I apologise for not blogging last week. I went to my beautiful niece’s wedding in Cape Town, then returned on Sunday morning, to go to our friend’s wedding! Talk about everything happening at once…
The young couple in South Africa are just starting their life together and have set up a home, with the intention to start a family.
Our friends in their 50’s, who have both been married before, are starting their Autumn years together.
So marriage at different stages of life, mean different things.
It got me thinking when chatting to both couples about what I wish I had known when I got married.
The most important thing in any relationship is that each person gets their “needs met”.
So I have put together some suggestions of life tools that will lead to a successful marriage.
You thank people all day long, but do you thank your partner? Be aware not to take each other for granted, aim to show your appreciation at least once a day. Say Thank You like you mean it, even if it’s in response to something that’s his or her “job” (like making the bed, washing up or putting out the rubbish). Praise reminds your partner of your love, and knowing you are loved makes you more willing to sort out differences when they arise.
Think of something to do to show them your love
Book a night or weekend away, somewhere new to explore together. Or prepare their favourite dinner. Bake a cake. Send flowers just because. Tuck little notes into his briefcase or leave private messages on her voice mail.
When you first met each other, did you talk for hours about current events or the meaning of life? And now all you seem to talk about now is the shopping list or how much to spend on a new bed or fridge? Asking about each other’s day isn’t enough. I suggest that while you’re in front of the TV or in the car, make a remark about something your partner deeply cares about, such as -nutrition, sports, politics, anything to get the conversation going! Plus, don’t forget to share funny stories too; a recent study found that sharing humorous experiences significantly reduced the amount of conflict couples felt.
Do activities together
Remember the couple that plays together, stays together. How to get your partner to join you? Be clever. Say you need help in the garden, want company to walk the dog; that a friend just happened to give you two tickets to whatever. Chances are, you’ll have a good time and want to do it again. Another way to spend meaningful time together is to do charity work together. Giving to others moves you out of yourself and your own problems and supports a broader, more spiritual view of life.
Be interested in what each other is doing
Does he have a big meeting? Is she dreading a phone call to an important client? Is she having lunch with an old friend? Talking about the daily details of your lives is just as important as sharing hopes, dreams, and fears. Talking is a great way to build understanding and rapport. And don’t forget to ask how that meeting, phone call, or lunch turned out. Your thoughtfulness will make your partner feel loved and cared for.
Whether you’re at a party, a business meeting, or just strolling down the street, give him or her subtle signals of your connection. Hold his hand. Smile at her. Put your arm around her. And never, ever, humiliate or make fun of your partner in public.
When you and your partner disagree about something, ask if she/he’d like to go for a walk to discuss things. Being outdoors and walking at a steady pace can melt away the tension so it’s easier to talk honestly, form compromises, or apologise.
Smelly socks on the floor? Stop yourself complaining. While it’s irritating, it will undoubtedly happen again…and again…and again. Instead, recite a modified Serenity Prayer: “I accept the things I cannot change.” You’ll be amazed at how quickly your resentment melts away.
Another tip: Try to air grievances at the same time each week in a formal meeting (no TV or phones). A Friday evening is good, just before the weekend. Give yourselves 20 minutes with no interruptions. If you discuss what’s bothering you in a structured, formal way, issues won’t come up so often at other times, and if they do, you’ll be able to discuss them more calmly.
You want him to hang a picture? Mow the lawn? Asking her to iron your shirts? Make sure you ask, rather than demand. We all tend to respond better to requests than orders. For example, instead of saying, “You should…,” say, “Could you…?” And instead of saying, “Why didn’t you…?” say, “Next time it would help me if you could try to…” If you’re the one being asked, deliver on your promises. Failing to keep your word can destroy the unity and trust in a relationship.
Most people think about snuggling at bedtime. But cuddling in the morning will keep you feeling close to each other all day. Set the alarm clock five minutes early. Talk, or not. What’s important is that you both start the day connecting physically and feeling secure and loved. Schedule time for lovemaking, an activity that’s so crucial to a loving, intimate relationship. It may not be as spontaneous as you’d prefer, but there’s something nice about looking forward to a night (or morning, or afternoon) of sex.
When it’s time to go to bed, do it together. This may take compromise: If your partner is dead tired, give up your nightly ritual (television, surfing the Internet, whatever) at least a few nights a week. Talk about the day, or simply be close while each of you reads. Make your bedroom peaceful (no ipads) —not a place to argue, bring up complicated subjects, or discuss difficult parenting issues, but for good things only like sleep, companionship, romance. When your bedroom feels emotionally unsafe, you’ll start to avoid each other.
Time for YOU
Go ahead, take that meditation class, or any other interest you might have outside of those you share with your partner. It makes you more interesting to your partner and everyone else. Moreover, a little “me time” allows both you and your partner to grow as individuals and reduces the pressure on each of you to fill the other’s every need. You should also have a regular girls’ (or boys’) night out. If it’s been a while since you’ve connected with friends or relatives, start arranging a day or night spent in their company. One study found that couples who have individual friendships outside their marriage were more satisfied with their marital relationships than those who didn’t.
Show your love
Write a love letter or e-mail. Don’t worry that you’re not a writer; just be simple and sincere, rather than trying too hard to be romantic. Describe how your partner makes you feel, and mention specific qualities you appreciate or quirks you find endearing. Recall your past times together and describe your hopes for the future. And once a year, renew your commitment not only to your partner but also to keeping passion and intimacy in your relationship, maybe by taking a romantic getaway on your anniversary or celebrating with a once-in-lifetime event.
Demonstrate your love by working to improve something about yourself that bugs your partner. For instance, if she wants you to be healthier, go to the gym or take up a nightly walk (preferably with him/her). If she/he’s a neat freak, stop throwing your dirty socks on the floor and leaving your dishes in the sink. Saying “I love you” is always nice, but showing it is really fundamental.
This is a golden rule: Of all your relationships, your spouse always comes first. Putting your marriage first means things like deliberately setting aside time for the two of you, whether it’s a weekly date or dinner alone a few nights a week.