1. ACCEPT THE NOTION THAT THERE WILL BE STORMS AND DROUGHTS
Almost all relationships have difficulties. Honeymoons end, and the cute stuff starts to look (and sound) pretty disgusting. Accepting the idea that marriage is not a Disney happily-ever-after movie, will help open the door to a life that can be richly rewarding.
Real life, after all, can’t compete with the Disney true-love, soul-mate fantasy. And to the degree that is the expectation and the measure, we simply won’t end up looking very good.
2. WEATHER THE STORMS, ENDURE THE DROUGHTS
You have to be devoted to marriage itself, as an institution, perhaps as much as to the person you’re married to. That way, in those trying times, there will be some holding power. A storm in not failure. It’s just a storm. Sometimes all you need to do is let it pass.
3. PREVENTIVE CARE
The best medicine is an ounce of prevention. So the best way to keep the flame of love from dying is to keep it alive. Don’t let things simmer on low for too long. Don’t get lazy and start throwing your underwear in the corner of the room or leave hair in the sink. Don’t let yourself take each other for granted.
4. KEEP THE ROMANCE ALIVE
Date night. Just do it. We’ve had times when date nights were regular and we’ve had periods when date night kept getting shoved off to the eternal “next time.” The difference has been stark. Hug and hold hands, open doors, leave notes for each other and give back rubs and shoulder massages. Treat each other as though you were deeply in love, and you’ll likely remain deeply in love.
5. MARRIAGE IS NO BIG DEAL; IT’S A BUNCH OF LITTLE ONES
Have you allowed “please” and “thank you” to drop from your conversations with each other? Have you stopped holding the door for her? Have you stopped running to give him a hug when he comes home? When was the last time you told your spouse you loved and appreciated him/her? When was the last time you played a board game or had a tickle fight or took a walk around the block hand in hand? Don’t let the little things slide or you’ll likely have a bigger mess to clean up later.
6. FEELINGS MATTER
Listen to her feelings. They won’t make sense to you. Listen anyway. They will seem irrational and maddening. Listen anyway. Feelings make sense to the person feeling them (usually). Validating those feelings is a sign of respect. And respect is a necessary component to sustained love.
Clean up the house, make breakfast in bed, wash the others’ car, bring home his/her favorite CD or book. By serving with a willing heart, out of a desire to do something kind for the other, you develop greater love and compassion for that person. And you inspire in that person an appreciation for your service, the sense that they are, in fact, loved.
8. PRIORITIZE YOUR SPOUSE
If you put your spouse at the end of every list, your marriage will be at the end of the list too. You can’t see your spouse as an extension of yourself. You are different people with different needs and personalities. Treat each other as such.
9. IT’S ABOUT TIME
The quality vs. quantity time debate is over. Quality comes only at the end of quantity. Both are needed. If there’s not adequate quantity, there will not likely be much quality time available to spend.
10. WORK ON YOUR LOVE
Character matters. So work on your patience, compassion, forgiveness, selflessness, humility and love. The more of such traits that you have, the greater your capacity to love. Selfishness and pride are the twin destroyers of love. Work daily at overcoming these poisons.
11. LEARN YOUR SPOUSE’S LANGUAGE
According to Dr. Craig Giorgiana, we all have one of three primary love languages.
- Some are task oriented. They express their love by doing things for others. That’s how they receive it as well.
- Others are verbal. Telling them how much you love them is key. They need to hear it.
- Those who are touch oriented express and “hear” love through touch, in the form of a hug, holding hands, a touch.
Forcing others into your particular preferred mode of communication is a losing proposition. But learning their language will better prepare you to be able to send messages of love loud and clear.
If you keep speaking Swahili to your spouse who only speaks Cantonese, you’ll never deliver the message you meant to deliver, no matter how sincere the delivery.
12. DON’T SINK THE SHIP
There are certain deal-breakers that can immediately end a relationship. Avoid them like the plague. Stay away from even the appearance of these deal-breakers. If the temptation arises, run! Fast! The destruction is not worth the emotional release in the moment.
Cheating, any form of abuse of anyone in the family, criminality, drugs, are all such acts of disdain, contempt and disregard for the others in the family that they warrant a dissolution and even legal remedies. The person engaged in any of these activities certainly needs help. But sacrificing yourself or your children in the process of “being there” is an unacceptable way to deliver that help.