Posts in the 'relationships' Category
As an often-times (admittedly) snarky person, I’m not immune to flippantly “predicting” the outcome of others’ affairs. I know it’s not a good thing and it can breed negativity, but I also mind the company I keep when doing so, and I know with all certainty I’m not alone in my passive judgements. But what’s more telling than an outsider’s view on a couple’s status is how the couple themselves talk about their pairing. In a similar vein to The Masters of Love post from a few weeks back, Our Love Affair with Predicting Divorce – published on The New York Times website — considers our interactions with one another over time as an indicator for how relationships fare.
Photo by Angie Chung via Flickr Creative Commons. Modified with PicMonkey.
One of the great love stories of our era is not a celebrity coupling or an on-screen romance but a series of psychological experiments. These experiments aim to predict which couples will divorce, based on how they act while married. And while some have questioned their findings, the idea that marital discord is predictable (and, perhaps, preventable) retains its hold on our hearts.
This week, Melissa Dahl and Abraham Riesman of The Science of Us riff on a 1992 study that looked at the way couples talked about their lives together — and that’s now, as they note, “something of a social psychology classic.” They write:
“The couples who told their stories in a more withdrawn, negative manner were more likely to have split three years later, while couples who told their stories in a more expressive, open way tended to stick it out. All couples face hard times, it’s true, but the couples who were more likely to stay together spoke about those tough moments with more fondness and nostalgia than the couples who eventually parted ways.”
By analyzing how the couples talked, the study authors — Kim T. Buehlman, John M. Gottman and Lynn F. Katz — were able to create a model that predicted with close to 94 percent accuracy which of them would be divorced within three years. They wrote, “We can suggest at this juncture that not only can we predict divorce and the process of marital dissolution with high accuracy but we may also understand what drives the process.”
To continue reading Our Love Affair with Predicting Divorce, head over to The New York Times website.
Dear fellow Broke-Ass Brides, have you ever wanted to take a weekend and just get the hell away from everything? Even more importantly, have you made time to do so and will you *actually* go through with it?
We are all learning that this whole wedding planning process? … Well, it can be a bit much. (*coughUNDERSTATEMENTcough*) As such, it’s important to realize that the spreadsheets, the phone calls, the texts, the worry, the stress, the drama, the vendors … it can be shoved aside for a minute so you can catch your breath. And you know what? I feel a wedding planning hiatus should be a mandatory part of the process!
I started daydreaming months ago about a great romantic getaway weekend. One in which I could be with my fiance Jersey, just the two of us, reconnecting on a level that has everything to do with our love and nothing to do with the damn table arrangements or DJ playlist. I had a notion to combine this fictional weekend with one item on my Life List, but wasn’t sure it would be feasible before the wedding. So I thought nothing about the late night phone call with my MOH, in which I confessed this daydream. Until I awoke a few weeks later on my birthday morning to an email from her with the subject line, “#81: Happy 36th Birthday!”.
Life List Item #81? Visit Savannah (finally), flagged as a Top Five for 2014.
I couldn’t believe it. I scanned down the email and saw the confirmation number for our Savannah hotel stay and explicit instructions to GO and HAVE FUN. That she’d already cleared that weekend with Jersey. And that it was a thank you for planning her bachelorette festivities-slash-birthday present. I swear, y’all … I hit the jackpot in the friend lottery. Love you, Netstr!!
So after months and months of wedding planning, work stress, moving, traveling, and you know … LIFE … our getaway weekend is just days away! I am beside myself and unable to focus beyond my daydreaming of walking hand-in-hand underneath the moss-covered trees. Of a luxurious spa appointment to knead away all the stress. Of poolside fruity drinks and butter-drenched southern fare that will surely need to be burned off next week. And most importantly, time to JUST BE with my amazing guy, relaxing and enjoying each other. I’m not sure we’ll be able to totally put away the technology (you guys know how much I love Instagram), but I do hope to implement a “no wedding planning talk” rule. That is NOT on the agenda. We’ll most likely check in with family/friends once we’ve arrived, but ask them to please hold all calls/texts until we return.
But I’d like to ask you, my friends: Did you take time to get away from planning? Any advice for us as we prep for our Great Escape? Any Savannah tips if you’ve been?
Till next time,
As we all know, when it comes to weddings, parents are typically the biggest supporters and have some of the biggest opinions. This is extremely true in my and Daniel’s case. Our parents have been incredibly supportive of our relationship (at least, ever since I convinced my parents he isn’t a cyber-serial-killer). Seriously, though, their overwhelming love and support has been phenomenal. Of course, sometimes, that overwhelming love and support can manifest in negative forms and be, well, overwhelming. Our parents are making rather large financial and emotional contributions to our wedding. Therefore, as any parents would, they are invested in the wedding and feel entitled to a certain degree of decision-making clout. I would be lying if I said this hadn’t caused some rather heated discussions and quite a few tears. In the end, Daniel and I decided that it wasn’t worth the drama anymore – after all, the wedding is only one day – and we made several concessions to satisfy our parents. Now, pay close attention. Not only will the following warnings explain my and Daniel’s experiences and decisions…they will also be crucial considerations for anyone preparing to tie the knot.
Made with PicMonkey
1. Parents are People with Their Own Perspectives It’s easy to think of your wedding day as belonging solely to you and your partner. Well, sorry, it doesn’t. If your parents (or other family and friends) are involved in your life, likely, they will strongly desire to be involved in your wedding. Keeping in mind their perspectives as your parents can be the difference between seeing a ferocious monster-in-law and a caring mother-in-law. Daniel’s Parents’ Perspective: Daniel is the eldest son and the first to be married. Therefore, his wedding is our first as parents and very special to us. Plus, he is leaving home permanently to live in the United States. This is one of the last big events we will share with him, and we are travelling halfway around the world to be there, so it is a very important occasion to us and needs to accommodate our special needs as out-of-continent guests. My Parents’ Perspective: Kate is our only daughter, and hopefully, this will be the only wedding she’ll ever have. Her whole relationship has been challenging for us, given that she is marrying someone from overseas. Therefore, we want her day to be incredibly special for her, and for us, since this is the only time we’ll be the wedding parents. When Daniel and I really thought about things from our parents’ perspectives, it was easier to see why they felt entitled to make big decisions about our day… and it made us more compassionate to the sacrifices they are making for our relationship, too.
2. If Parents Pay, They Have Power Many parents choose to contribute financially to their children’s weddings. This is very generous and typically comes with a promise of “no strings attached.” That is a lie. I’m sorry – your parents could be the richest, nicest, most generous people in the world – but if they are putting money down on your wedding, it’s no longer just a party: it’s an investment. An investment in family time, their (and your) reputations and precious memories. One on hand, this viewpoint is so “anti-wedding.” Thinking of a wedding as a product is downright unromantic. However, on the other hand, it makes a lot of sense. A wedding is a day for the whole family, and if people are making contributions, like with any other shared asset, they want it to look how they want it (see point #1). While this wedding-as-product philosophy does make my head spin … it has helped me a lot. Thinking of my wedding as a product helps me think of our family as a business team … each making his or her own contribution to a final product that will reflect everyone who contributes, not just Daniel and me. 2B. Use Parental Payments Wisely Even if your parents are footing the bill, keep the “Broke-Ass” mentality. Be respectful. Be resourceful. And help them get the most out of their investment. Basically … don’t be a jerk. ‘Nuff said. 3. Don’t Make Any Concessions You’ll Regret Later It sounds simple, right? It does … but boy, I screwed this one up from the get-go. Long story short, Daniel’s parents have vacation from work for two weeks, so they had to have the wedding on the weekend in the middle of their vacation. We immediately agreed – no sense in missing work for world travelling when they could use the time they already have off. It’s the least we could do to repay them for their willingness to travel. Coincidentally, the Saturday the wedding has to be on is a day that has deeply upsetting personal meanings for me. Yes, the date was arbitrarily chosen. Yes, the date will be redeemed when the memory of my wedding paints over the bad memories. But … it’s been a tough pill to swallow. A very tough pill. I repeat: don’t make any concessions that you know you’ll regret later.
At least we’re not on “Game of Thrones” …
4. The Catch-22 This may be just our experience, but I thought it was worth warning you all. We have a terrible Catch-22 with our wedding planning. On one hand, our parents want us to have our dream wedding, and they encourage us to make decisions freely. On the other hand, if they do not agree with our decisions, we are guilted or chided. On one hand, they do not want to know every step in the planning process. On the other hand, if we do not tell them the “important” details (which are subjective), they get upset and a repeat of the first Catch-22 happens. The point is: Sometimes, it feels like you can’t win. Instead of stepping on eggshells, plan your wedding how you want it, and if an issue emerges, sit down and address it immediately. Passive-aggressiveness will only waste time and emotional energy. 5. Choose Your Battles Wisely It’s amazing what weddings bring out in people. For instance, I like to go dancing from time to time, but I never knew how insanely important dancing was to me until it was taken out of my reception (don’t worry, I got it back!). You never know what different people will consider to be among the most important aspects of your wedding. Hell, they probably won’t even know what they value until they realize an item’s presence or absence. Therefore, when your parents (or your partner) decide to really push for something wedding-related, ask yourself: Is it worth the fight? Was demanding to change the date based on my own selfish desires worth the logistical nightmare it would cause? No. Was going to the courthouse prior to the wedding (to get the immigration paperwork filed early) worth devastating Daniel’s parents? No. Was adding an extra 10 people to the guest list worth making my mother an emotional wreck? No. To some questions like these, the answers will be a resounding yes. But before you answer, think about what you and your partner value most and weigh that against the fallout of getting what you want. Sometimes, even if something is the best option – emotionally, financially, and logistically – for you and your partner, it just simply isn’t worth the fight or the upset it will cause. Remember: I’m not saying give up complete control. I’m just saying … choose your battles wisely.
Now, after all this serious talk, let me end on a happy note. Daniel and I love our parents. They have made financial and emotional contributions to our long-distance relationship and to our wedding that are beyond the scope of anything a parent should have to give. While making wedding concessions are not always our happiest decisions, we know that this day is very important to our parents, and we are happy to give something back to them after all they have given to us. Our wedding is just one day, a day that we are sharing with our loved ones, and we want it to be meaningful and joyful for everyone. Besides … once we hit the beach at Sandals, I’m pretty sure the ocean will wash the wedding stress away …
**This post is brought to you by our friends at ElementAssociates.com, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
By Slightly-Less-Random via Flickr Creative Commons.
Guys, this isn’t the most romantic of wedding topics, but it’s real. And it’s important. I mean, as I type this, Dana herself is headed into yet another surgery on her eyes. Health care and the necessity of insurance is a real thing.
Regardless of how you feel about the political hoopla behind the Affordable Care Act, etc., health insurance can make a huge difference in your life and how you are able to handle unexpected events. For one thing, it has the potential to save you some serious cash, which, considering you’re reading The Broke-Ass Bride right now, you have some interest in doing.
Look, I know that obtaining health insurance under the off chance that I may have to go to the doctor isn’t necessarily my highest priority for what few dollars I’m able to bring in every month that isn’t already gobbled up by rent, credit card bills, loans, electricity, etc. But I also know that since my eyeglasses prescription is about 2 years old, my migraines have been increasingly worse. I also know that I’m almost 30 and it’s probably high time to get myself checked out to make sure all the gears are running smoothly. And I know that if I put off getting health insurance for much longer, it’s probably going to end up costing me more — or worse, something awful could happen and I’d have to go into serious debt, which I frankly can’t afford any way you slice it.
While there are only certain times of the year that enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace is open, certain “qualifying life events” (you just try to come up with better jargon than that. I dare you.) may allow you to get your butt covered sooner rather than later.
And yep, you guessed it. Getting married is one of those events (having a baby, moving or losing current insurance are also included).
So, uninsured BABs, here’s the lowdown on how to get hitched and get insured, according to GetCoveredAmerica.org:
- You have 60 days from the day you get married to sign up and pick a plan.
- You can change your existing plan, sign up for a new plan, join your spouse’s plan or add them to yours, or add any dependents to your plan.
- Most people will get help paying for insurance, or even qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid. If you qualify for Medicaid, you can sign up at any time throughout the year.
- If you don’t have health insurance, you might have to pay a fine.
BAB is joining a Twitter party tomorrow (6/25) at 1pm ET/10am PT using #TakeCareChat to talk about Get Covered America and your options under the ACA. If you’re in the dark about any aspect at all of this, please join us. I’ll be there learning right beside you. Even if you don’t plan to do anything about it any time soon, there’s no harm in staying informed.
It often seems that understanding what makes a marriage last or fail is such an ephemeral, complicated issue. So, I love when science can be applied to address some of the questions associated with why some relationships survive and others don’t, with clarity and consistency enough to allow us mere mortals a glimpse into what we can do to avoid the pitfalls that can ruin a relationship, and reinforce all the strongest parts of our bonds to one another. This article by Emily Esfahani Smith from The Atlantic reveals some fascinating scientific evidence that kindness and generosity with each other is key — but it goes on to suggest specific acts by which we can communicate our generosity and kindness to each other in ways that it will best be received and appreciated. I know I’ll be more conscientious about applying these concepts and making them a regular practice, to ensure that Paul always knows how much I value him and how special he is to me. And in doing so, I’ll be making small investments in our relationship that will hopefully pay off in a lifelong marriage that keeps us both engaged and satisfied. I hope it inspires you, too!
Masters of Love
Science says lasting relationships come down to—you guessed it—kindness and generosity.
Every day in June, the most popular wedding month of the year, about 13,000 American couples will say “I do,” committing to a lifelong relationship that will be full of friendship, joy, and love that will carry them forward to their final days on this earth.
Except, of course, it doesn’t work out that way for most people. The majority of marriages fail, either ending in divorce and separation or devolving into bitterness and dysfunction. Of all the people who get married, only three in ten remain in healthy, happy marriages, as psychologist Ty Tashiro points out in his book The Science of Happily Ever After, which was published earlier this year.
Social scientists first started studying marriages by observing them in action in the 1970s in response to a crisis: Married couples were divorcing at unprecedented rates. Worried about the impact these divorces would have on the children of the broken marriages, psychologists decided to cast their scientific net on couples, bringing them into the lab to observe them and determine what the ingredients of a healthy, lasting relationship were. Was each unhappy family unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy claimed, or did the miserable marriages all share something toxic in common?
Psychologist John Gottman was one of those researchers. For the past four decades, he has studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. I recently had the chance to interview Gottman and his wife Julie, also a psychologist, in New York City. Together, the renowned experts on marital stability run The Gottman Institute, which is devoted to helping couples build and maintain loving, healthy relationships based on scientific studies.
John Gottman began gathering his most critical findings in 1986, when he set up “The Love Lab” with his colleague Robert Levenson at the University of Washington. Gottman and Levenson brought newlyweds into the lab and watched them interact with each other. With a team of researchers, they hooked the couples up to electrodes and asked the couples to speak about their relationship, like how they met, a major conflict they were facing together, and a positive memory they had. As they spoke, the electrodes measured the subjects’ blood flow, heart rates, and how much they sweat they produced. Then the researchers sent the couples home and followed up with them six years later to see if they were still together.
From the data they gathered, Gottman separated the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages. When the researchers analyzed the data they gathered on the couples, they saw clear differences between the masters and disasters. The disasters looked calm during the interviews, but their physiology, measured by the electrodes, told a different story. Their heart rates were quick, their sweat glands were active, and their blood flow was fast. Following thousands of couples longitudinally, Gottman found that the more physiologically active the couples were in the lab, the quicker their relationships deteriorated over time.
But what does physiology have to do with anything? The problem was that the disasters showed all the signs of arousal—of being in fight-or-flight mode—in their relationships. Having a conversation sitting next to their spouse was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger. Even when they were talking about pleasant or mundane facets of their relationships, they were prepared to attack and be attacked. This sent their heart rates soaring and made them more aggressive toward each other. For example, each member of a couple could be talking about how their days had gone, and a highly aroused husband might say to his wife, “Why don’t you start talking about your day. It won’t take you very long.”
The masters, by contrast, showed low physiological arousal. They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. It’s not that the masters had, by default, a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.
Gottman wanted to know more about how the masters created that culture of love and intimacy, and how the disasters squashed it. In a follow-up study in 1990, he designed a lab on the University of Washington campus to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat. He invited 130 newlywed couples to spend the day at this retreat and watched them as they did what couples normally do on vacation: cook, clean, listen to music, eat, chat, and hang out. And Gottman made a critical discovery in this study — one that gets at the heart of why some relationships thrive while others languish.
Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.
The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.
Y’all, speaking from experience, marriage is tough. And there are times when it doesn’t work, maybe because it wasn’t “meant to be” (I don’t really know what this means, other than fate/destiny/a flying spaghetti monster may have had some sneaky upper hand in my decisions as a lonely, confused mid-twenties female) or maybe because of our own action — or lack thereof — leading up to and through the course of it ending. But there are some, like this writer (originally posted on BlogHer), who staged a battleground in the name of love. Not all love stories are happily ever after … but unhappily ever after doesn’t have to be the only other option. You can be proud of the fight, even if you’re not proud of the reason(s) behind it. And sometimes the result is even more worth anything you may have been able to dream up.
Flickr Creative Commons. Credit.
I didn’t grow up dreaming of my wedding day, so there were no preconceived ideas of what my love story would look like. Marriage was something that most people chose to embark on at a time in their lives when they wanted to build equity, and by that I mean have babies. People got married once they had achieved great jobs, expensive furniture, and ran out of things to do on a Friday night. That all turned out not to be true. I wasn’t going to be one of those ladies who marries an executive in her early 30′s with a destination wedding, and the merging of padded bank accounts. I was going to be the nineteen year old that calls her parents six months after leaving home with the news that I was marrying my twenty year old boyfriend…‘You remember, that guy we had dinner with when you visited me? Brown hair…tattoos…Dad? Hello?’
Although I realize that it doesn’t matter what order things happen in, I liked that we got engaged and married without a shot gun. Most people assume that a nineteen year old gets married after seven months of dating because she’s got a surprise on the way. We were just in love, and I was proud of that. I was really into our whirlwind story of romance on the high seas, forbidden courtships, and grand gestures. I was also incredibly naive, immature, and lacked the skills necessary to be successful in marriage. I’m pretty sure the Sailor would offer up a “ditto” if he were sitting here. It didn’t take long before we experienced, and survived, lying, cheating, financial dishonesty, and a number of other hurdles. Our sweet story of young love looked more like a soon-to-be statistic.
This article popped up on The Huffington Post, and as I tend to do with all things wedding- or marriage-related on a site I frequent, I opened it and read it. And my heart fluttered a bit. There does often seem to be this abounding sense of pessimism surrounding weddings and marriages, especially in this era of the divorce rate setting up camp at around 50%. So sometimes, it’s really, really nice to read a piece about someone who is truly happy and truly wants to be married for the sake of love and partnership. Neal Samudre explains his stance on why he didn’t wait:
I’m getting ready to marry my best friend, and because I love her, I must say: I didn’t wait for marriage. And hopefully, she’ll be happy I didn’t.
Let me tell you the story of why I bring this up now, just a couple months before my wedding:
I proposed to my fiancé in December, when I didn’t have a job, didn’t have money, and didn’t have anything to my name but nickels and dimes. Some said it was romantic, but most people said it was foolish.
When the reality of marriage started sinking in, I wrote an article describing my sentiments on why I chose to get engaged at an early age. I honestly said that I got engaged at a young age because I was in love, and love for me is greater than timing, how much money I have, and other jaded opinions on marriage in our culture.
What I didn’t expect, however, were the millions of people who would tune into this belief. The article went viral in a short time, with millions of views around the globe and thousands of shares.
Hundreds of people were reaching out to me and blessing my marriage. But also, on the other side of that, people were condemning it.
People said I wasn’t ready.
They said I was too young.
They said I was idiotic for getting engaged without a job, and that I should start preparing for a divorce soon.
One person even found pictures of me, scribbled racist jargon all over it, and emailed it to me saying that I should go kill myself because I’m a minority with dumb thoughts on love.
This disturbed me of course, but one response bothered me even more. Multiple people said this when they commented on my future:
Just wait until marriage.
They said this as if I’m going to cross the line into marriage and instantly be dissatisfied.
Why is our culture so cynical on love these days?
People willingly choose to believe increasing divorce rates as a fact for their own lives. They let negative comments and views on love seep into their opinions on marriage, ultimately leading towards cynicism.
Marriage is a contract, they say. Marriage is the end to fun times. Marriage is not all it’s cracked up to be.
People listen to that and carry it with them to the altar.
It’s no wonder more and more marriages are failing today. People are oddly choosing to believe a pessimistic view on marriage.
Some have even told me that love has nothing to do with marriage.
To read more on why Samudre couldn’t hold off any longer, why he wouldn’t wait, head on over to HuffPo.
This article on BlogHer by TheFlyCoach shines the light on the imperfections of marriage … because it isn’t always Champagne and cupcakes. Sometimes it’s work — hard work — and you have to put up a fight. And then, one day, you may wake up and realize decades have passed and ask yourself “Now what?”
I feel like I fell asleep for 30 years and just woke up. How did 30 years go by so quickly? We sat and talked about options for celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. I asked him randomly, “Now what?” He looked puzzled at my question. I said it again, “Now what?” It is a simple question, right?
We raised two daughters, purchased homes, built careers, parented numerous pets and now the house is empty as we embark upon one of the biggest milestones of our life. I wish we were one of those couples that says, “It has been heavenly bliss.” I very lovingly and non-judgmentally ask, “Who are these people? What planet did they come from?” I love my husband and I know he loves me and would gladly take the ride again. However, it has been nothing close to “heavenly bliss”. We are the couple that loves deeply, but have not been completely satisfied in our marriage? Oddly enough we have always celebrated as if we were.
I often wonder why we didn’t throw in the towel. We struggled to adjust to our newly-merged life. We married young and were just beginning to know ourselves as individuals. We were first time homeowners and parents within three years of marriage. We are total opposites of each other. Our communication is a C- at best. He watches sports. I like the OWN Network. He likes liver smothered in gravy with onions. I can’t stand the sight of it. He loves golf. I love riding in the golf cart with snacks and a glass of wine. He has the patience of Job. I am inpatient and short tempered. He’s in government and I am a corporate girl. He’s an extrovert. I am an introvert. He loves to be surrounded by people and I enjoy being alone. How in God’s name did we make it this far?
I don’t know – actually I take that back. It was all God. We have been blessed beyond measure. God undoubtedly ordained this marriage. We are grateful! With each anniversary we thought it would be the last and here’s why:
- We focused on negative aspects of our marriage. Nothing seemed to work. We chose to focus on everything except that which was good and perfect.
- We didn’t make our marriage a priority. I chose to place the kids front and center and he chose career. We neglected our marriage – with justifiable reasons.
- We refused to take accountability for our dysfunction. We finger pointed. It was easier.
- We surrendered to silence instead of voicing our values, opinions and expectations.
Nevertheless, we made it. But, what was the destination? We are older, wiser, more mature and yet still dysfunctional. Despite it all, we love each other and are committed to each other for life. There has always been something within that has held us together like glue. Is that a characteristic of soul mates? No matter how hard we tried to fight it, we are meant to be together.
To see how the author turns the page to the next chapter in her marriage, head on over to Blogher.
I think we’re all well-aware that marriage can be tough for a multitude of reasons. And, well, sometimes we don’t know how to get back to that good place, the place of mutual happiness and enjoyment. Sometimes we get so stuck in the motions and the regularity that we forget how to be nice to each other and for each other, which has a way of diminishing the good stuff. So when when this popped up on Huffington Post, I found it to be a great reminder that marriage is supposed to be for the long term, and that it does take work, but that work? Well, it can be completely worth it.
The honeymoon period in most marriages has a shelf life. But does that mean you can’t bring back those fluttery butterfly feelings of excitement and anticipation everyone experiences at the beginning of a relationship? Absolutely not. All marriages maneuver through rough patches. Some don’t survive long enough to come out the other side unscathed. But many do. Here are 11 ways to keep your marriage fresh.
1. Remind your partner (and yourself) that you appreciate them.
After you’ve been married for many, many years, that passionate kiss when your partner walks in the door can easily morph into a peck on the check that can then morph into an inability even to look up from your computer. Over the course of my 23-year marriage, there are times when I’ve felt my own husband and I were starting to become so familiar with each other that we were settling into a stultifying — albeit comfortable — routine. But there’s a real danger in that. Studies show that nearly half of men who have cheated say it was because of emotional dissatisfaction — and not sex. When men don’t feel connected or appreciated by their wives, they are vulnerable to the advances of any attractive woman who casts a lustful glance their way. And fellows, it works the other way as well.
In his film “Annie Hall,” Woody Allen charged that “a relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies.” I believe he was right.
2. Say thank you for the little things.
I’ve been guilty of keeping score, constantly calculating who had done what. “I cleaned out the kids’ closets, so you have to clean the basement.” “I moved for your job when we first got married, so now you need to move for mine.” “I initiated sex last time, so now it’s your turn.” But playing tit for tat is childish and will do nothing but chip away at the trust and connection you’ve built with your spouse. If you are so inclined, keep score of all the positive things your partner does in a day — and then thank them. Hopefully they’ll get the hint and do the same for you.
3. Practice honesty, even when you’re ashamed.
If you have maxed out a credit card or two and find yourself hiding the bills each month, you can bet it’s going to come back to bite you. Eventually, whether you’re applying for a home loan or simply talking about the costs of summer vacation, these kinds of money issues will either be brought to light by a credit report or by the simple fact you can’t afford a trip away. Although infidelity usually happens in bed, it also can happen with money. And it will be a tough road gaining back your spouse’s trust if you’ve lied about overspending.
Along that same vein, if you feel you aren’t connecting with your partner the way you used to, you need to say something — now. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. I once let communication issues fester for months on end, failing to verbalize my displeasure, and my husband and I wound up in marriage counseling for nearly a year. It took a third party — and a real investment on our part — to get us back on track. If I had not kept telling myself that things would get better on their own, we might not have reached what I call the danger zone.
4. Take care of your appearance.
With many years and a few kids under your belt, it’s easy to let your appearance slide. Think about when you first met your partner. Would you have walked around in stained sweatpants and without brushing your teeth? My guess is no. I’m not saying you have to look like Julianne Moore every time you settle in for a night of TV. But I’ve seen too many couples transform from Cliff and Clair Huxtable into Dan and Roseanne Connor — with disastrous repercussions.
Sometimes my husband will say “wow, you look nice” as I’m walking out the door for a girls’ night out. At least pay your spouse the same courtesy you do your friends by fixing yourself up for him or her every once in awhile.
5. Foster relationships outside your marriage.
I’ve been going on girls’ trips for as long as I’ve been married. Yes, I love traipsing off with my spouse and three kids. But these weekends away with friends are also important. Swapping stories with others and enjoying new experiences make me — I hope — a more interesting person for my spouse to be around. When Katie Couric asked Barbra Streisand the secret to her happy 14-year marriage to James Brolin, she replied “time apart.” “It gets romantic because even the conversations on the phone get more romantic. You need some distance,” Streisand said.
Your marriage should be your primary relationship — but it needn’t be the only one.
Be kind to yourself and each other, and check out the other 6 rules on Huffington Post.