bring to relationships a set of assumptions about what their partners should do to make them happy, but their partners don’t know about these expectations,” says Pam Bauer, certified life coach at Pam Bauer Coaching.
One example she gives: My partner should always pick out an awesome gift for my birthday.
Well, the minute your partner doesn’t do that, you get frustrated and upset, and the relationship becomes an exercise in scorekeeping.
“Your partner is not a mind-reader,” she says.
Talk to her so you can build a shared understanding of what each of you wants and can realistically provide.
Put your relationship before your ego.
So many arguments are about one person being right, instead of doing what is best for the relationship.
“The latter takes maturity and the ability to humble yourself,” says Michael. “Proving your point in an argument often outweighs the negative effect that it can have on your relationship.
Ask yourself if it is really worth the stress on your relationship just to that you are right.
Go to bed angry.
“The reality is that when we are overly emotional, our common sense gets buried and our tongue gets looser. You’ll have better results if you take a breather to calm down and regain your wits,” says marriage and lifestyle coach Midori Verity.
Of course, the issue will still need to be dealt with, but waiting until you can talk with a clear head will be far better for your relationship.
Learn the difference between a criticism and a complaint.
A criticism is a deliberate attack on a person’s character with the intent to inflict emotional pain.
It’s meant to be a jab.
A complaint, on the other hand, is a request for a change in behavior.
“Most people interpret complaints as criticism and take them personally, and when this happens they miss the opportunity to connect with their partner,” says psychotherapist Crystal Bradshaw.
When you hear a complaint from your partner, try to hear the request and help her articulate what she is struggling to share, she says.
“Try not to get defensive and make it about you; instead focus your energy on what’s hidden in the complaint to help your partner get their needs met.”
Here’s an example she gives: “You used to help me work in the yard on the weekends. We used to enjoy doing this stuff together and planning projects. Now I do it all myself.”
The hidden request: “I want to do yard work with you. I want us to do it together like we used to. We used to enjoy spending time together doing this, and now I do it alone and it’s not as enjoyable to me without you.”
See the difference?