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Hack your marriage in 6 hours (DW#552)

One of the most solid evidence based programs for enriching a marriage or turning it around are the Gottman marriage programs. If couples agree to taking part in the research for the institute, they are followed after taking the program to see what if any changes they have implemented and maintained in the relationship after taking the program. 

The researchers have found something rather interesting: the couples who are able to transform their relationships and create lasting change do not do anything dramatic or earth shattering. In fact, they spend few a minutes a day (an average of six extra hours a week) on nurturing their relationships through simple but significant practices and rituals. And the way these couples divide these six hours follows a predictable pattern. 

So, are you ready to invest these magic six hours a week? (You may be currently spending more time than that engaging in conflict . . .)

You may be pleasantly surprised to learn how easy these practices...

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Be a friendly observer (DW#551)

Eli Finkel, a researcher at Northwestern University is the one who popularized the term marriage hack in his popular TED talk which is based on his book The All or Nothing Marriage

Here is a summary of his most significant research finding about happy couples: Over the period of a year, couples in a study were asked to think about their disagreements from a third-person perspective—from the perspective of a neutral party who wanted the best for all involved. So they practiced viewing the conflict from an objective perspective, without their own emotions involved. The study found that these couples were more likely to be satisfied in their marriage than the couples who could only see their own side during conflict. 

What can we learn from this?
1)    It does not mean that these couples did not disagree or fight.
2)    It shows that they practiced some key aspects of emotional intelligence:

a.   ...
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Say thank you (DW#550)

Yesterday we discussed how happy couples believe that when their spouse does something positive, it is just like them. 

However, this does NOT mean that they take their actions for granted. It means that they do notice the positive things that their spouse does. 

And that they regularly verbally appreciate their spouse for doing these things. 

What is the best way to say thank you? Be specific about what action pleased you and why it meant so much. This does take a little more effort than a simple thank you but it means so much more. 

Let’s consider some examples: 

Thank you for helping me pack yesterday. I was relieved to have your help so that I did not forget anything. 
I really appreciate help with Ahmed’s homework. I tend to get easily frustrated when he does not get it immediately. I love how patient you are in this situation. 
I was so relieved when I went out and saw that the driveway had already been shovelled. I was not looking...

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Wear rose coloured glasses (DW#548)

Have you noticed how blind some people seem to be to their spouses’ obvious flaws? They seem to be wearing rose coloured glasses and keep making excuses for their spouses’ shortcomings. They can be quite annoying at times; don’t you think?

Well, it turns out that people like that have hit upon a very important secret for having happy relationships. Couples in happy relationships have mastered the art of positive interpretations. When their spouse does something annoying or causes offence in some way, they attribute it to temporary circumstances which are external and not a part of their spouse’s core character. 

So, for example, if they are late, instead of going on about how they are always late and making it mean something big, they will give their spouse the benefit of the doubt. Something must have come up, they have been preoccupied or busy at work, they do try but struggle with keeping time etc. etc. 

If the bank account is overdrawn,...

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Show enthusiasm for their field of expertise (DW#547)

What is your spouse most enthusiastic about? What is their hobby, passion or favourite pastime? 

Chances are that they know a lot about what interests them. They love learning about it and can talk about it for hours. 

How about learning a little of what interests them from them? 
Allowing someone to share what excites them is an easy way to build positive communication and strengthen your relationship. 

Plus, it gives you a chance to see them at their most animated and enthusiastic!


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Yield to win (DW#546)

Today’s marriage hack is especially important for husbands (did you think that I would only focus on the wives?!).

A disclaimer: to be honest, this is not really a hack – in that it is not a simple and quirky thing that you can do – but it is really really important.

Dr. Gottman believes that one of the keys to a successful marriage is the emotional intelligence of husbands. How does this emotional intelligence show up in marriage? It is when men accept their wives’ influence in small and big matters.

In a long-term study of 130 newlywed couples, Dr. Gottman and his colleagues discovered that men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce. Women, it seems, are better at accepting influence and yielding to advice than men and even in unhappy relationships, women are already doing this. In unhappy marriages, Gottman found that men tend to withdraw from conflict, stonewall their spouses and...

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Apply the stranger standard (DW#541)

This week, let’s continue talking about marriage hacks – shortcuts or easy ways to make our relationships better. Attitudes and behaviours that don’t take much time or effort but may have a major impact. 

Today’s hack is about applying the stranger standard at home. 

What is the stranger standard? It is the standard of behaviour that we use with strangers and outsiders. The minimum level of courtesy, respect and goodwill with which we deal with the world in general. 

Sometimes we take our closest relationships so much for granted that we "use up" our best self for strangers, acquaintances and others who don’t really matter that much. We are able to be respectful and kind to those who we come across for short periods. We use up our good will and bring home only what is left over. The tiredness, the grouchiness and the frustrations. 

The stranger standard hack means that you are at least as respectful and courteous inside...

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A list of what you love (DW#539)

The first two marriage hacks we will explore consist of making lists. 
Today’s list is all about what you love about your spouse. 

Your list can include qualities and characteristics that you love and admire in your spouse. It can also include all of the moments in your relationship that confirmed for you that you wanted to be married to this person. It can include funny things and sad things and all the happy memories that you have, even if they are really really tiny. 
This is your list so feel free to put anything on there that is meaningful to you even if they would sound silly or meaningless to someone else. These are reminders for you of why you chose this person and why you want to keep choosing this person.

The way you met and got together. What about them or their personality first attracted you?
How they supported you in challenging times
The way they looked at you at a particular time
How they reacted at the birth of your first baby
A small kindness that they...

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The top 10 worst things to say to your loved ones (DW#431)

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been exploring words and phrases that cause more harm than good in relationships.
 
While all of us might say some of these from time to time, we need to recognize that if we say them often enough, our relationships are sure to suffer.
 
So here is the "top 10" list of words and phrases to stay away from:
 
1.   "Just sayin’"
2.   "You always/you never"
3.   "You made me do it/ it’s your fault"
4.   "I’m sorry, but…"
5.   "With all due respect"
6.   "Fine, whatever"
7.   "I’ll talk to you when you can be more rational"
8.   "Not this again! Can’t you just drop it and move on?" 
9.   "If I were you . . ."
10.  "I told you so"

From tomorrow inshaAllah, we will start exploring the best things to say to your loved ones :) 
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Continue reaching out to loved ones (DW#420)

5. Maintaining Family Relationships
The month of Ramadan finds many of us trying to reach out to family, by an invitation for iftar or sending food and gifts. As the nights of Qadr approach, we are reminded about making amends with those members of our family whom we have issues with.

Through prayer and supplication, our hearts become soft, through closeness to Him, we begin to recognize the big picture and may be more amenable to forgive and overlook the small grievances that we may have been holding.

While reflecting on the Quran, we are reminded to pardon people, to manage our anger, to repel evil with good and to maintain relationships with our blood relations. We begin to recognize, once again, that He is happy with us if are human connections are in order. We are reminded that the path to Him begins with loving His creation.

Baby steps:
Regularly reach out to long forgotten family members through a phone call, email or text.

Consider inviting family to share meals with you, even if...

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