By Patty Apostolides
In the beginning of a relationship, love seems to have a life of its own. Without much effort, you feel like you are on top of the world. You catch yourself smiling and laughing often, and feeling warm inside whenever you are with your loved one. Everything and everyone suddenly appears better through the rose-colored glasses of love. This euphoric feeling does not last forever, however. After the first year of marriage, the day to day activities of being married, working in a job, raising a family, buying and maintaining a home, etc., all take their toll, and romance takes a back seat.
Love has to be worked on, just like a gardener with his garden. Although he has planted the seeds, and expects the sun and rain to do most of the work, he still has to pull the weeds out of the garden, to fertilize it, and water it if there isn’t enough rain. That is the same with a healthy, loving relationship. When love becomes a high priority in a marriage, it is taken care of and nurtured daily. The resulting love rewards you by growing into a more mature, mellow, committed feeling, and when tested, rises up to meet the challenge. How does one keep love alive in a marriage?
You need to designate quality time with your loved one. Don’t take it for granted that he/she will always be there when you want them. Remember all those dates you took when you were courting? Now, it’s not so easy. There’s usually someone else making demands on him/her – whether it’s the children with their homework, or the boss expecting you to work late hours, or even an elderly parent that requires assistance. Also, it now might require finding a baby-sitter, or juggling the time with another activity that might take precedence. Whatever happens, make time for each other. Also, make time to hug and/or kiss each other often. You’ll be glad you did. The time you spend together will re-energize you and make you feel good for the rest of the day.
If you can’t get away, you can still set a date at home, after the children are asleep. The important thing is to have fun together. Here are a few things you can plan to do at home together:
Physical intimacy – might put some soft music in the background, maybe even dance together.
Pour a favorite drink, make an ice cream sundae, or grab some munchies, and have fun talking with your loved one.
Play a favorite board game or card game, anything that makes you enjoy yourselves.
Make popcorn and watch a favorite video.
This is not the time to solve life’s problems or issues. If there are any lurking issues in the background (and these may be keeping you from enjoying yourself), then sometimes you just might have to talk about it first, get it out in the open in a loving environment, then continue with your plans. Often, positive energy is tied up within us when a problem or issue has not been resolved.
Use these times to tell him/her how special they are to you (how intelligent, how thoughtful, how loving, how caring, etc.).
What is Romance?
Romance is the opportunity to show your loved one how special he/she is to you. It means taking the time for them, and making time, even if you don’t have it. It doesn’t mean thinking only about yourself, or having only your needs met. It means putting the other person first. Here are some ideas to spice up your romance:
Do small acts of kindness – give him/her flowers, or a little gift, or write a poem, etc.
Say “Thank you” and “I Love You” often.
Be considerate of his/her feelings, etc.
Take long walks together – anywhere.
Share jokes at mealtime. Laughter is a great way to share one’s love.
Visit a museum, visit community festivals, tour a new site, or attend a lecture together.
Hug and kiss often.
If your spouse doesn’t do things for you, then show him/her by gently pointing out what you like. If you like flowers for your birthday, and you haven’t gotten flowers, then let them know, particularly when he/she asks you what you would like. Don’t think they can read your mind, let them know.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Over time, we learn how to read our spouse. Their behavior, their actions, are important clues that alert us to how they are feeling. Often, we think we know what they are thinking, and we become sloppy, and don’t talk about it, or they don’t bring it up.
For example, if he had a bad day at the office, and comes home snapping at the children and being tense, the last thing to do is to take it personally. Invite him to relax, as dinner is prepared, then after he’s eaten, ask him how his day was. Sooner or later, the truth will come out, and you will learn what happened. You need to be a responsive listener, and not criticize your spouse, for he will surely clam up. The last thing he wants to hear is criticism.
Other signs that can bring on a spouse’s anger/tenseness:
Hunger: If your spouse hasn’t eaten for awhile, not only their stomach growls, but they growl also. Keep your husband well fed (but not overfed)
Criticism: Try and avoid criticizing your partner. If there is something bothering you, then voice it in a way that you don’t point fingers or blame him/her. Try not to keep distance between you. Communicate your feelings, how his/her action affected you, and how you were hurt by that action. Never, ever criticize your spouse in public. An apology is forthcoming, no matter how right you thought you were.
Tiredness: If your husband has been working all day, and you ask him to do a bunch of chores when he gets home, don’t expect him to thank you. See if you can spread the chores out, so they include the weekend. Planning ahead helps here.
Take Care of Your Body
Although you may not look like you did when you were dating years ago, you can take measures to look just as good if not better.
Physical wellbeing – make sure you stay in shape, eat the right foods, and dress nicely. All these actions not only get more compliments your way, they make you feel good about yourself, so that you can be more confident in yourself.
Spiritual wellbeing – don’t neglect this powerful aspect of life. Pray, go to church, believe. Studies have shown that families that pray together, stay together.
Mental wellbeing – if you are a stay-at-home mother, find some good books to read, or read the newspaper or magazines. This will allow you to keep abreast with interesting topics, and will provide your spouse an interesting partner to discuss life issues with.
Don’t substitute anyone or anything else for your loved one. Don’t go to a coworker or a friend, and share intimate secrets, because you may be betraying your loved one’s trust. Don’t watch television or be on the computer all the time, when you could be spending quality time with your loved one. Don’t spend all your time with the children, ignoring your spouse, because your husband or wife should be number one on the list. If people, organizations, or children clamor for your attention, put your spouse first, and then them. When you put your spouse first, you’ll notice you won’t need to be going to all these other people for emotional support. You’ll also notice you’ll be having more fun with the person you’ll spend the rest of your life with. Don’t underestimate the importance of love in a marriage. Cherish and nurture it, and you will have made the best investment in your life.
Patty Apostolides is author of Lipsi’s Daughter. She has also published poetry and written several articles.