Marriage can be hard for any couple, even if it starts out smoothly.
Psychologist Eli Finkel says there are three main strategies to improve a rocky relationship: working on it as much as possible, using “love hacks,” and asking less of the marriage.
Your choice of which strategy to use depends on how much time and energy you have to devote to the relationship at the moment.
This post is part of Relationships 101, a series which aims to help us all be happier and healthier in love — and to stop fighting over who should take out the trash.
When I interviewed relationship expert Eli Finkel about his new book “The All-or-Nothing Marriage” last year, I was one month away from being a bridesmaid in two of my best friends’ weddings, and two months away from getting married myself.
That is to say: Every question I asked Finkel that day in September stemmed partly from a desire to sate our readers’ curiosity, but — let’s be real — mostly from a desire to sate my own curiosity about what life would really be like after I said, “I do.”
Finkel, who is a psychologist at Northwestern University and a professor at the Kellogg School of Management, didn’t exactly leave me hopeful that my friends and I would all live happily ever after. But he did leave me with some practical tips for making marriage easier when it inevitably gets tear-your-hair-out hard.
During those times, Finkel said, couples can use one of three strategies to strengthen their relationship:
1. Work on the marriage as much as possible
This first option, Finkel said, is for couples who “really want this highly intensive sort of marriage, this extraordinary sort of marriage that is available today.” The kind of marriage in which your partner fulfills the role of soul mate, passionate lover, best friend, and so on.
That means you and your partner have to spend a lot of time together, working through whatever issues you have, and pay a lot of attention to the relationship as it evolves. If you choose this option, making the marriage as strong as it can be is a top priority in your life.
2. Use ‘love hacks’
“Love hacks” are pretty much what they sound like. It’s Finkel’s term for “quick and dirty” strategies to make your marriage just a little bit happier. Best of all, you don’t need your partner’s help to use them.
This is a good …
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