Just three brief moments of time within your routine is all it takes.
What with the daily commute, work, social networking — and let’s not forget when kids get mixed into the equation — it’s not a surprise that some couples forget how to communicate and can become a little lost. Often, our financial situation demands that we prioritize our commitment to work and our children, resulting in our commitment to each other falling by the wayside. Yet, with the spouses being the pillar of any family, it is important to watch out for any cracks — especially the invisible ones — in our relationship with our spouse; those little grudges we may feel towards our spouse can build up to feelings of resentment that are difficult to heal, at any age.
Fortunately, these issues can be repaired with the “cement” that holds every couple together: love for each other. The problem is that this takes time and effort. Yes, effort; realistically, after a week at work, it’s sometimes hard just to muster enough energy for ourselves, let alone for someone else. As for time, it’s that precious commodity we never feel we have enough of. But don’t worry: by taking just three brief moments of time within our regular routine, any marriage can be rejuvenated and strengthened. Just follow these three principles:
2 Minutes each evening
Sometimes we forget that we’re never too old to use “magic words” of politeness and respect on a regular basis. This applies just as much within a couple as in general; we shouldn’t be strangers to words like “I’m sorry,” “Thank you,” “Please,” and “I love you.” Every evening, take a little time to use these simple expressions to help heal a wound, to show appreciation, or just to make your spouse feel loved. Make the effort to focus on the positives and avoid brooding on the negatives, and you’ll see your marriage go from strength to strength. You could also prepare in advance a pardon or a thank you for something you know resurfaces on a regular basis. Repeat it to yourself each day, and this will make it easier to forgive quickly, because we won’t have stored up feelings of injury and resentment; we will also be more attentive to praise something that we know we sometimes take for granted.
In the case of one couple, the power of forgiveness proved a real lifeline. Elodie, a wife, explained how she had felt resentment for 10 years due to her husband’s attitude while they were engaged, and how it still weighed her down. Her husband Karl shared how “it cropped up every week.” To deal with the issue, the couple had to have a real exchange of apologies, and a meeting with a marriage counselor, which helped heal a wound that had festered for so long.
We could also ask ourselves why we should be saying “thank you” when it’s totally normal to expect help from our spouse. Quite simply, these acknowledgements and words of affirmation are indispensable for each spouse to feel loved and recognized by the other. Their absence produces low self-esteem and discouragement that manifests itself in complaining or sulking.
2 Hours a week
A weekly romantic rendezvous is an indispensable safeguard for any couple who wants to keep that flame burning. Recommended by therapists, it can take on many forms. Some couples like to fix a set time each week, whereas others prefer to be more spontaneous and surprise each other with weekly dates.
Is this really necessary during weeks that are already crammed full? Absolutely — especially when children come along! It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily hustle-and-bustle that the relationship between the spouses begins to suffer; their role as parents ends up consuming their relationship. It’s good to remember that the couple itself is a marriage’s first child, and it needs nurturing to maintain its unique bond.
To help you on your way, we suggest creating a “little box of happiness.” Buy yourselves a pretty box, or if you’re handy at crafts you could always make one. Choose 20 activities to do together that fit within your budget, and write them down on separate pieces of paper and then pop them in the box. Pick one out of the box every Sunday evening. The challenge? To have completed the task by the following Sunday evening. The activities really don’t have to be that tricky; the key is to do them together. We asked a couple to share a few of their favorite activities, and you’ll note they won’t break the bank: browsing at thrift stores, getting a massage, taking a painting lesson, making breakfast in bed, building a photo album, watching a movie together in peace, taking a bath together to talk about anything but the kids … Your turn to come up with ideas: get your pen and paper ready!
2 Days a year
Spending at least 48 hours without kids — whether by taking a quick vacation away or by leaving your children with their grandparents — is more than beneficial for reminding yourselves that you’re also lovers. Breathe a bit of fresh air into your marriage by taking time to whisper (again) sweet nothings to each other and laugh like before. Do you still admire your spouse? Express your gratitude toward each other, and marvel at what you have built together, despite life’s obstacles. A few days before your romantic getaway, take some time to mentally note all the positive things you want to share with your spouse. As soon as you’re on your own, you can savor the moment, sharing these thoughts and words of love and appreciation.
If you’d like to go away together but you can’t seem to manage it, you might have to ask yourselves some questions. What’s stopping you? Is it a childcare issue? If so, you could try a babysitting trade with another couple, leaving your children behind with their family, and then welcoming their children at a later date; that’s two happy families! Is it a question of budget? It really doesn’t need to be a financial burden; try a small guest house in the countryside, or a bit of camping if you’re really into the great outdoors. Anywhere where you can switch off your laptops and cellphones and concentrate on each other is good.
If you still can’t manage to get away, perhaps there’s some internal resistance. What is this resistance trying to tell you? Not all couples get giddy with excitement at the prospect of spending time together. One husband shared that he avoids “romantic” weekends as he knows it’s going to be full of complaints from his wife. Knowing that he’s not as skilled as his wife in arguing, it’s not a prospect he looks forward to. In cases like this, you have to be honest with each other and strict with yourselves. This is a mini-honeymoon, to re-connect and find happiness, not to hash over any past injustices. If this still feels insurmountable then it’s a sign that it’s time to react: make an appointment with a marriage counselor to help put you back on the right track.