Don’t give up on your marriage lightly, or easily, or without a fight – and I don’t mean a fight against your spouse. I mean a fight with your spouse. I mean a fight together with your spouse, where you’re both fighting on the same side – for your marriage.
Marriage is a wonderful thing – it is good for your health, your longevity, your happiness, your financial success, and more. So before you call it quits, here are three things to try – together.
Take a cooking class
Cooking classes are offered at many fancy restaurants, or also at local culinary schools. They’re a hot trend right now. If you live in a big city, you’ll have plenty of choices, and perhaps you will want to choose a style of cooking, French, Italian, whatever, that appeals to you. Maybe try a pastry baking class, or bread-making.
But it doesn’t matter what the subject of the class is. And if you find yourself even arguing about which type of cooking to study, then forget it and flip a coin, or draw straws, or whatever it takes. Just pick one at random.
What will happen in this class is that the two of you will learn something new, and you will learn it together. Cooking isn’t easy – a kitchen is just a thinly disguised chemistry lab, with all the potential for fires, messes, explosions, and so on. So you’ll need to pay attention.
Cooking is a creative activity. It forces you not only to study something – a bit of a new language, for example, as you learn à la meunière, bain-marie or abbrustolire. Learning new vocabulary activates new areas of your brain. It actually rewires parts of your brain, changing the synaptic connections between neurons. Literally, you are learning a new way to think.
While you work together on creative cooking problems, you will also be retraining your brain regarding your marriage. You and your spouse will see each other in a new way, during new adventures. It doesn’t matter whether you burn your béchamel sauce, either – whether you succeed or fail at cooking isn’t important. What matters is that you tried something new together and you had an adventure, a good story you can tell again and again, whether it’s a tale of triumph or tragedy.
A cooking class will have other people in it, as well, making it a good social activity for the two of you. In class you will not only learn gastronomic skills, but you will meet other people and share your adventure with them. You will all laugh and groan together at your mishaps, as a class. Perhaps you’ll make friends with some of your culinary classmates – people you can form new relationships with. New friends and new social habits can also change your marriage for the better.
Another great thing about cooking classes – assuming you learn something from them – is that you can continue to enjoy what you learned together, for many years afterwards.
Few things are better at taking your mind off your own misery than helping someone else through volunteer work or charity service. This is something that ideally you and your spouse would do together – again, it’s a shared adventure that will help you rethink your own marriage. But, in a pinch, service work can be done by yourself and it will still help you feel less angry, or less like a victim.
The type of charity or volunteer work you choose isn’t important, although it should be work – some kind of labor, not just writing a check to a charitable organization. Groups like Habitat for Humanity build homes for poor people in many cities and rural areas. It’s easy to volunteer for such projects, even if you have only rudimentary skills or have never hit a nail with a hammer in your whole life. Volunteer often enough, and you’ll get to see how an entire house is built, from the pouring of the foundations to the capping of the roof and installation of the plumbing. Learn to hang doors or install windows – these are not only valuable skills but they also give you pride in having used your own hands. Again, you will (unless you’re already a skilled carpenter or builder) be learning new things and rewiring your brain.
Other types of work include traditional things like soup kitchens or other projects to help feed, clothe and shelter the homeless or indigent. Not only is the work important, but it will also help redefine your view of your own life and your own marriage. After spending eight or nine hours feeding homeless drug abusers with only the clothes on their backs or the meager possessions they can push about in a shopping cart, your own marriage, flawed though it is, may look a little different to you, and you may begin to feel more gratitude for it than you have in the past.
Other possibilities include delivering meals to elderly shut-ins in your area – inquire at local churches, community or cultural centers about these kinds of opportunities. Check with local nursing homes or hospitals about reading to the ill or elderly.
Physical labor is probably good for you, whether it’s ladling out soup in a cafeteria line or hammering nails at a housing site. But there are other options that are more cerebral, such as writing letters to prisoners or to soldiers serving overseas. Whatever you choose to do, discuss it with your spouse. Talk about your feelings around the work – this new topic of conversation and the emotions you are feeling will also help rewrite some of the circuitry in your brain.
Feeling like a victim isn’t really a helpful emotional state when it comes to saving your marriage. So it’s important to try and shift your attitude towards feeling more grateful. Even a small shift can yield big benefits. Charity work is a valuable tool in changing your attitude.
Join a gym together
Rethink your exercise routine. Most of us could probably benefit from more physical activity, but even if you’re already a super-fit gym rat with 7 percent body fat there are ways to shake things up. Join a gym with your spouse.
Instead of going alone to the gym, stuffing your ears shut with tiny speakers, and sweating it out alone in a bubble of your favorite music, try taking a class together. Most gyms offer group exercise classes, whether it’s indoor cycling or cardio-boxing or salsa and hip-hop dancing. Get to know each other in a new way. Exercise will also produce lots of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in our brains, and will automatically put you in a better mood.
If the gym’s not for you, then schedule a daily walk, jog or bike ride together. Some sort of physical activity with your spouse will be a different activity than exercising by yourself, or not exercising at all. Again, it will be a novel experience that rewires part of your brain.
Want to really shake things up? Then sign up for something a little bit dangerous with your spouse. Rock climbing is one possibility – learn to belay for each other while you scale those high walls! Or take a martial arts class where you have to trust each other while practicing potentially deadly techniques. Letting your spouse choke you or bend your elbow backwards in judo class is sure to build a new level of trust!