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4 Small Investments to Improve Your Marriage

March 13, 2016 | by Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC

How to prevent entropy in your relationship.

One of the laws of thermodynamics is entropy – the natural tendency of things when left alone to deteriorate into disorder. This also happen in relationships. Take a good, healthy relationship between a husband and wife – they like each other, appreciate each other, spend time together. But then work gets busy, or a new baby enters the picture and suddenly there’s not so much time for the relationship, nor a whole lot of sleep or patience either. Throw in a sharp word here, a thoughtless moment there, and eventually all the criticisms and misunderstandings lead to this couple having more negative interactions than positive ones.

What happened? They needed to take a few minutes every day to appreciate each other and to put positive energy into the relationship, to keep this decline from occurring.

Here are four ideas to help strengthen the marriage and avoid entropy.

1. Small gestures

Do something unexpected for your spouse on a regular day (one that isn’t a birthday or an anniversary). Buy flowers, make a special dinner you know they’ll enjoy, take them to a concert, or just take a walk around the block to spend time together. These little “extra” things can help break through the routine that, while usually good, can sometimes distract us from connecting to our significant other.

2. Compliment instead criticize

It is easy to fall into a pattern of criticism, and once you’re in the mode of looking for faults, there are often plenty to find. Judaism gives us the concept of having an ayin tovah, a good eye. This encourages us to look for the good in things. When you find yourself thinking of something negatively, challenge yourself to turn it around and find something nice about the situation. And then compliment your spouse on the positive thing you found!

3. Keep a list

Now that we’re in the habit of looking for good things, don’t just let them go in and out of your head, but keep them in one place so that when you’re feeling frustrated, you can remind yourself of all the good there is in your relationship. Make a list in your phone, or in a notebook, or wherever it will be accessible. “Like water reflects a face, so does a person’s heart reflect another’s” (Proverbs 27:19). Whatever we are feeling in our heart toward our spouse will be reflected back to us, so it’s in our best interest to develop feelings of gratitude and appreciation.

4. Let them know

During the middle of the day, send a text or leave a note where you know they’ll find it, in their lunch, or with the coffee. It could just be saying “hi, I’m thinking of you,” or, even more potent, let them know how much you appreciate them and that you’re grateful to be in a relationship together. The name “Jew”, yehudi, comes from Yehudah, which means to give thanks. It’s in our DNA to be grateful, and expressing this gratitude can be a powerful tool for connection.

It doesn’t take much time to keep the forces of relationship entropy at bay, though it does take some thought and effort. These relatively small investments lead to the very large return of a healthy, nurtured relationship.

If your marriage requires more immediate assistance, download your free copy of Rabbi Slatkin’s new book, The 5 Step Action Plan to a Happy & Healthy Marriage.

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