(If you're feeling the love, swing by the Facebook page for a hefty dose of lovey dovey warm fuzzies.)
Last weekend, as the Mister and I were enjoying an early anniversary date, I asked him, "What are some of the ways we've stayed connected throughout the years?" He looked at me with a sly smile and said, "Are you working right now?" I smiled back and said, "Yes....and no."
That's one of the awesome things about my job - it drives me to do all sorts of research and reflection in service of my clients and readers and I end up benefiting right along with them! Thanks, y'all...multi-tasking gone right!
So, back to last weekend. We ended up having a lovely conversation about our relationship tricks-of-the-trade. I'll share them with you in just a sec but, before I go any further, let me be crystal clear: This is not an expert perspective, how-to kind of article. By no means am I implying that I have the perfect marriage nor the formula for one. I've just managed to stay in love (and like) with my husband through our ups and downs for 8 years - 10 if you count that feverish dating love. I'm writing this article, not to toot my own horn, but in the hopes that the things that have worked for us will be of value to you, too.
As always, I invite you to take what fits for you and leave what doesn't.
(By the way, our toolbox is slanted toward couples with young children - our kids are 2 and 5 years old - but most of the general principles are universal.)
Alrighty then...let's get going! Here is the totally incomplete, off-the-top-of-our-heads list of some of the things my guy and I have done to nurture our marriage over the years:
1. We know ourselves and each other. I'm a routine-oriented gal. I thrive on structure and repetition so I don't have to put the brain space toward deciding what to do next. My husband, on the other hand, would rather play it by ear and figure out what makes the most sense in each unique situation. Since we know this about ourselves, we've been able to figure out that having a flexible default works well for us. We decide on our general roles in a particular situation (ie. I clean up dinner while he gets the kids ready for bed) but we also know nothing is set in stone. There's always flexibility for adjustment as needed or desired. But if no one says anything, it's business as usual.
Of course, this will look different for each couple. But figuring out what works for each person makes it possible to incorporate a bit of both into an approach that will work for everyone.
2. We choose our battles, then fight fair. We've gotten pretty good at letting go of the little irritations that come along with living in partnership with another human being. Who has the energy to argue over how to load the dishwasher, right?! On the other side of the coin, we've also learned not to let the stuff that really bothers us sit and fester. If it's a battle worth fighting, the goal is always to bring it up clearly and respectfully, in a way that can be heard and absorbed - none of that passive aggressive, hint dropping, vague BS or scary, loud, name-calling nastiness. We try to remember to respect each others' level of readiness and schedule a discussion time that works for both of us. We also try to acknowledge (though not necessarily agree with) each others' point of view and talk about how we feel about or perceive the situation, rather than making sweeping statements about HOW IT IS.
(For some awesome guidelines on fighting fair - and smart - pick up the classic book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, co-authored by the master of coupledom, John Gottman)
3. We diversify our connection portfolio. Since my husband and I are both introverts, we've figured out that we need lots of different configurations of time to maintain our connections and energy: one-on-one time with each other; one-on-one time with each kid; all together family time; social time; and - of course - alone time (the introvert's oasis).
If you're thinking, "I can hardly find time to pee, let alone do all this." I totally get it. I'm not saying we do this all in one day or even all in one week. But when we do find opportunities to connect in different ways - both inside and outside of the family - we're always struck by the depth and richness it lends to our relationships across the board and the turbo boost it gives to our patience and understanding with our kids and with each other.
4. We don't expect it to be all rainbows and butterflies. Relationships are awesome and they're also work. Hard work. Having the expectation that some hard times are par for the course can make the difference between coming together as a team to weather the storm and cutting bait on a "flawed" relationship in search of a unicorn.
5. We get creative about "date nights." The mere effort of coordinating babysitting kept our date nights few and far between for several years. But now, we've found some alternatives to the classic date night that give us quality time together without all that hassle.
- Day dates - Great for people who have flexible work schedules and kids in school or child care. May mean putting in some work hours later that night but, oh so worth it.
- Gym dates - If you're gym-goers, you can take advantage of your club's child care services and reconnect over a nice, sweaty workout. The feel-good brain chemicals that get released during exercise make this especially nice bonding time. Added bonus: a gym date also gives you the chance to model healthy wellness behavior for your kids.
- After-hours, adults-only dinners at home - Every now and then, it's OK to forego the family dinner and cook a nice meal together after the kids go to bed. I'm talking about a grown-up menu (no chicken nuggets, for sure!), good wine, swanky music, dim lights, real napkins instead of paper towels...the whole deal. And if you leave the clean-up for the next day in favor of some other grown-up activities, all the better!
Now, it's your turn! In the comments below, tell me what you and your beloved do to keep the magic alive.
And, if you like what you see, use the Like or Tweet buttons below to share the love.
If you're not yet signed up for my free newsletter, just enter your name and email below. You'll get lots more good stuff like this delivered right to you inbox. Easy breezy.