You don't have to be married too long before you realize that marriage isn't always lemon drops and gumdrops. Sure, it can be the most enlightening, peaceful and enriching thing in the world, but it can also be the most difficult and challenging thing as well. And, sometimes, it's not challenging or exciting. It's just bland.

Marriage definitely has its ups and downs. The secret is to make sure that it has more ups than downs. Instead of waiting for the stars to re-align and suddenly make your marriage go well again, there are things that you can do to make sure that you start your marriage back on an upswing sooner than later.

5 Ways to get your marriage out of a rut

1. Be deliberate

Everybody knows marriage has its ups and downs. Most of the time, when your marriage is in a slump, couples will just wait it out. After all, if you've been married for any amount of time you know that your marriage will start to get better soon anyway.

Waiting it out isn't a bad idea, but it's also unnecessary. Instead of waiting for the tides to turn, do something deliberate. Plan a romantic evening, hire a babysitter, go to the movies, etc. Do anything other than what you're currently doing. It's what you're currently doing that is causing the rut your marriage is in. Do something deliberate to start getting it out.

2. Talk about the elephant in the room

You usually know when your marriage is in a rut. Think about it. You usually don't look forward to seeing your spouse as much. You don't talk together as much. And you don't make love as often, either. Instead of just staying in silence, talk about it out loud. Try to stay away from accusations or anything demeaning. A simple, "Honey, I don't feel like we've done anything fun together for a while," will do. Then, think of some suggestions of things you can do that will bring you closer.

3. Make intimacy a priority

The bedroom is a metaphor for your relationship. If the bedroom is stale and boring, your relationship will be stale and boring. And the reciprocal is true as well. That is, if your relationship is stale and boring, your bedroom will be, too. Sure, you can focus on something outside the bedroom to re-create some spark (and you should) but you can also focus on some things inside the bedroom. You'd be surprised how this will affect the rest of your relationship.

4. Check yourself

When a relationship is in a rut there's always something someone has done to get it there. A relationship takes two. That means that if your relationship is in a rut, you've done something to help get it there. That doesn't mean it's all your fault, but it does mean that there's something you can do to fix it. Just stop doing whatever you did that contributed to the rut in the first place. There's no shame in owning it. Take a good, long look at yourself and see what you did to help you land here. Then take the steps to get yourself out.

5. Books, blogs and articles

As a marriage counselor I recommend a lot of books to couples who are having challenges in their marriage. I also have a lot of couples who come to me after having read a few articles and tell me how helpful it was for them. Anything you do to help your relationship is better than nothing. And while there is a lot of bad information on the Internet, there's a lot of good stuff, too. You can also take a stroll through your local library or book store. There are all kinds of books out there on all kinds of topics. One of them has got to be decent for you.

So instead of waiting for the stars to re-align, take charge of your marriage and do something to get it out of the rut. It might now make everything better, but at least you'll get started down the right path. And it'll happen a lot sooner than an astronomical event.

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