“If you’re not working on your marriage, you’re working on your divorce.”
This is a harsh, but honest, statement a friend told me a few years back.
No marriage is like how Hollywood films portray them. Sure, snapshots can capture bright moments in our relationship. And certain times in our lives, we enjoy the “honeymoon” phases. But not all aspects of marriage are sunshine and rainbows. There can be times when we question how to make these lifelong commitments last as our lives and relationships evolve.
After 10 years of marriage, I don’t have a magic potion or secret to success, but I do have some honest tips. These tips are universal in nature and have helped me navigate other important relationships in my life also. I hope these tips can help you too!
I think it’s important to share some details of my personal marriage journey. My marriage has been statistically set up for failure from the start. I got pregnant six months after meeting my husband in college. We were young, and unaware at the time of how great and how tough this commitment would be.
I promise you that your relationships don’t have to be perfect, even in the beginning, if the determination and commitment from both people is present and intentional.
Here are some ways we’ve stayed connected after 10 years of marriage.
1. Hold Hands
Do it. Hold hands when you celebrate and when you are upset. I learned this from some random article back in the day, but it has honestly helped, especially when in an argument. Holding hands creates an honest and loving connection. It calms that fight or flight feeling and helps me really talk through what the issue is; while also remaining respectful and remembering the connection I have with the person I am speaking with. It can easily take my frustration levels from an 8 to a 3, simply by making a physical connection.
2. Be a Flirt
Hear me out. I get that we don’t have all the time for that mushy stuff we did in the dating years, but remember how cute and adorable it was?! Remember how special we felt waking up to a, “Good Morning” text, or a surprise coffee run. The mushy stuff might die out a bit over time, but the flirting and dating shouldn’t. There was a time in our relationship when doing something sweet or cute was just a normal part of our lives and routine. Why not work it in a bit here and there? What does your partner like? What do you like? Try it. Surprise them! Go on a date! Take the time to make your relationship a priority, it will benefit you both.
3. Learn Your Love Languages
Have you read the book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, by Gary Chapman? As much as I love to write, I don’t really enjoy reading, but I LOVED this book. It honestly made me realize what I need and also what my partner needs in our relationship to feel valued. By the way, we are polar opposites. He are “words of affirmation” and “quality time.” Mine are “gifts” and “acts of service,” go figure!
What this book really did was help us to be more mindful of what we each crave in our relationship. For example, while my husband prefers a snuggle on the couch and a good, quality conversation, I prefer for him to bring me flowers and load the dishwasher. This has helped us better recognize the needs of the other and has really helped roll back resentment and misunderstanding. Understanding each other’s love languages has truly made a huge difference in our marriage journey.
4. Comfort or Solutions Tool
The path of comfort or solutions is a newer tool in my marriage skillset. It has been really helpful between my husband (a solution-oriented person) and me (a comfort-oriented person). Think of a time you were dealing with a situation where you felt super upset or disappointed. When your partner approached you, was their instinct to provide comfort and listening, or create solutions?
For many years, I yearned for just a listening ear but was often met with “Mr. Fix-It.” He was doing his best to help, but the intention was not met with the same understanding. Now for many of the situations we encounter, we ask each other, “Are you looking for comfort or a solution?” That simple clarification has done wonders to help us communicate and navigate sensitive situations. Try it!
Be Mindful, Nurture Your Relationships
Isn’t it true that relationships we don’t intentionally work on tend to break down over time? Let’s refocus on what matters, using thoughtful gestures and communication to nurture our relationships.