Did your marriage start out just right? Did you propose/get proposed to on the beach, under a full moon, with custom engagement rings in Brisbane? Did you find out that true love is never that easy? A solid marriage requires openness, hard work, and dedication. While there are plenty of ways to work on a marriage, the most important thing to do is to always express love.

People express and receive love in different ways, and you may be loving your spouse in a way that isn’t reaching them. On the other hand, your spouse may be loving you in a way that’s going right over your head (or even frustrating you.) Communicating about what “love” looks like to you is important.

Remember to Show Respect

Have you ever heard that respect is what keeps a relationship ticking?

Every adult needs to be respected by the person who means the most to them, and you should be affirming your respect for each other on a regular basis. It can be demeaning, insulting, and irritating when your spouse disrespects you— and we often do it to each other unintentionally.

Imagine you’re on vacation in Australia, you’re driving and your spouse goes over a bump, and a few seconds later, the car stops. Your first thought is, “They did this because they hit that bump. If they’d been driving responsibly, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Your second, “We’re stranded in the Australian outback.”

It’s easy to get mad, blame your spouse, and start rattling off a list of, “You should have”s. While you can express concern, it doesn’t do any good to criticize your spouse. At the end of the day, you can rely on towing in Greenbank, Queensland and come out of the situation just fine.

If you respect your spouse as a person, you’ll remember that they are competent, worth trusting, and skilled; everybody makes mistakes sometimes.

Pay Attention to Their Interests

Your spouse’s interests are an important part of your marriage, as are yours. You need time together and time apart, and separate interests allow you the chance to do both.

One the one hand, you want to let your spouse know you care about his or her passions. If your spouse is passionate about cryptocurrency stocks (the ability to invest in online currency), then you could ask to hear about it, and what some of their strategies are. Or you may not want to listen to a long explanation about pre-gunpowder warfare, but listening anyway is a chance to show love to your spouse.

On the other hand, you don’t always need to share your spouse’s passion. In fact, you could encourage them to keep some of their interests separate. It’s great if you can both develop a passion for kayaking, but if you also take up knitting, you might crowd some of your spouse’s independence. Encourage your spouse to pursue separate hobbies. If he or she has a passion for teaching, help them pursue it. Plenty of people are trying to find an English tutor online, and your spouse could be the teacher that helps them reach their goals.

Give Genuine Compliments

We all thrive on positive feedback, and compliments can change the atmosphere in the room. It’s easy to say, “You forgot the milk!” instead of, “You’re so thoughtful for getting groceries!” but shifting your conversations from the positive to the negative can have a lasting impact.

You might have to deliberately stop and notice your spouse, their appearance, behavior, actions, or accomplishments to pay a compliment.

Compliments can be simple:

  • Your hair looks good today.
  • I really appreciate that you cleaned.
  • Thank you for going to work, even though today sucked.
  • You look classy.

But the best compliments are specific, such as

  • The oregano in this salad was a brilliant choice.
  • Your bangs are flopping today, and it’s so adorable.
  • Look at your muscles when you lift that!
  • You explained that better in five minutes than my high school English teacher did in a year.
  • Your singing voice gives me chills.

You and your spouse might be great at showing love in some ways but struggle in the other ways. Stay kind and don’t blame, but make sure your partner knows what you need. Your marriage needs certain things to grow and thrive, and it’s not being “fussy” or “demanding” to request the sunlight, water, or clean soil that you need to grow.