It’s the simple things that strengthen our relationship the most.
Remember your first meaningful relationship? For me, we were strolling on a downtown cobblestone sidewalk after having had a great meal at an upscale restaurant. I loved every second I spent with this girl and could only think about how perfect she was. As we strolled along, there was a sudden crashing sound, and I realized a fireworks extravaganza was beginning on the river.
We looked at each other, our eyes met, and we both read each other’s minds. We knew our relationship was meant to be, and we’d just have to be together forever.
I still remember that evening, like it was yesterday. Certain moments have an incredible way of staying glued to your mind, even after a lot of other memories have disappeared. The sound of our footsteps, the aroma of garlic in the air, the aftertaste of the pepper steak I had enjoyed.
I was no expert at building relationships back then, but I certainly knew what I was looking for in a woman: companionship, sexual intimacy, respect, space and a real sense of communication. It was later I learned what I could do to make our relationship sizzle even after the fireworks were gone. Here’s what I discovered.
Listen: I had no idea how to be a good listener when I was younger. The funny thing is, I thought I was an excellent listener. I may look back in another ten years and think the same thing, but here’s what I’ve discovered about listening. You just need to be quiet and let her know you are hearing her words and the message she’s sharing. Make sure you’re looking at her, responding visually, touching her if the time is right and then continuing to do it all over again.
Offer to Help and Then Back Off: They say guys always want to fix things. Well, that is true for me. If Darlene tells me about a challenging situation she’s dealing with, I instantly start thinking of solutions. I think that’s the way a lot of guys are wired. But sometimes Darlene doesn’t want me to even think about fixing the situation. She just wants to be heard. I don’t think she’s the only woman like this. Now I can tell when she wants a solution. You’ll get to that point, too. Then remind yourself to back off if she doesn’t want to solve the ‘problem’ yet.
Learn What She Likes and Deliver: This took me a few years, and I’m still learning. As people change, so do their likes and interests. For example, she used to be bored by dessert, and now she loves it. I am always keeping my eyes open for clues about the subtle and not-so-subtle things she loves. This single aspect of our relationship has made it way stronger, especially when I follow through and deliver.
Be Sensitive: This was my toughest challenge. I didn’t know what it meant to be sensitive. Now I know it’s connected to listening and has something to do with my ego. Okay, it has everything to do with my ego. Being sensitive means putting my ego in the back seat and figuring out what she’s feeling at that moment in time. And I have to make sure I don’t even glance in the back seat to see what’s going on.
Be There: If I’m truly there, I have to make sure I’m not checking my phone, not thinking about my next work project and not worrying about my upcoming flight. I need to clear my mind, so I am with her in every way possible. I clear my mind by taking a deep breath, thinking of a simple mantra that makes me feel good, and then letting that breath out slowly. Doing this three or four times makes me feel grounded and present.
I still find it’s the simple things that strengthen our relationship the most. Like quiet strolls, meaningful chats over breakfast, and me stepping up to do something for one of her friends, and expecting nothing in return.
Those fireworks that all five of my senses remember vividly led me to another moment that’s stuck in my memory forever; the instant the brilliant sunshine came streaming through the stained glass windows of a country church exactly 142 days later when we were married. And from that day on, I’ve never stopped looking for more ways to add fire to our marriage. And it is clearly working.
Photo: Flickr/ Thomas Hawk