In a marriage, there are a lot of people involved, but who should come first, the spouse or the kids?
There are a lot of things that go into a happy marriage. It's not like the movies, well some movies, like the uber romantic ones where everyone is happy all the time. People disagree, people accidentally hurt each other's feelings, people have annoying habits. Things like that don't suddenly change because you got married. A week ago was my husband's and my 4 year anniversary. While we don't have a perfect marriage, I think every marriage is a work in progress that lasts your lifetime, I do think we have learned a few useful things along the way.
Communication is the key. I know, I know, everyone says that. But it's not necessarily actually telling your spouse what you think and feel that is a problem. It's knowing when and how to say it. You might say, I tell my husband all the time to put his clothes away when he comes home instead of leaving it on the floor and nothing comes of it. Yes, you are communicating, but it's not in the most effective way. We'll use this as our example.
If you come home from work and you know you have to get dinner made and the first thing you see is your husband's dirty socks on the floor, your gut reaction might be to say "How many times have I asked you to just put your dirty socks in the hamper? It's not that hard. It's only 2 ft from where you dropped them." This will not be effective. It immediately puts your spouse on the defensive, and who can blame them. You are definitely on the attack.
Instead, don't bring it up. Pick up the socks and put them away, cause let's face it, if you are not bringing it up, they not going to jump into the hamper themselves. Although you are not bringing it up at the moment, do make a mental note that this behavior drives you bananas. Now the next day or a few days later, you might have a wonderful date night or even just a fun day with the kids. While you are both happy and pleased with each other, now you can bring up the socks. Instead of stating how you can't understand why such a simple task seems beyond him, choose your words more carefully. Explain that when he throws his socks on the floor instead of in the hamper it makes you feel that he does not respect the effort you make to maintain the household or it makes you feel that he does not take pride in your home. Make it about you and how it makes you feel. Your spouse may see it as no big deal, and they just don't understand why you get so upset. Therefore, they never make the mental note to stop the behavior. When you tell them why you get so upset at a time when you are not upset, they can really get the message. Out of respect for your feelings they can make the effort to change their behavior. Yelling doesn't have that kind of reaction.
Another key is to praise your spouse when they actually do what you have asked. So when you come home and find no socks on the floor, thank your spouse for putting them away. Even though in your mind, it doesn't seem praiseworthy, your spouse will appreciate the recognition for their effort. This encourages them to continue doing it in the future.
This communication technique can and should be used for all kinds of situations, big or small. It takes effort to not immediately fly off the handle about something you've told your spouse a million times. I can't claim that I have the control to do this always. But I can say that when I have, the results are much better.
Another tip for spousal communication is to make things about you. I don't mean this in a narcissistic way. I mean, when you ask (you should be asking, not telling) your spouse to do something, make it about you. I.e. instead of saying "please call the chimney cleaner today" say "Could you do me a favor and call the chimney cleaner today? I'm hoping to get the chimney cleaned before we really need to turn on the heat." When you phrase it as a favor instead of a demand, you are more likely to get results. It also makes your spouse feel like they are helping you out instead of being your servant.
Also, don't give tasks as a laundry list. 1 favor a day means 7 favors done in a week! When you give a list, you are lucky to get 2-3 done. Again, lists make you spouse feel like a servant, not a partner.
Lastly, be thankful. As easy as some tasks are, they are not necessarily on the forefront of your spouse's mind. You are not the same person and you prioritize things differently. So for you the chimney cleaner might be number one, but for him, he may not be able to work on something until the house is clean. Be aware of this and appreciate when he takes the time out to do your priority.
Marriage is work and communication is key. Remember, it's not just what you communicate, it's how and when you do it. As my husband can tell you, I can be demanding at times and I do not always put these tips into practice. But it is something we both consciously work on to maintain a healthy, happy relationship.