Practice for a month and soon the behaviors will become habits. These simple but crucial skills can make the difference between misery and happiness.
Appreciations: Share five things you appreciate about each other. These can range from the simple, "I like your smile" to the sublime, "I like it that you were able to kiss and make up after I forgot to pick you up last night." Appreciations build up credit in the love bank. It can be a nice surprise to realize just how much our partners notice and appreciate.
Wishes, Hopes, and Dreams: Describe three things you hope for in the long run ("I hope to run a marathon by the time I'm 40") and in the short run ("This weekend I'd like to spend a half-hour alone with my dad when he's here.") A partner who understands your dreams is able to help them happen. Remember that hopes change as we go along and it's important to keep each other current.
New Information: We often forget to update our partner about a change in plans or circumstances. We tell people at work or another family member and think we've told our spouse. Make the daily updates a ritual. Information like "The dentist said Bobby won't need braces after all" or "I'll have to be in San Francisco an extra day" is crucial to staying in synch and feeling connected.
Puzzles: Clear up big or little mysteries before they become suspicions, jealousy, false assumptions, or resentments. Most "puzzles" have simple explanations. "You promised you'd water the tomatoes before you left this morning. What happened?" The water was turned off. Was it back on when you got up? You have to ask.
Complaints with Request for Change: Get in the habit of saying what you want rather than what you don't want. Describe a specific behavior that bothers you and explain how you would like it done. Instead of saying, "I get furious when you call and don't leave a message," say, "Honey when you call and get my voice mail, please don't say 'It's me' and hang up. Say why you're calling and when you'll call back, or be home or whatever it was you were calling to tell me. If you forget to say why you're calling, call back. Even if it's long distance. It's an inexpensive investment in your marriage. Cheaper than a dozen roses.