Keeping Love New, No Matter How Old Your Marriage
Author: Angela Krysevig
With wedding season upon us, it seems as though these kinds of sappy, cliché quotes are everywhere I turn: captioned to an Instagram picture of a wedding ring, a Facebook status with the appropriate lover mentioned, hash tagged on Twitter next to a witty, well-thought-out pun with the bride’s new last name, on TV and radio; everywhere. Sometimes I catch myself rolling my eyes at these overly romantic expressions of love. Not because I am bitter; I am happily married to my best friend for going on six years now. The “annoyance” comes from the knowledge that the rush of getting married and the newness of marriage fades quickly. Wedded bliss swiftly makes room for real life, and those of us with marriages that are seasoned are left wishing we could relive the spark we had at the beginning.
Remember when you couldn’t keep your hands off your partner? One look, one touch, and lightening would rip through your body. You were hot. You were interested. You seemed to have endless energy and time for romance and lovemaking. But somewhere in the shuffle of life, things changed.
Your days are now filled with work, social obligations, kids and to-do lists rather than spontaneous trips and poetic love notes. Unfortunately, newlywed ecstasy rarely lasts forever, especially when the demands and responsibilities of real life take over. Suddenly, there’s precious little time or energy left over in your day for an affectionate caress or an intimate conversation, let alone making out on the couch or a full night of romance.
Anyone in a relationship or planning to be in one needs to know how to keep love alive for the long term. It is the little things you do on a daily basis that can mean the difference between a fulfilling, healthy marriage and a routine, bland partnership. Here are five simple steps to maintaining an enthusiastic marriage:
1. Appreciate your imperfect spouse (i.e.: stop nagging!). This is your partner in life. This person took a vow and agreed to share his or her life with you, so don’t take that lightly. We are not called to judge our spouses, but to love them. Spending your marriage building a case against your spouse as to why he or she does not measure up only puts you in a “holier than thou” position and creates a space for resentment in both hearts. We learn to appreciate our imperfect spouse by getting in touch with the reality of our own inadequacies and realizing that we both equally fall short of “perfect.” No one person can be “on” all the time. You need to give your spouse room to be a less-than-perfect human, to have bad days, “off” days and “average” days. This acceptance takes pressure off your marriage, and you are able to enjoy each other for who you truly are.
2. Show love in a small way every day. Think about when you were dating. You did things for your significant other “just because.” He sent flowers; you sent a card. You did surprise dates and impromptu gifts. Things were done just because you wanted to show the other you were thinking about them. But what about now? Do you do things for your spouse out of love—or out of duty and routine? Bring the courtship back. Take home a special treat you know your partner will love. Text, call or e-mail to say, “I’m thinking of you.” Write a list of all the reasons you love and appreciate your spouse in a card. Sometimes the little gestures make the biggest impression.
3.Touch each other often. In the best marriages, partners engage in a lot of touching; and sex is only one form of that. Nonsexual touch is an important and vital part of all marriage. Research shows that holding hands reduces stress, and affectionate touch releases feel good hormones throughout the body. By touching our partners, we are physically and emotionally demonstrating that they are a priority to us. So hug, hold hands, kiss for 20 seconds in the kitchen, rub your hand across your partners back. Let physical touch be your way of making love outside the bedroom all day long.
4. Learn your spouse’s love language. The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman is both practical and insightful. The book breaks down the different ways couples express love for each other. There are five exclusive ways that people speak and understand emotional love. As it stands, two partners very rarely have the same primary love language. Understanding what language your spouse places at highest priority enables you to express your love in a language your partner understands.
5. Communicate effectively. This one is the most important and can make or break a marriage. Communication is one of the main tools we use to connect with each other. Opening ourselves up to our partner emotionally creates a vulnerability and a trust that invites intimacy. It is a skill that is built up over time and is essential to have in place when life’s challenges present themselves. How do you help each other navigate through a baby with colic? How do you survive a nine-month deployment when you are thousands of miles apart and your spouse has to deal with a family emergency? Good communication allows us to traverse life together effectively. Great communicators talk freely, openly, and feel safe sharing their most private thoughts. They are considerate when verbalizing their concerns, making sure to listen attentively and not dismiss the other person’s feelings. Openness and honesty are essential, which takes practice. However, once mastered, it will bring your marriage to new level of understanding and ease.
Time is the most valuable currency, and we as humans are terrible about spending it. Think of your time as a bank deposit. You get out of your life what you invest into it. When you make daily deposits of love, affection and attention to your spouse, you will maintain a healthy relationship balance. Making time for your marriage as a priority over the daily routine will give you interest to live off of throughout your years together. A deeply rooted, wise, steady love is something to cherish and envy even more than newlywed love. Solid love that has stood the test of time replaces the surface level kind of quotes and swaps it for something like this:
“There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye-to-eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.”—Homer
Angela Krysevig hails from Pittsburgh with her high school sweetheart. She has a 14-month-old son and a daughter due in August. She operates a blog, armywifeandmommylife.svbtle.com, which chronicles her experiences as a military wife and new mother.