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How To Save A Marriage

If only every couple knew how to fight fair. The right words can make the "for worse" part better.

4. Be a Cheerleader, Not Just a Problem Solver continued...

In her research, Gable found that many couples underestimated the importance of celebrating the good. She says, "People are very busy. They think, If it's not on fire or broken, I don't need to fix it. But most of us have five positive experiences in a day, compared with one negative event. If you don't pay attention to the positive events, you are missing a lot."

One of the things that taking those seven months away to work on our marriage and travel with our kids gave my husband and me was the opportunity to really focus on life's positive moments. Now that we are back in California, the ability to celebrate the great small moments in a day is a skill that has made our marriage not only strong, but infinitely more tender and loving than I ever could have imagined a few years ago.

5. Stay Focused

While we were healing, I made myself concentrate on just two things, eating and cooking, and while I was lucky enough to be doing that in France, it turns out that I probably could have gotten the same amount of happiness payback anywhere. New research by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D., of Harvard suggests that what was most important was not the cheese, or the wine, or la vie en rose, but rather that when I was engaged in cooking and eating, I was so intently focused on those activities, keeping my mind from wandering. "A wandering mind is an unhappy mind," Killingsworth says. When the mind wanders, it actually leads our happiness astray. Good news for my husband (who insists he knew this all along): When are people the most intensely focused? During sex.

So snuggle up to your partner and don't think about the laundry list of to-do's. Or throw your whole self into making an elaborate Sunday dinner. Find something you love to do, even for an hour a week, and block everything else out. That time is like money in the emotional bank of your relationship. That's my advice, and the most important thing I learned when I walked away from a television career to focus on and fix my marriage.

In the end, you can't really take back the awful things you've said. There are still times when I recall something Greg said, or something I said, and I just cringe. But then I remember tip number three, and I don't hit Rewind. Because Greg and I have taken the reins of our language, I know how to separate a real crisis from one of us just having a bad day. Our marriage is a sacred space to Greg and me now: We won't blaspheme within it again. Now we try to identify and eliminate our toxic thinking before our emotions get the best of us. And we both make an effort to use words only to honor and strengthen our imperfect union.

But still...a really nice dinner never hurts.


Amy Finley is the author of the new book How to Eat a Small Country: A Family's Pursuit of Happiness, One Meal at a Time.

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