I have a good marriage. And I can say that without fear of jinxing it, or losing it or whatever because it's not good by accident. I've written before about what marriage means to me but today I want to talk about the mechanics of it. There are steps to follow which can bring you closer to your spouse. Each item is just a little thing but when used in conjunction the result can be huge.
We all live crazy lives these days. Big lives. We have kids and dogs and houses and jobs and soccer and piano and True Blood and Facebook. Oh! And Pinterest! It's easy to get distracted from the fact that at the center of any family is a union between two people. That relationship is the anchor and without it there is no family. And with all those distractions it's easy to get out of step with your partner, which leads to frustration, which leads to lack of communication, which leads to arguments and on and on...
So, how do you maintain a close, open and loving relationship? Well, it's not always easy - just ask the Mr. - but it is totally doable and within grasp. Sometimes it feels like work and sometimes it feels silly and sometimes you're nice through gritted teeth. But at the end of the day, little kindnesses can turn into a really great marriage.
I read this article the other day - 50 Ways to Inspire Your Husband - go read it and come back. I usually loathe articles like this because they are written as though men are fragile simpletons in need of constant reassurance. But this one had a lot of good points. I have a few to add myself, so let's get started:
Initiate Great Sex
I kind of agree with this one. However I think it should read, "Initiate Sex". Because not all sex is great sex. And sometimes neither of you feel like doing it (see paragraph 2 above) and it's easier to not do it so you don't. And then you don't for a week. And then you don't for a month. But here's the thing about sex (to borrow from Dr. Phil, gah!) - when you have a healthy sex life it's 10% of your marriage but when you have a bad sex life, it's 90% of your marriage. A lot of women struggle in this area. We wait to be in the mood, we wait for the kids to be gone, we wait and wait and wait. You know what? It's a lot tougher to have mind blowing sex if you're only doing it once a month. If you do it more, the odds go up ;) I would encourage all couples to do it more. Try doing it every day for a week. It's impossible not to feel closer to your spouse after.
Not ready for the sex-everyday challenge? Well, try flirting with your spouse. Catch his eye across the room. Lay out your lingerie every morning and get dressed in front of him. (Oh, you should have sexy lingerie, by the way... and you should wear it every day. Under jeans, under sweats - doesn't matter. Maybe that's another post, though.) Undress in front of him in the evening. Act how you acted while you were dating. Tease him. (However. Don't be a tease. What good are lingerie, flirting or sexy pictures without action?) When you're out together, sit together. Act like you enjoy each other's company while at parties. Don't call him out on a factual error while he's telling a story or make underhanded remarks. Not only does it eat away at your relationship, but you can guess who everyone will be talking about when you leave. Flirting shows your partner that you really enjoy him and that you still want to be with him.
Men are rescuers. They need to feel needed more than they need to feel wanted. It costs me nothing to say, "Thanks for going to work today," or "I'm so glad I chose you." Likewise, I tell our children constantly that they have a great daddy. I tell the Mr. that he's a great dad, too. Thank your spouse for doing, every day, the things that they do. Thank them for taking out the trash. Thank them for playing with the kids. The best part of this is that it has a snowball effect. The more your spouse feels appreciated, the more things they will find to do. So instead of ignoring the fact that your husband picked up his laundry and having a "Well, that is what he is SUPPOSED to do" attitude, try this instead: "Thanks so much for picking up your socks. I know it seems like a little thing, but it really helps me out." The Mr. does this, too "Thanks for doing the dishes," "Thanks for being a great mom." and you know what? It really does feel good to be acknowledged for those things, even though I have to do them.
Give Him an Out
I know the Mr. doesn't want to go to baby showers or shopping or anything else like that. So I don't make him. I don't make him do anything he doesn't want and, in return, I don't have to do anything I don't want to do. Say there's something coming up and I know he's been dreading it. I might say, "Hey - why don't you just stay home and I'll go alone?" or something along those lines. Because even though we're a team, we are not the same person. And just as much as he doesn't want to go shopping with me, I don't want to go look at dirtbikes with him. I get alone time every day but he leaves a house full of people, goes to work with other people and returns to all of us. He is never, never alone. I try to encourage him to get away - even if it's just for an hour to go for a walk or tinker in the barn. I know I would shrivel if I never had alone time.
Create an Oasis
Most of my friends are not extremely wealthy. None of us have live-in help. None of us are taking vacations without our children. Most of us have a hard time squeezing in one night away, let alone a week! But the good news is that you don't have to go away to get away. Make your bedroom your oasis. Make it romantic and sexy. It should have low lighting, it should smell good. Have nice bedding. And move your TV in. Yes, I said IN. I know the general wisdom is that by keeping the TV out of the bedroom you'll be more intimate. I don't agree.
Before we had a TV in our room we spent our evenings apart - if the Mr. wanted to watch something on TV, I'd just go to bed if I was tired and vice versa. Since moving the TV into our room we now spend our evenings together. The children go to bed, we pick up the house and settle into our room. We watch TV, movies, we read, we work, whatever. But we are together. We are close enough to hold hands. And you know what's a lot easier to do if you're already in your bedroom? Initiate sex.
We try to keep the kids out of our room at night, too. Sure they sneak in every once and a while but they don't start out in our room. And when we have movie night, we all sit in the living room. We try to make it clear that our room is a special place just for us. If the doors are closed, they have to knock first.
So that's it... those are my marriage maintenance basics. Whenever I feel that things are tense between the Mr. and I or that we aren't on the same wavelength about things, I brush up on these little things and bring it back around. And if you're wondering, "Why do I have to do all the work?" Well, it works on the principle that it's a lot harder to be snappy with someone who is being nice to you. For example: If I know the Mr. is having a rotten day and he answers me with attitude it only escalates things if I give that attitude back. However, if I continue to be nice, to try to help him work out the bad day, his mood changes and lightens considerably. And the next time I'm in a crap mood, he does the same for me. It's called grace. And I think a lot of people could benefit from putting away pride and picking up some grace.*
*Please note that when talking about problems in marriage and relationships I am never, ever speaking of abusive relationships. If you are in an abusive relationship, please get help. Go to www.thehotline.com or call 1−800−799−SAFE(7233)