I still recall the heady feeling of excitement and butterflies in my stomach when I first arranged to go on a date with the man who is now my husband.
There is nothing quite like the rush of a new relationship, is there? The anticipation, excitement, and happiness you encounter in the early stages of seeing someone is addictive. When you feel a flutter at receiving a text message from your new partner and are happy to just be around them.
In those early days, you invest time in nurturing your new relationship, but sadly, in a long-term relationship the day-to-day routines, commitments, and stresses of work and family life take their toll. You find that you hardly have any time for your partner anymore.
I’ve recently renewed my wedding vows and while I can honestly say that my love for my husband has never wavered, that doesn’t mean I haven’t found myself unhappy at the state of our marriage at times. It’s probably the same for him.
There is no reason for the initial romantic spark to die, but it needs to be kept alight through consideration, time, effort, communication, and thoughtful gestures.
In my experience, it’s “the little things” that make all the difference.
For example, if faced with the choice between my husband buying me an expensive gift or offering me small gestures regularly (like leaving a love note by the kettle, a cup of tea in bed, or a heart-shaped stone picked off the beach) I’d choose the small gestures every time. It’s those little things that perk you up and keep the romance alive.
As a mother of three young children, I know that both my husband and I have been mutually guilty of taking our relationship for granted as we rushed around attending to school events, “nappies,” packed lunches, and after-school activities. The reality is, it is just as important to prioritize our relationship as it is to ensure the laundry is done and the children have a costume for the school play.
It’s easy for a relationship to become starved of attention when other things take priority. Date nights go out of the window because you have to work longer hours to pay the bills, holidays become stressful events rather than spontaneous, children need feeding, and school uniforms need washing. The house needs cleaning, there are pressures at work and pressures at home, and amongst all of this you begin to view the relationship as a low priority.
It is too easy to get in a rut when you don’t make time for love. It’s not that the loves dies, it’s that the little acts of love stop so the relationship stops being nourished.
Eventually, the little things get abandoned and gratitude is no longer present in the relationship. When the sweet gestures that made you feel warm, cherished, and loved vanish, it seems like a small thing, but these actions add up.
When you are busy with life, small issues between you and your partner often go undiscussed. Before you know it, that little niggle becomes a major conflict, causing resentment between partners. When you feel like you are under pressure, it’s easy to think, “I won’t mention that; I want to avoid an argument,” but little issues eventually come to the surface and amalgamate into one big problem.
Don’t let little things fester within you, discuss them early and work toward resolving them together to avoid major problems occurring in your relationship. It is really important to still express love, too. When a couple stops communicating their love, it leads to feelings of isolation and rejection. Make sure you remember to hug, kiss, and share intimacy. I don’t mean just rattling the headboard, I mean sharing closeness and remembering to show love in many ways.
On that note, take time! It sounds obvious, but being in one another’s presence and spending quality time together are two very different things. I live and work with my husband, and on a day when I felt a bit neglected, I asked if we could spend some time together. He responded, “Why? We are together every day.” This response was like a dagger through my heart, because what I was longing for was one-on-one time and his response led me to believe he was not desiring the same with me.
A lack of time together causes a breakdown in communication and an inability to relate to your partner’s experience. You just become people who share a house. Downplaying the need for quality time together by prioritizing work or other commitments ahead of couple time is a sure way of causing love to ebb away. I’m not saying that everyday has to be a wild adventure, just that if you come home every night from work, quickly cook dinner, do chores, and only discuss the day’s problems with your partner before collapsing into bed, it makes coupled life boring.
I’ve found a great practice is creating a couple’s calendar.
Sit down and actually set date nights to decide what you’d like to do together. Sometimes I find it is difficult for my hubby and I to get out because of the need for babysitters, so once a week we set a “night-in date,” where we eat dinner together and just spend time at home. It’s important not to make this kind of night revolve around watching a film because it is your time to connect. This is a great opportunity to chat, communicate, and be close.
I also find it useful to keep a relationship journal to write down all the positive things about my partner and our relationship. During trying times, I write down my negative thoughts and compare them to the positive jots in the diary. It’s amazing how this puts things in perspective!
Now let’s talk love-making. Under the strain of daily life, it can be easy to just collapse into bed and go straight to sleep without even a thought of sex. (Except for foolishly believing everyone else has a more alluring love life.) When wondering what happened to your physical love life, it is important to understand that a healthy love life in a long-term relationship is centered around good communication.
Mal Weeraratne, author of Emotional Detox through Bodywork, explains that it is essential to “communicate with one another and love with no expectations,” and that in order for “couples to experience healthy and fulfilling relationships, they need to build up a soulmate connection.” Making love should not be a goal. Instead, concentrate on intimacy and take time to just be with one another. This relaxed approach in the bedroom will ultimately result more in satisfying bonding.
Jan Hoistad Ph.D., a relationship coach and author of Romance Rehab: 10 Steps to Rescue Your Relationship, encourages couples to cuddle for 5-10 minutes every morning and night. “The goal is not sex, but affection and emotional connection.” She explains that physical proximity is important and can be a real boost in your relationship. Between the initial infatuation and the long-term commitment, there’s often a drought in affection and intimacy of this kind.
My final and biggest tip is to never forget to laugh! It sounds simple, but I find laughing and just being light-hearted with my partner is a surefire bonding tool.
Remember to stand firm and make time for your relationship. Make a conscious effort to rekindle the romance, and don’t forget that it really is the little things that make a difference.
Author: Seren Charrington-Hollins
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Supervising Editor 1: Nicole Cameron
Supervising Editor 2: Catherine Monkman