As we’ve talked about in the past, being “in love” is the passionate feelings of infatuation that couples experience during the early years of their marriage. However, these intense emotions are meant to wane over the months and years.
As your relationship evolves, there will be periods of conflict with your spouse characterized by emotional chaos, disillusionment and ultimately, acceptance. In time, your marriage will go beyond fleeting moments of passion and move on to a more stable, deeper sense of loving.
With that, I’d like to offer ways to help your marriage move smoothly throughout the different phases of its evolution:
#1: Put Your Love Into Action
Verbally affirming your spouse is important, but the other half of showing your love is based on tangible things that they can see.
Like we said, being “in love” is temporary. To help your love evolve to its deeper stages, showing it through actions is important – especially when you DON’T feel like doing it.
Yes, there will be times when the passionate feelings will be absent (usually after the “reality check” stage kicks in), and just because you may not be in the mood, it doesn’t mean you should stop doing things for your partner.
Think about the other areas of your life. If you only showed up at work or gave your best only when you felt like it, chances are you wouldn’t stay hired for long.
Emotions are fleeting, but your life-long commitment to loving your spouse shouldn’t be.
#2: Keep In Touch
When it comes to staying close, talking with your spouse more frequently is only the first step. Truly effective marital communication involves two other components.
First, expect that you won’t agree with everything your spouse will say. Whether it’s politics, religion, philosophy on life, raising the kids, or your preferred brand of toothpaste, it’s vital to always maintain respect for each other’s opinions.
The combination of events in your life is different from your partner’s, so each of you will have unique filters which affect the way you see the world.
The other aspect of effective communication is your ability to truly listen to your spouse. Sometimes, we get so caught up with wanting to being heard by our partner that we end up tuning them out.
Among the many couples we’ve helped over the years, we’ve noticed that being unacknowledged and a lacking sense of validation are MAJOR sources of negative feelings in a marriage.
If you want to love your spouse, make the effort to really listen AND empathize with them. Pay attention to both their words AND actions to get a clear picture of where they’re coming from – this is your best weapon against potentially damaging misunderstandings!
#3: It’s about BOTH of YOU
Before you got married, you probably had a clear idea of the direction you wanted your life to take. Now that you’re sharing your life with someone else, have you updated your vision to include your partner?
Many people forget that getting married means combining their individual plans into a SHARED one. How can you move forward as a couple if you can’t agree on the direction of your marriage?
It’s a given that you’ll clash over your values when you begin asserting your respective personalities in the relationship.
But that’s not the point – it’s every couple’s responsibility to GET PAST these fundamental differences.
Goal-setting is a very crucial foundation in any healthy relationship; be prepared to talk about the basic objectives of your marriage as early as possible.
(Incidentally, our Save My Marriage Today book has a lot of couple exercises, including goal-setting!)
Also, don’t forget to devote quality time for each other and make daily gestures of love to remind yourselves that your marriage is more important than the differences you need to resolve.
#4: But It’s also about YOU
At the same time however, you need to retain your individuality. To make your marriage last, you also have to hold on to the traits which make you unique from your partner.
He or she liked you for who you are, so it’s important to keep those wonderful qualities alive in you. Besides, things would get pretty boring if you only liked and did the same things as your spouse.
To preserve your unique qualities, find time to maintain your personal interests. While it’s good to keep your marriage as the top priority, part of a lasting relationship is having the space to do your own thing from time to time.
Being married may not be a paying job, but it takes hard work to make it work!
Take time to indulge in your hobbies and other extra-curricular activities such as volunteer work, video games, books, movies or sports. Whatever appeals to you, attending to them gives you a chance to let off some steam and keep you refreshed.
As you do this, don’t forget to support your spouse in their own activities. They need a chance to regain their bearings just as much as you do.
Here’s another tip – being happy as an individual also means working out any personal hang-ups. Everyone has them, so there’s nothing wrong with working on your emotional and spiritual development.
There are different self-improvement books and classes which will best suit your needs. Take the time to look into them to prevent your personal issues from affecting your marriage.
By being the best version of yourself, you can fulfill your role as your partner’s better half.