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I’ve been married 30 years as of last November. My husband and I were wildly in love and spent every possible minute together while dating and for the first two years of marriage. We were young, relaxed and happy. Our careers were busy, but satisfying. Then we started a family…which was amazing, but completely changed our relationship. Our careers were building and required more attention. We had many more expenses, and little time for sleep or each other, but worked hard to try to keep the romance alive in our marriage whenever possible. Now were are older, but with the kids grown we are once again relaxed and happy. Unfortunately, we seem to be the exception and not the rule.
Marriage is easy when life is easy.
However, life is not always easy as we all know- and keeping romance alive when exhausted and busy is hard. In our house, most of our disagreements were about parenting. Others say their arguments were primarily about money. People come into a marriage with different experiences and perspectives, so conflict is inevitable. Working through the tough times can lead to many happy later years together, but it does take effort and patience.
Here are some suggestions that helps my husband and I keep the romance alive in our marriage:
1. Show your appreciation each and every day. Yes, every day. Not just on birthdays and Valentine’s Day. From morning until night, couples have the opportunity to offer words of affirmation to show they appreciate one another. Ask yourself every day, “What can I do to celebrate my partner today?”. Give a random wink, squeeze or kiss to communicate affection.
2. Surprise your partner. An ordinary day can seem special when you receive an unexpected surprise. A simple act of love, that need not be costly or require a lot of effort, goes a long way. One of my guy friends often leaves post-it notes with sweet thoughts on the bathroom mirror for his wife to find after he leaves for work.
3. Spend time together. Most of us make it a priority to make time for an exciting new relationship, but often discontinue to do so once we become more comfortable with the other person. It’s important to spend time together to stay connected; otherwise, it’s easy to unknowingly start to live separate lives. You don’t want to start down that path. It’s not easy to carve out time with the pressures of work and family commitments, but do it anyway. My husband and I hired a standing babysitter every Saturday night to force us to go out together when raising our kids. Sometimes we were too busy during the week to make plans, and too exhausted to feel like going out, but when the babysitter showed up, out we went. Sometimes we were out only an hour or two for a quick bite, but no matter how little time away, we always came back refreshed and feeling caught up with each other’s lives.
4. Don’t criticize your partner in public. Or in private. You don’t want to humiliate your spouse or be disloyal. If you have a problem with your partner, talk to each other, not outside people. See a counselor if you need help with communication. If you vent to others can be problematic; while you may work things out, and forget all about your complaints later those listening may not.
5. When you go out, make sure you go somewhere you can talk. In other words, if you are fortunate enough to have some time out by yourselves, don’t go to the movies or to a restaurant or bar with loud music. Sitting next to someone in an environment where it’s hard to talk does not provide the opportunity to reconnect. And take turns planning your dates; one person should not shoulder all the planning and organizing.
6. Change up your routine: Life sometimes requires routines and schedules to fit everything in, but don’t get stuck in a rut. Rules are meant to be broken, at least occasionally, mix things up when you can. Doing so will help keep your relationship fresh.
7. Take a class together. Learning something new together will help you get out of a rut and make you both feel more connected. It might even help you discover parts of your relationship that you forgot about. Try a cooking class a tennis lesson or a stargazing event.
8. Don’t keep a tally of who does what. Strive to do more than the other person, pick up the slack when necessary and you may find your partner will try to do the same. I love when my husband helps out without being asked. He tends not to notice what needs to be done which sometimes leads to resentment. Once I communicated my feelings, he worked harder to notice and participate more in chores. The workload is still not equal, but that’s OK. The extra effort is appreciated very much.
9. Don’t hold a grudge. Unless you want to kill the romance and keep distance between you and your partner, that is. Make forgiveness a priority. Your partner may have no idea you are upset about something they do – so make an effort to communicate.
10. Touch. Intimacy is essential and not negotiable in a healthy, long-term relationship. If you do not want your partner to touch you, work to figure out what’s going on and deal with it – and sooner rather than later. Fostering healthy and consistent and open communication is important to stay connected.
The bottom line: Stay present to maintain an intimate and loving relationship over the years. Listen carefully to what your partner says and really “hear” what they are saying. Commit to making time to be together. IA good marriage doesn’t just happen – we all need to do the work!