The balancing act
"People struggle to keep a balance," said Diane Strausser, founder of Successful Relationships. "People coming to see me have often drifted away from each other. I really believe that a couple needs to spend focused time with each other every single day. It can't just be, 'If I have time left at the end of a crazy day I'll pay attention to you for 5 minutes.' That's when things go haywire."
Strausser said to ask yourself every day what you do to enhance your marriage. "It keeps things at the forefront," she said. "I ask couples to spend 30 minutes every day sitting face to face having a conversation. The ones that do that have a healthy marriage - they stay connected."
"Spending time with your spouse signals to children that this marriage is important. They learn that you value your relationship with your spouse," she said. "We learn everything we know about love and relationships from our family of origin. As parents develop their family, kids learn everything about love and marriage from them."
How does a healthy relationship affect the family? "If a marriage is happy enough and well-grounded, the kids will reflect that," Strausser said. "The kids will do as well as the parents do. We set the tone by how we work together."
A calendar in the kitchen is essential, she continued. "You have to know everyone's schedule so you can plan your week out, then you're not scrambling. Try not to take on too much - only take on as much as you can do in one day or one evening. If you pick a chore and it's done, you feel a sense of accomplishment. It also helps decrease anxiety."
James also likes to keep things picked up. Her advice is to use boxes, baskets or bags to help organize, "anything that keeps the house clutter free," she said. "The house rule for everyone is, 'if you use it, put it away'."
Walking their dog together every night gives James and her husband dedicated time just for them. "It gives us 30 minutes to talk by ourselves and we know we have that time together. And we have a reminder - right after I start the dishwasher the dog starts pacing."
In a well-organized household, even the dog knows the schedule.
Marguerite Marsh is a freelance writer in Columbus. She writes about many topics, including families, relationships, artists and pets.
5 tips to build better relationships from Diane Strausser:
- Devote time to your marriage and family. Time is the number one thing people want more of. You can have anything you want. What are you willing to give up?
- Listen. People want to be listened to and validated. They want to know they are important.
- Have childcare available so that you and your spouse can go out twice a month by yourselves.
- Extend two or three loving gestures every day. Tell your loved ones what you appreciate about them. Greet them at the door.
- Smile! A physiological change occurs in our bodies when we smile. Smiling lifts up the face and sends a message to your brain that you are safe; you can relax. It changes our brain chemistry and ability to relate to people.