Guest blogger Elizabeth Kuster: It's easy to get into the habit of the same-ol, same-ol, which can really take the juice out of your relationship. Here, a marriage expert reveals the three most common (and potentially unhealthy) marriage ruts--and gives advice on how to break out of them.
Bust out by: Planning ahead. "At the beginning of each week, sit down with your spouse and take a quick inventory of the days ahead," Greer suggests. "Then plan an equitable division of labor. Will one of you be working late on Tuesday? Does one of you have an event to attend on Friday? Figure it out, then make some specific decisions as to who will be responsible for the various parenting tasks each day, whether they be reading to the kids, putting them to bed, making dinner or whatever. Keep it fluid; it doesn't have to be carved in stone. The point is simply to make things more balanced. That way, the one who used to do the lion's share won't be completely angry, tired, and resentful anymore. You'll also find that you have more time to spend with each other, just the two of you."
Relationship rut #2: Your bedtime habits aren't in sync. "If one of you always falls asleep in front of the TV, or goes to bed early while the other one stays up late, that's a major disconnect," Greer says. "It's bad for a couple because you'll be sacrificing intimacy and weakening your connection."
Bust out by: Creating a new nighttime routine. "Even if you fall asleep at different times, you should still make time to bond in bed every night," Greer says. "It doesn't have to be sex. It can be snuggling, kissing, talking, reading...the point is to do something together in bed together every night. Ideally, you want to put a cap on individual activity; if one of you is watching TV and the other is doing something else, arrange to come to bed at a particular time and do the same thing in bed together."
Relationship rut #3: Not communicating with each other. "This is the biggest rut of all," Greer says. "What happens is, a couple's dialogue becomes focused on the practicalities of living and running a family; it ceases to address the important issues that need to be dealt with, whether they be financial or 'Why are you working such late hours?' or 'I don't want to go to your mother's every weekend' or whatever. The big issues are being avoided because of the sheer volume of day-to-day activities."
Bust out by: Having a regular "marriage business meeting" each and every week. "So many husbands tell me, 'I can't talk to my wife about this or that,'" Greer notes. "They avoid deep discussions because they don't want to open a can of worms. But when I tell them to structure it as a business meeting--and marriage is a business--they can totally handle it. It gives you a way to talk about highly charged issues in an even-tempered, rational, problem-solving way."