- Trust, which can be cultivated.
- Respect—remember why you love and admire your spouse.
- Love, expressed verbally, physically, or in your favorite “love language”: Express appreciation, look for ways to notice and compliment the positives that your spouse brings to the relationship.
- Willingness to listen, an essential skill you can practice.
- Willingness to own one’s flaws or failings by being honest and accountable.
- Ability to make a real apology.
- Ability to forgive or let go of the past. Don’t let complaints pile up or be an “injustice collector.”
- Let go of the little things and cut your partner some slack. You aren’t perfect and neither is your spouse.
- You can’t change or fix the person you married. There is a good joke that made the therapists’ circle years ago: How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change. Since you can’t make your partner change, focus on what you can change in yourself to improve your relationship.
If these traits are eroding in your marriage, don’t expect them to fix themselves. Get the help of a good marital therapist to help you build up your listening skills, to help you address issues that arise, and to support a healthy relationship for the long term.