While we can all be thankful for our more modern view on marriage, and all the ways it has evolved over the years, there's no denying some old-fashioned marriage advice can work today. Sure, we should go ahead and leave the sexist stuff behind, obviously. But why not look to the past — when things seemed simpler, in many ways — and steal the best bits for ourselves?
Whether it's eating dinner at the table most nights of the week, reconnecting (sans phones) at the end of the day, or refusing to go to bed angry, some old school advice really can do the trick when it comes to creating a happier, healthier relationship.
"Old-fashioned marriage advice is, at its core, advice for how to be with a person intimately for a long period of time," clinical psychologist and The Web Radio Show host Dr. Joshua Klapow tells Bustle. "Time marches on, technology evolves, the science of relationships becomes refined, but at the center are practices that have worked literally forever."
Below, some tips that seem to be torn from the pages of history. And yet, still feel applicable today. If you aren't already eating dinner together, reconnecting after work, or writing love notes, now may be time to start. These things sound simple, and yet, in many ways, old-fashioned traditions really can keep a couple happily together. So go ahead and give a few a try.
1. Eat Dinner Together As Often As Possible
There are plenty of benefits to be had for partners who make the time to sit down and eat together as often as possible— just like a happy family from the 1950s. "This is a throwback to a different time, but having at least Sunday dinner together is a great bonding time," says psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport. "If you and your partner can make time to eat dinner together ... you can share how your day went and discuss anything that needs to be discussed regarding your relationship, your careers, future plans, and anything else important." It's so simple, but this tradition can help keep your relationship on the right track.
2. Try To Stay Together & Works Things Out
Many people say today's couples are quick to bail at the first sign of trouble, and that's why the divorce rates are so high. And hey, that may be true. But — barring a situation that's toxic or abusive — it may be smart to take a page from marriages past and stay to work things out. (You know, the whole "'til death do us part" thing.) "If you have problems in your relationship and you both love each other, you need to work on resolving them," Rappaport says.
3. Give Each Other Little Gifts
Back in the day, couples showed each other they cared by making special dinners, or surprising each other with flowers or jewelry. Times may have changed, and flowers may currently be expensive AF, but that doesn't mean you can't do nice things for each other. "Hand-written notes, small gifts, kind gestures — just because — remind your spouse that they are special in your eyes," Klapow says.
4. Split Up The Household Chores
OK, so we don't want to bring back gendered roles that keep women in the kitchen and men on trash duty — unless that works for your relationship. But we can stick with the idea that both partners have their own "thing" they do around the house. "Sharing tasks make things easier so one partner never feels burdened," Rappaport says. So go ahead and divvy it out.
5. Treat It Like A Business Contract
How we view marriage has definitely changed over the years, so it may not sound very modern to say you're signing a "contract." And yet, there are some definite benefits to treating it like one. "Consider your marriage like you would a business partnership or contract," says Rappaport. Take your vows seriously and honor your commitment, as best as you can.
6. Don't Ever Go To Bed Angry
This piece of advice is as old as time, and yet it's stuck around for a reason. "You may not be able to go to bed having resolved an argument completely, but repair the argument to the best of your ability before turning it off," Klapow says. "Even if that means tabling the discussion and agreeing that, in the end, you are on the same team even though you are not on the same page."
7. Keep "Courting" Each Other
The term "courting" has such an old-school sound to it, and yet the idea of dating and impressing each other still works wonders today. "In many ways, it seems the trick to long-term relationships is to never stop dating," family therapist Marc Zola, LMFT, LPC tells Bustle. "Think about what you did when you were dating and do more of that." Go out to dinner, stay curious, surprise each other with small gifts, and keep things fun.
8. Be Romantic & Go On Dates
In the same vein, it can help to keep the romance alive — perhaps by utilizing some old-fashioned tricks to sweep each other off your feet. "Too often couples now seem to 'hang out,'" says life coach and counselor Monte Drenner. "Put some thought into going on a special date to a special place with atmosphere, and not just the latest beer." (Unless, of course, you really want a beer.) Think about getting dressed up, spraying on some perfume, and really doin' it up.
9. Make Time To Catch Up (In Person) Every Day
It seems we don't have as many opportunities to catch up these days — especially in person. But this is something couples of yesteryear always made time for. "Even five minutes of talking with them about their day, about what is on their mind while being physically and emotionally present, will help strengthen the bond," Klapow says.
10. Touch Each Other As Often As Possible
Again, due to busyness, you might not be able to make much time for touch — like a kiss goodbye in the morning, or reading next to each other before bed — but it's important to try. "Human touch shows caring in a way that cannot be substituted for," Klapow says. "Touch your spouse without looking for anything else, just to show you care."
11. Relax Together After Dinner
The key to a happy marriage — both back in the day and today — was uninterrupted connection. And this usually happened after dinner, when the day winded down. So make a point, in your relationship, to relax together as often as possible. "Simply spending time together without distraction can greatly benefit any relationship," says certified counselor Jonathan Bennett. "Sit on the porch together, take a walk, or have a picnic. Do something that gets you away from technology and closer to your partner."
While there was no perfect time for marriage, it can be fun to steal the good bits from years gone by. So why not go on a fancy date, have Sunday nigh dinner, or split up the chores? Little tips like these worked in the past, and may just be worth bringing back.
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