Some pieces of marriage advice we’ve heard time and time again: Never go to bed angry, make sure your spouse is your best friend, be transparent about your feelings.
But at this point, we’re ready for a fresh, unconventional take on how to stave off divorce. Below, relationship experts share six surprising pieces of advice.
1. Put your kids second to your spouse.
The relationship you have with your kids should never come before your marriage, said Jeffrey Platts, a relationship expert and men’s coach. The “your-spouse-should-always-come-first” philosophy may not sit well with some parents but Platts thinks it could help couples stay clear of divorce. Plus, your kids will grow up knowing what a strong, healthy relationship looks like.
“Children are super observant and will naturally model how you show up individually and as a couple,” he said. “You need to make sure your own emotional and energetic tank is full so you can show up even more present and powerfully for your kids. The bonus is that your partnership will be even stronger.”
2. Look at your spouse the way your dog looks at you.
When you walk through the door after a long day, your dog has nothing but blind love and appreciation for you, right? You’re the best human ever, bar none. Why not try to replicate that devotion when you think of your spouse, said Evelyn Moschetta, a New York City-based couples therapist.
“Looking at each other consciously through doggie eyes means no blaming, judging, criticizing or controlling,” she explained.” It’s offering unconditional love and being worthy of receiving it. It also means living in the present and not spoiling it by dragging in old negative memories from the past. It means seeing each other through innocent eyes, so you each stay fresh, new and exciting to one another.”
3. Text like you just met.
Between emails, texts and work calls, your spouse likely feels bombarded by communication throughout the day. But there’s one person your partner probably wouldn’t mind hearing from out of the blue and that person is you. It may seem like small potatoes, but a sweet message out of nowhere (even just “Hey boo, what do you want for dinner later?”) shows how much you still care.
“That little message, whether it’s a text, call or email, could make you and your partner feel like your lives are intertwined even when you’re apart,” said psychologist Samantha Rodman. “When you see each other later that night, you haven’t been completely apart for ten hours or more each day. You’ll feel more like you’re part of each other’s daily lives.”
4. Don’t assume your partner is going to stay with you.
People who think they have their relationship on lock down — or that their partner will never leave — are exactly the kind of people who end up blindsided by divorce, said Platts.
“In my work with coaching clients, I encounter many people who view relationships as a check box,” he said. “They think, ‘I’ve found a partner or spouse, so now I can put that part of my life on cruise control and just enjoy each other.’ They feel successful because they found someone.”
The reality is, once you’ve found The One, you have to work to keep them in your life every day, Platts said.
“People don’t realize that for a relationship to be a lifelong source of love, growth and joy for both partners, you have to work at it,” he said. “Shift your focus so that you’re continually growing and learning from each other. When you value something, you enjoy studying it. Same goes for love and relationships.”
5. Write each other’s obituaries.
No, it’s not quite as romantic as dinner and movie, but spending an evening jotting off what you’d say in the event of your spouse’s death is a great reminder of why you fell in love with them in the first place, said Paul Moschetta, a New York City-based couples therapist.
“Ask yourselves: What are the qualities that first attracted you to them? What have been your best moments together?” he said. “Describe the joys you shared, the tender moments, the selfless acts of caring that endeared you to each other. Revise this eulogy once a week for one month, adding to it additional memories, then take turns reading them to one another.”
6. Stop talking so much.
Don’t be so quick to sort out all your relationship problems, said Platts. It may sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes you just need a breather. He’s knows the benefit of a good timeout from his own relationship.
“As a dating and love coach who’s in a relationship with fellow coach, we can easily get lost in processing every little thing,” he said. “There’s definitely a time for talking things out but there’s also powerful value in simply being with each other without talking. Sometimes, just an afternoon of cuddling, a walk in the park or night out salsa dancing is just what you both need to get back to center as a couple.”
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