My husband and I have been together for 12 years (almost 9 years of marriage). This is not a world record by any means but we have found a comfort and ease in our relationship which has grown over the years, particularly after a rocky phase during our dating period. As parents of two young children, I would love to share with you some of the tips that have helped us to navigate the waters of marriage and to have a wholesome relationship with each other.
- Love the right way: Learning to love our significant others in the way they want to be loved takes time, patience and observation. With my husband, I see how his eyes sparkle and how appreciative he is when I affirm him often about what a good job he is doing as a husband and father. To him, positive affirmation is how he feels loved and appreciated. For me, I love it when my husband spends time with me and really listens to what I’m saying (a box of chocolates does the trick too!) We are all unique and it’s important to be conscious of how the other person wants to be loved.
- Bring out their best: One of the things that keeps a relationship alive and healthy is seeing the potential in the other person and nurturing it. This could involve challenging the other person to make the best use of their gifts and talents. A person who gets you moving out of your comfort zone is refining you and making you better. My husband has been behind me for years as I plan to go back to school to pursue medicine. And he has dreams of one day being a teacher. Encouraging each other to pursue our dreams and picking each other up when we get tired keeps our bond strong.
- Teamwork: One of the things that can strain a relationship are the daily hassles of life. The pile of dishes, the bills, the defiant child, work deadlines etc. It really helps our relationship that we try not to take things out on each other and that we both chip in to help around the house. For example, I very much appreciate that while I’m putting the kids to bed, my husband has the dinner dishes under control. Find a system that works for you. I also take comfort in knowing that my husband and I are facing life together as a team and that even with its challenges, we are helping each other get through it.
- Commitment: Life and marriage will not always be a bed of roses. There will be some tough times. There will be times when you don’t have fuzzy feelings about the other person and times when they irritate you. There will be times when it is hard to forgive them. But commitment to each other even through those tough times will further strengthen the relationship. One of the toughest times for us was after our first child was born (4 years into our marriage). The newness of parenthood and lack of sleep were a strain on our marriage but we worked through it.
- Fun and laughter: One of the things I love most about my marriage is how much my husband makes me laugh. He does the silliest things and it has me on the floor in a fit of giggles. Our children sometimes stare at us like we have gone bonkers, but just because we are parents and have responsibilities does not mean we have to take life too seriously. Laughter is physiologically and psychologically beneficial to our bodies and minds. Have a good laugh on a regular basis!
- Spice it up: It can be easy to fall into a rut of routine, especially when work and kids are involved in the equation. Think up ways to bring back the romance. It does not have to be expensive or complicated. Sometimes, after our kids are in bed, we decorate a table, prepare some fondue and relax in front of the fireplace. Or we get childcare for the kids, then hit the cinema and video-arcade like we used to before we had kids. It’s important to have one-on-one time together.
- Try new things: Trying new things together can inject fresh energy into a relationship. Register for a course, visit a new place, take up a new hobby together. In the busyness of life, it’s important that we don’t end up drifting apart and living separate lives.
- Communication: This is one of the key components of a healthy relationship. When there are misunderstandings and misconceptions about the other person that are not acknowledged or discussed, resentment can build up and cause significant damage to a relationship. Communication involves respectful discussion, not accusations or being judgmental. Communication also involves asking questions when it seems something is off. I used to be an expert at giving the cold shoulder and my poor husband had no idea what was going on. He learned to ask questions and I learned to be more open about my feelings. Respectful communication is key!