The old adage “It takes more than love” might have you nodding as you think of certain moments with your spouse. Depending on the moment, you might be thinking of a more appropriate old adage such as “there is a thin line between love and hate”!
Stephen Covey explains in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that love is a verb. He tells a man that has “lost the feeling of love for his spouse” that, “Love-the feeling-is a fruit of love, the verb.” He then adds solutions; “So love her. Serve her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her. Are you willing to do that?” Love is the action that brings the feeling (emotion) of love. I like that he asked the man if he was willing.
Marriage is a give and take, a beautifully evolving relationship that needs nurturing, attention, love, fun, trust, respect, teamwork, responsibility, understanding and dedication to mention a few of the needs. Each season has its trials and together you can make it. We all have rough patches.
So how do you you keep your marriage healthy through child rearing, layoffs, new careers and future planning whether in sickness or in health? We reviewed professional findings, studies and surveys, and chose the ones we thought were most valuable based on our personal experiences and what we have heard from women, mostly in their 40’s. We quoted the experts and added our comments. Hope you enjoy this and put some of these into action.
1. Take care of yourself.
Do it together. Walk after dinner, or fit in fitness family time. Wedded couples tend to have larger waistlines and that can damage sexual attraction and general health. This is a personal choice as well as a joint effort. None of us can control each other's desires. However, we can create good habits together that lead us to healthy choices. Split your meals, add a salad and go for walks together. Be the fit person your were when you got married. It is beneficial from a health perspective as well as desirability. A 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that your chances of becoming obese increase by 37% if your spouse becomes obese. Find something you can do together that creates the opposite effect! Where is the study that says your chances of staying healthy and fit increases if your spouse is fit?
2. Have a financial plan and be flexible.
Money is the number-one reason couples fight. Many of us made it through this past recession and unemployment which was not easy for those affected. Relationships tend to suffer during poor economies. There are tough decisions to make, and less choices than usual regarding career and money. All of this adds stress to a marriage.
Be supportive of your spouse and consider what you have control over and be proactive with those things. Where can you cut back, how do you prioritize where to spend, and how can you create wealth to dig out of the hole? Stay focused, take action and your response will pull you through. Like anything else, when you are seeing progres with baby steps in the right direction, inspiration will take hold.
In general, you should discuss and agree on some boundaries and rules on the way you want to live and spend and set goals for your future. Be flexible when appropriate and responsible with your agreement.
Whatever financial and household arrangements you agreed to early in your marriage, chances are they are going to change several times during your marriage. For better or for worse, you can make it through when you stick together with your financial planning.
Your marriage is a partnership. You win together.
3. Agree on Family Rules.
Married couples spend time in conflict over how their family should work, says Ken Robbins, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He adds, “People often don’t realize that they come into a marriage with an idea of how a family works based on their own family—whether they liked them or not.”
These thoughts and feelings are exacerbated when you add children to the mix. If you have children, you know this is true. Discussing how you should manage parenting calmly and with kindness is the key. Agree to take certain tasks and responsibilities, share some, let some go, and delegate others. Learn what works for you as a couple. Everything is important when it comes to your marriage and children. However, everything cannot be the most important thing all of the time. Discuss what is.
The more enagaged you are with your children, not hovering, but engaged; the more joy you will have in this parenting experience.
“You need to figure out how you can live together happily while each maintaining your own sense of self,” says Dr. Robbins.
Adding kids to the mix makes these next three suggestions all the more essential to a healthy marriage. As the demands of family life take hold of your time and energy, make sure you find joy with your spouse and bring good energy into your home.
4. Sex is a priority.
Andrew Goldstein, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in Baltimore, and the coauthor of Reclaiming Desire says you should make sex a priority, but that you shouldn’t pencil it in on your planner. Scheduled sex becomes a responsibility, and that takes all of the fun out of it! Most importantly, do what works for you to be together.
Another obstetrician and gynecologist, Melanie Belt, MD, gave a community seminar sponsored by my hospital, St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. She answered questions from the female audience and sex became the topic. She mentioned there is information suggesting the more you have sex the more you will want it. This seminar was successful because of the casual Q and A “girl talk” format, allowing for both practical and clinically proven answers.
Try touching eachother when walking by, or while you are in the same room, or even walk over to your spouse and give a kiss. Intentional touching connects you and creates that feeling of love. It is easy to be merely roommates, busy with your lives and your children’s, racing from one event to the next; but part of the marriage perk is to have that intimacy whenever you want and can! It can keep your love alive. It works.
Be kind to eachother and be friends. Be eachother’s support. You are building your life together. Intimacy inspires all of this, and all of this inspires intimacy.
5. Make time for friends.
There are predictable marriage milestones at which couples divorce. In the last decade, researchers have noted a rise in couples over 50 who are calling it quits. After all of those years? What did Stephen Covey say about love? Another predictable time with an increase in divorce is at 20 years of marriage when the kids are off to college. What happens? We neglect our relationships for too long in one way or another. It is important to discover that the predictable patterns are absolutely preventable. Both parties must be willing to continue to work on the relationship. Normalizing your feelings by talking with girlfriends can be helpful...but not in too many details. Be respectful of your husband and the golden rule is to treat others as you want to be treated.
Talking with friends helps you realize that other women go through the same feelings, emotions, and circumstances in varying degrees. Careful not to share too much information. You want to be respectful of your spouse as you would want him to be of you.
The goals are to realize you are not alone, find the support that you need, share the commonality of the season of your life and marriage and to keep your marriage healthy. Make time for friends. Walking or jogging with a girlfriend is one way to stay healthy, feed your soul and have those conversations that make you feel free!
6. Date, Date, Date.
Several studies show that marital bliss decreases after having children, sex decreases and those honeymoon feelings fade with children. If you have children, then you understand these things. The irony is that children are our greatest joy and purpose, and we all would walk to the end of the earth and back for our children if they needed us to. Children need our time, energy and devotion that we are willing to give; which means we are taking less time for other important relationships, such as the one with our spouse. Dates are important throughout your marriage to keep your marriage healthy. Dating helps you to stay in love and connected, to better partner in parenting and make it through all the other life responsibilities, ups and downs and frankly; the day to day mundane.
A 2008 study found that marital satisfaction actually improves once children leave home. Female participants reported spending equal amounts of time with their partners both while their children lived at home and after, but they noted that the quality of that together time was better once the kids were out of the picture. Dr. Robbins says, “Suddenly the tyranny of the children controlling the household is relieved.” “You don't have to have dinner at 6, you don't have to spend Saturdays at the soccer field, and you don't have to be so responsible all the time.”
Keep your dates going even through child rearing. Talk about yourselves and not your children on these dates. Reconnect at every opportunity. Keep it simple so it is achievable. A date can be a walk and a great conversation to an extravagant evening out. You are more likely to avoid marital problems that an empty nest can reveal. “All of a sudden the noise is gone,” says Dr. Robbins. “If you didn’t have much to talk about, it suddenly becomes more apparent once the kids are gone.”
Do things you enjoy together and bend a little to do something your partner really wants to do even though it may not be your favorite (love is a verb). He will do the same for you. In addition, as you age, you need more time for your own interests. Allow that for eachother. It is part of the process.
My passion and purpose is helping people reach their full potential and master their wellbeing.
Disclosure: Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before beginning any diet or exercise program and ask whether you are healthy enough to engage in a diet and exercise program. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider concerning your overall health and wellness, including your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. It is your choice to follow the suggestions, opinions and advice given by a Health Inspires wellness coach.