How many couples do you know who have been married for more than twenty (or even ten) years and are still passionately in love? Indeed, it is a rare find, but by no means impossible. If you were to ask those friends what is their secret to keeping the love alive in their marriage, then you may be surprised at their answers. No doubt every couple has their own special ways and means, but one thing is certain: it didn’t just happen that way. Staying in love with your soul mate requires commitment, determination and purposeful effort on the part of both spouses.
If you visit a friend’s home and you see that their garden is exquisite, with its neatly clipped lawn and flourishing flower beds, then you know that someone has been hard at work to keep it that way. By the same token, if you encounter an overgrown garden full of weeds and thorns, then you know that it’s been neglected and nobody has bothered with it.
Your marriage relationship is like a garden which can either bring you pleasure or pain, depending on how much effort you and your spouse are prepared to invest in keeping the weeds at bay and making sure that you plant good seeds.
The slow fade from soul mate to roommate can be avoided by paying attention to the following aspects of your relationship:
We are all constantly communicating, either verbally or nonverbally. The question is what kind of communication is taking place. Is it always about superficial day-to-day demands like bills and groceries and what to do about a pressing issue with the kids? Or, do you take the time to really share how you feel, what’s bothering you, or something special that you saw or heard and wanted to share with your soul mate?
When communication devolves into mere platitudes and problem-solving, you may find the color is starting to fade in your marriage. So, make a point everyday to really talk and listen to each other, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes before bedtime. Remember when you could talk for hours while gazing into each other’s eyes?
Affection and Intimacy
When you start drifting apart, intimacy may be one of the first areas where it’s most noticeable, if not to you, then perhaps to others. Were you always holding hands or stealing a quick kiss in public when you thought no one was watching? And you couldn’t wait to be alone together?
Of course, things might be different now. Maybe you have one or two babies, then there’s work and everything else. But don’t let those things steal what you once had together, reach out and take each other’s hands again. And what about a nice long hug when you say good morning? Keep on kissing and showing affection, maybe even in public. Protect your intimacy.
Staying in love with your soul mate means spending time together. Maybe you don’t see each other all day, and then you spend the evenings watching TV or helping the kids with homework, and you don’t even go to bed at the same time. After a while you may start to feel like ships in the night, passing silently by each other. Or, you might find that spending time with friends is more enjoyable than being around your spouse. Remember the well-tended and attractive garden? Take the time out to nurture your marriage; do stuff together, visit new places, hold hands — all of this will make you want to be around each other more often.
In the hustle and bustle of daily life it is very easy to lose sight of our priorities. “Of course, my marriage means everything to me,” you may say, “but for now I need to focus on earning money and attending to the needs of my children.” These are important too, but not so important as to warrant neglecting your spouse.
Maybe you think that one day, when you are retired from your work and your children are grown up, then you will be able to pick up the pieces of your marriage again. Sadly, many have found that through neglect and misplaced priorities their marriage garden became completely overgrown with weeds so as to be utterly uninhabitable. Prioritize the needs of your spouse and your relationship; be mindful that you have to do this in the midst of daily life. Only then can you experience real emotional intimacy with your soul mate as the years pass on.
Prioritize the needs of your spouse and your relationship; be mindful that you have to do this in the midst of daily life.
Conflicts are inevitable in every relationship, as two very different human beings are bound to step on each other’s toes from time to time. The trick is not to try and avoid the hurt, but rather to learn how to deal with hurts openly and honestly. If you share exactly how you feel and work through your differences, then it is possible to grow closer to one another through effective conflict resolution.
But if you keep stuffing the little hurts down, they have a way of accumulating and, over time, you may find a hardening in your relationship that is almost impossible to heal. It’s better to be authentic and vulnerable with each other, and “disinfect” the wounds one by one, as soon as possible after they happen.
There are times when less is not more, and happiness in marriage is certainly one such case. If you find your relationship with your spouse is fading from soul mate to roommate status, don’t be willing to settle for less and say to yourself, “oh well, this is probably the way it has to be.”
You and your spouse deserve the best possible relationship, full of passion and pleasure, enjoying the blessing of your love for one another. Don’t allow the weeds to come up in your garden and choke out the roses and delicious fruit that has the potential to bloom. Do whatever it takes, such as setting date nights or organizing special vacations to celebrate your togetherness to cultivate your marriage garden. Don’t settle for less than the best.
What’s been the most important marriage advice you’ve received?
Images via Allie Jeffers; Florals by The Wild Mother
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First appeared on darlingmagazine.org