5 Ways to Maintain that Spark in Your Long-term Relationship.
I’ve dated my hubby since the tender (okay, angsty) age of 14—and I’m thankful that we still have that “it” factor in our relationship.
I can almost perfectly visualize in my head the day that I met my man.
I was on my way over to my best friend’s grandparents house. He met us there, via bike.
He sped up the road as we walked down—and I was instantly mesmerized. At 14, I’d never experienced that completely gut-wrenching, heart-bursting feeling of immediate connection with someone the way that I did with him at that exact moment. I didn’t know that I was going to marry him, as I’ve heard others say, but I did know that I absolutely—no qualms about it—had to get to know this athletically handsome boy.
The first day that he remembers meeting me was months later.
Anyway, I’ll digress away from my wistful walk down memory lane and head back into my reality that the person I married is someone who has been in my life for longer than he hasn’t been—and that’s pretty miraculous with today’s going marriage success rates. Interestingly, I think that many of those who have known both of us since we were that (trust me) memorable girl and that cute, speedy bike messenger boy assume that we’re just fated, first-class love that easily and blissfully sails through life because we’re soulmates. (Yes, I’ll use that word.)
I’m here to tell you that this is not, in fact, why our love still beats strong.
Certainly, I won’t suggest that it’s unimportant to have a deep and meaningful connection, but anyone who’s tried to get a screaming child to sleep for days or weeks (or months, or years) on end, knows that even soulmates have reality checks.
I’m also here to give you a few tried-and-true pointers of how to get through them.
1. Stop being selfish. Yep, I’m sure this one comes as a shock, and it definitely must arrive into the “easier said than done” category, but no matter how you cut it, it’s true. Stop thinking that the world—and your relationship—revolves around you. For example, if you had a bad day and your partner should simply “understand” because he or she “loves you,” then get over yourself. It’s just as likely that his day was a challenge too. Further, remember that when you are dying to dish all about your interesting conversation with a co-worker (or, in my case as a stay-at-home yogi, a fun and friendly play date), that your spouse almost guaranteed had something equally, if not more, exciting happen to him. Being a relationship conversational—or energetic—hog is a certifiable romance killer. I know, because I tend to be one. (So I also know it’s possible to move past this.)
2. Pretend you’re dating. If you’ve been with the same person for the last 10 (or 20, or 30—you get the idea) years, then try to remember how you behaved in the beginning stages of your courtship. Obviously, I’m not suggesting that you go back in time and re-visit those awkward moments that lacked authenticity because your relationship hadn’t yet developed its cozy comfort zone. (Ahem, like pretending to have heard of his favorite band or coming across as more easy going than your actual classic Type-A personality–this is not from personal experience mind you.) On the other hand, during this dawning of your relationship, did you, say, put more effort into listening? Or did you try harder to be on time? Again, I think you get the idea. Now put it into motion.
3. Dinner counts. It doesn’t matter if you can cook like a trained chef or if you prefer dining out in an impeccably decorated candlelit restaurant—put time into your meals together. It’s so easy to eat over the kitchen sink (okay, I’m a foodie, it’s not for me, but I’ve seen it in many of my friends—love you!), and it’s absolutely too easy to not even sit down together at all (again, not actually for me, I prioritize this—yet I witness it all then time in other busier families), but think about how much conversation and daily life is shared at meal times that do happen together. I’ll be honest; my family growing up always had meals together and we’re still close, and my husband and I almost always eat breakfast and dinner as a family. I remember all too well when we lived separately for six months after he left for graduate school–our most prized shared activity when we’d get to visit one another was eating breakfast together again. Which leads me to…
4. Stop taking the small stuff for granted. It’s the little things that count—this saying is, without a doubt, true. If your husband is home every single night, and he helps you take care of your car, and he loads the dishwasher and reads to your children, then there’s a pretty strong probability that he loves you. Stop giving your spouse a run for his (or her) money because he leaves his dirty clothes by your bed every night and they’re still there in the morning, and then later in the day, and then later that night. (Kisses, honey!) You know what else I remember about our time living separately? The thing that I missed the most was his balled up jeans on our bedroom floor.
5. Kiss and hug. Yeah, you heard right. I’m not a sex columnist, nor do I have any plans to go there. However, I will say this without a shadow of a doubt—hugs and kisses make the world a better (and more loving) place (especially at home with your spouse).
I think that, as a society, our lives have gotten, quite frankly, overly busy and self-involved. Throw in that we see either hilarious movies about people just laughing and having fun (hahaha!), or we we see dramas with partnerships falling terribly apart—yet the reality of life, and of love, is that it’s usually a blend (although, hopefully, with more hahaha!).
It’s important that we not place too much pressure on the people who share our daily burdens with us, but it’s also important that we’re communicating our needs, dreams and goals.
Life is hard enough. I know that I’m personally beyond grateful that my husband and I have chosen the road of support, respect and laughter—and that we both understand that it’s often these seemingly too-simple-to-be-true ways that steer us there.
Maybe all the world does need is love, but I think the real secret is that this love doesn’t have to be some ideological, far-away concept—he can be right here in my kitchen cooking dinner and pouring me a glass of wine.
If you’ll excuse me…
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Ed: Brianna Bemel