Relationship on the rocks? How one woman saved her marriage – just by being NICE to her husband

Relationship on the rocks How one woman saved her marriage – just by being NICE to her husband

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UPDATED:

00:34 GMT, 25 October 2012

Two events signalled that my marriage was in trouble. The first was forgetting our sixth wedding anniversary, when neither my husband nor I sent flowers, a gift or even a card.

Colin mentioned this about three days later, and we laughed nervously about how silly and forgetful we were, grateful we were as bad as each other.

The second was coming home from a night out with friends and slipping into bed next to Colin, flat on his back and snoring.

Happily married: Lauren Libbert and her husband Colin on their wedding day

Happily married: Lauren Libbert and her husband Colin on their wedding day

As I lay there, counting the grey hairs
on his chest to lull myself to sleep, I struggled to recall the last
time we’d gone to bed at the same time, let alone snuggled up.

Naturally,
we talked, but our conversations were more practical than meaningful or
romantic, and there was a fair bit of sniping, too.

He
criticised me for hogging the TV with my ‘rubbish American shows’; I
moaned at him for leaving his underwear and T-shirts strewn across the
floor of the spare bedroom.

Sneers and mutters punctuated most of our conversations, and a vague feeling of discord seemed to follow us around.

Just be nice: Lauren Libbert decided to save her marriage by being kind to her husband

Just be nice: Lauren Libbert decided to save her marriage by being kind to her husband

Yet, not so long ago, I’d adored this man. In our courting days, I’d go giddy with excitement after every phone call and surprise him with expensive dinners at top restaurants just because he appreciated good food. I once drove 50 miles to Kent, where he lived, just to kiss him goodnight.

Somehow, over six years of marriage, work, two young sons, iPhones, chores and exhaustion had driven a wedge between us.

My job as a freelance writer meant I was used to asking psychotherapists and authors for their secrets on how to conduct a successful relationship. One piece of advice ran like a seam through every interview: be nice to your other half.

Recently, psychologist Oliver James told me: ‘Lauren, the amount of love you give is equal to the amount of love you receive.’

It struck me. What love had I given to Colin of late I recalled my teenage years, watching my mother serve my father dinner every evening at 6pm, after taking his jacket as he walked in from work, pouring him a drink and asking about his day.

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Be nice! It's all you need for a happy marriage

With a free day ahead, he suggested we go to the beach and take the boys crabbing. I wanted to say ‘No’ — we had a pile of brochures advertising everything there was to do in the area, which was my usual way of doing things.

But I squeezed out a weak ‘Great idea!’ to which the boys — all three of them — whooped with delight.

Colin was suspicious about the changed me, especially when we lost reception on the sat-nav and drove round in circles in dark lanes without me losing my temper and blaming him.

It was an effort on my part, which required chewing gum with such ferocity my jaw throbbed, but it was worth it for the ‘I love you’ he whispered that night in bed.

Yet he never asked what I was doing. Perhaps he didn’t want to break the spell, happy to enjoy it while it lasted.

He was smiling more, showing me affection, running my bath, cooking dinner and taking the children off my hands. With effort came reward, I realised: this niceness was catching.

The children, too, seemed to be basking in the glow of our happiness. With fewer arguments, there were fewer reasons for them to play up. Being with them became an unbridled pleasure.

The true test came when we arrived home and I had to pick up all the balls and start juggling again. Would my mean, intolerant streak resurface faced with piles of unpaid bills and dirty washing

I was determined to keep my niceness going. After all, what had felt like a rather clinical social experiment seemed to have put my marriage back on track.

I didn’t want to go back to being in an empty bed at night for hours before my husband joined me. I wanted Colin’s arms around me.

It hasn’t been easy. Holidays are an escape and being nice comes easy when you don’t have to wrestle with work deadlines.

But one thing’s for sure. It’s our seventh wedding anniversary on December 18: I’ll be buying Colin a card — and probably even a gift.