Why did you marry your wife? If you’re like most people, your answer would be some version of, “ I fell in love with her.” I have an important question—are you still? Okay, that isn’t really a fair question. If you’ve been with her for more than three years, you probably don’t experience the head-over-heels, intense “in love” feelings you did early on. That’s normal. Living like roommates, however, is not.
Unfortunately, too many couples allow “life” to get in the way of a loving, connected marriage. Kids, jobs, the house, electronic entertainment, sports, whatever, all seem to get more time and attention than you give to each other. It may bother you at times but, hey, it’s not that bad; nothing to get too worried about or to actually change anything. Until it is.
If you don’t want your marriage to die the “death of a thousand cuts”, the time to do something different is now. Because nothing thrives on neglect and your marriage is no different. Love isn’t just a feeling, it’s a verb. This means action is required to keep it alive. And it doesn’t require anything elaborate, just be intentional and consistent.
Here are three easy ways to get started:
1. Have daily rituals. Research has shown that what you do with each other at four times during the day can have a lasting impact on how you feel about each other. What you do when you first see each other after waking up. How you leave each other for the day. How you greet each other when you come back together. What you do before you go to sleep. Making time to acknowledge and be affectionate in these moments keeps you from taking each other for granted. It’s like super glue for your marriage.
2. Weekly Date Nights. Setting aside one evening or afternoon a week to spend with each other as a couple is a great way to stay connected. It doesn’t have to cost money and you don’t even have to leave your house. It does require the two of you to be alone and doing something fun. You can play a game, have a picnic or candlelit dinner, do a puzzle, take a cooking or dance class (in person or online), go kayaking or hiking, whatever you like. I recommend having a “date jar” where you each put ideas of things you’d like to do, then do them. Doing things together, especially new things, releases the same neurotransmitters that helped you fall in love. Making regular time to be a couple will help you stay in love.
3. Weekly marriage meetings. One of the things that leads to feelings of distance and disconnections is unaddressed issues between the two of you. Having a regular time to discuss challenges keeps them from building up and creating resentment. Not doing it on the fly, but at a regular, predetermined time with a pre-communicated agenda is the way to address inevitable concerns in healthy, productive way. This time should be sacred and only missed for acts of God and once in a lifetime events. If there are no challenges to discuss that week, use the time to share vacation ideas, holiday plans, bucket list items, whatever, but meet anyway. Knowing you have a designated time to talk about any relationship stuff allows you to let it go in the moment so you can stay connected.
Nothing thrives on neglect and your marriage is no different. And it doesn’t take work, sacrifice, or compromise to keep it going either. Just some regular TLC. You can do that.
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