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What if You Were the Michael Phelps of Your Marriage?

The 2016 Rio Summer Olympics have come to a close (tear) and Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time.

When Phelps is interviewed about his training regime, he humbly shares that it’s an everyday battle. That, even to the legendary swimmer, it doesn’t come easy. He says it takes hard work, determination and a commitment to being the best swimmer of all time.

There might be something superhuman in Michael Phelps genes that contributes to his stardom, but as he states, that’s not all it takes to win the most Olympic medals in history.

How can we take some influence from Phelps and work at being an Olympian in marriage? Here’s my best marriage advice to get you striving for Gold!

  1. Marriage isn’t a choice; it’s a lifetime commitment. It has to be a commitment that you make to each other every single day. There can be no “off” days where you feel like you want to give up. Sure, there are days that are less glamorous than others and ones that can really knock you down, but rest-assured that even the best couples go through rocky times. Those days can, and will, pass, however. Here’s one of my favorite quotes to remember: “a strong relationship requires choosing to love each other in those moments when you struggle to like each other.
  2. Display empathy-all day, everyday. Think of empathy as the Michael Phelps training plan. It’s a surefire bet that you’ll be headed for the win. The most important thing that people want out of their relationship is to feel heard and understood. Empathy sends the message, “You understand. You get me AND you care.” (For a list of 44 empathy statements, go here).
  3. Small things everyday has the biggest impact for relationship satisfaction. When you make small gestures daily to improve your marriage, you’re working towards lasting change. Efforts like expressing appreciation and gratitude, thinking like a set of “we” instead of “me” and re-connecting at the end of the day does a world of good for keeping your friendship and relationship close and steady. Daily reminders that you have the best intentions for your spouse and letting them know it through your actions has long-lasting impact.
  4. Turn into each other instead of away from each other. Notice the everyday attempts that are made towards meeting eye-to-eye. We’re constantly reaching out for connection, reaction and validation from our significant others. Sometimes it’s subtle (“Hey, look at that sunset!”) or explicit (“Stay with me awhile, would you?”). Take the time to notice when your spouse is vying for your attention and respond to it in the moment with enthusiasm.
  5. Raise arguments gently to avoid escalation. When something is bothering you, don’t wait to bring it up. Built-up resentment causes hostile communication later on. Avoid the 4 horseman and learn self-soothing techniques in case you need a break.

Olympic medalists might make it LOOK easy, but make no mistake that they work everyday all year-round to perfect their craft. Think of your marriage in the same way- with fervor, patience, determination and focus.

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