Perhaps your marriage is happy and solid and you want to do whatever it takes to keep it that way. On the other hand, maybe things aren’t going well and you want to find ways to make them better. Wherever you may find yourself, here are five steps you can take to improve your marriage today.

At first glance, these ideas may seem overly simplistic. They are, however, very effective and – while no substitute for marriage counseling – may open the door to the kind of communication that can improve your marriage with your spouse seemingly overnight.

Take a look at these simple ideas, and then change the way you interact with your spouse today.

Be Quiet…and Listen

Do you feel like you’re not being heard? Do you feel like your point of view isn’t being considered? That your thoughts and feelings aren’t as valid as your spouse’s? The first step is to offer an olive branch by being quiet, and listening to your spouse first. If you two have reached the point where you’re not communicating well, it’s going to take some time to get that resolved so that you’re both not just satisfied, but fulfilled. And what may seem like a sacrifice at first can ultimately give you exactly what you want.

Make sure you’re REALLY listening. Don’t just nod your head in the appropriate places while you’re waiting for your chance to speak. Don’t interrupt. Listen carefully, and when your spouse is finished, take a deep breath, count to five, and then respond with, “So what you’re saying is…” Try to respectfully paraphrase what you just heard. Let your other half know that you’re listening closely. Got it? Great. Now you can talk about how YOU feel, and what YOU think, but remember that your goal is to have a conversation where you’re both heard. So offer to do the listening first.

What's Your Face Doing?

Have you been arguing with your spouse lately? Or have you found it hard to talk about what things are bothering you? Does it feel like there’s a gap between the two of you, and you’re not sure what you can do to bridge it?

Tonight when you get home, and tomorrow when you wake up, smile at your other half. The next time you look at your spouse after having been separated for just a few hours or after days, let a smile cross your face. You want to bring some romance back into your marriage?Treat the other person like you would if you just fell in love. And how can you do that simply? Smile.

Your face, your muscles, your body – YOU are a conduit for your emotions. If you’re smiling when you look at the person you’ve married, your tone is lighter, your words are softer, and the impact is more positive. Try it for a few days, and notice the change. 

Random Acts

Never underestimate the power of doing simple things for your spouse. Bring in a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Offer an extra pillow at bedtime. Pick up some inexpensive flowers. Get your other half a small gift. For either sex, receiving a token of love and generosity reminds a person that he or she is special, and valued.

If possible, find little things to do for your spouse without being found out. Find a coffee cup outside the kitchen? Clean it up. See a book at the library that your spouse might find interesting? Check it out, and leave it on the nightstand. More importantly, don’t expect recognition or thanks. If you can do something thoughtful without the other person ever knowing about it, it changes the way you think about that person, and how you’ll think of yourself. Your spouse then becomes someone who deserves to be treated well. By doing these things, YOU become the kind of person who is generous and giving, and deserves to be cherished for thoughtfulness.

You don’t want to keep track of a point system: “Well, I did this and that for you, why can’t you do that for me?” The key is to offer these things to show appreciation and love. When you first started dating, didn’t you do these things all the time? “I just wanted you to know I was thinking about you.” Make a brief call in the middle of the day to ask how things are going. Send a text just to share a joke or a happy thought. If you’ve been having problems with your spouse, these are the things that can change the tone of your marriage. They’re small, but if a little thing can make you angry, then a little thing can cheer you up.

Family Meetings

“Date Nights” are popular and certainly do a great deal to ramp up the romance in a relationship. Another way to quickly improve communication is to hold regular family meetings – with children, and without. Once a week, gather everyone around a table and talk about what's working and what's not in an environment where everyone gets a chance to speak and to contribute.

By taking the time once a week to touch base with one another and with the family at large, you’ll find out what’s really important to the people with whom you spend the most time.

Use meeting time to talk about upcoming events, menu planning, scheduling. Make sure your spouse knows in advance if you want to spend a cocktail after work with friends. Ask your spouse what interesting things are happening that you don’t know about, so you can both get caught up on what’s important.

Remember To Be Grateful

Every night, immediately after you turn off the lights but before you fall asleep, think of one thing in your marriage you’re grateful for. Start small if you can’t think of anything, but just one thought will begin the shift in your subconscious mind. Changing your focus to one of gratitude will change the overall tone of your relationship, and that’s where improvement comes from.

Most marital challenges can’t be fixed overnight, but by making a concerted effort to improve your marriage by making these simple changes, you may soon find your relationship on more solid ground.