The following was produced in partnership with The Stray movie. This amazing true story of a dog who saves a family is in theaters October 6.
They'd moved to California to pursue their dreams but instead, their dream of a marriage that lasts forever was falling apart. Weighed down with never-ending work and the responsibilities of life, the Davis family was about to collapse.
However, an unlikely miracle reminded them to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve their dream of a lasting marriage.
We've all felt this way. When you're years into marriage, with many responsibilities filling your hours and pressing on your shoulders, those early days of bliss seem long ago and even - if you're not careful - long gone.
But just as your house and job always need attention, even more vitally, so does your relationship with your wife. Here are eight common mistakes in marriage to fix before it's too late to save it.
1. Put your wife first
A job brings in money to take care of your family, sure, but there's always a way to balance the time you spend there and the time you spend with your family, particularly your spouse. Even your children become second priority: They'll eventually grow up and leave the nest, for one thing, leaving you and your wife to yourselves. Make your marriage a strong one so you will be able to enjoy those later years together - and so your children will have your marriage as a positive model to follow themselves.
2. Remember your goals
Whether you sit down as a couple weekly or monthly, make it a priority to talk alone (and uninterrupted) about your goals. Have you set measurable goals? Have you made progress on them? Have you forgotten them altogether? If you have gone off-course from what you wanted to do together, such as going on regular dates, parenting in a certain style, etc., figure out ways to get back on track.
3. Don't emotionally cheat
Today, especially thanks to social media, it's ever easier to have emotional relationships with other people, whether they're old flames or co-workers. If you notice you're confiding too much in someone outside your marriage, put the brakes on. If you have to "unfriend" someone, do it.
4. Have fun!
Life is hard work. The demands that come with raising children and working toward particular goals are draining. It can be easy to focus on just getting things done. But fun and laughter aren't "extras" you only get to enjoy once you've gotten those things done; they're essential to reducing stress and building those relationships you cherish. Take a few minutes to tell your spouse a funny interaction you had during your day; boot the kids off the gaming device for a while and entertain them playing silly virtual sports with your wife; sing out loud (even if you "can't" sing) to a favorite pop song from the time you were dating.
You know your children need your attention, for many reasons, but you might not realize just how important your being a great dad is for your relationship with your wife. Sure, she needs some quiet time to herself regularly, and that can be accomplished when you "take the kids off her hands"; however, her feelings for you are strengthened and boosted when she sees you teaching the little ones she loves so much, having fun with them and otherwise showing your love and tenderness to them.
6. Respond to your spouse's 'bids'
Relationship experts at the Gottman Institute identified a factor in relationships that made a difference in whether couples stayed together. As therapist Zach Brittle wrote for the Gottman website, "A bid is any attempt from one partner to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection." It could be reaching out for a touch or hug, starting a story about a positive or negative experience, asking for a compliment and so on. If you find yourself brushing away bids because you're too busy or tired (or you're too preoccupied to notice them at all), take the challenge to respond to your spouse's bids for attention or affection more frequently.
7. Quit the sarcasm
Another predictor of failed marriages the Gottman Institute identified is the way partners respond to each other. What you say isn't necessarily as crucial as how you say it. If you find yourself responding to your beloved with contempt, criticism or sarcasm, learn how to replace those negative communication patterns with positive ones.
8. Remember the good times
You got married for some great reasons, right? Take time to reflect on those regularly, alone or with your spouse. Look back by reading journals or looking at old photos. Talk about what you did and what drew you to each other. Remembering fun times and the best qualities you treasure in each other can help you see those qualities anew and do better overlooking the negative things that tend to crowd your thoughts now.
To see how the Davis family was able to overcome the challenges that threatened their marriage and build a stronger family, watch The Stray in theaters October 6.