As couples spend more and more time together, the dynamic of their relationship is bound to change. As the years go by, the unfortunate reality is that many couples grow complacent, so this natural change in the relationship isn't just one of difference - the quality of the marriage actually declines.
This is extremely common, but only because most people don't know about the simple things they can do to keep romance and connection alive with their spouse, and instead take the marriage for granted (and let it slip into complacency and unhappiness).
There are, however, a great many ways to rekindle passion, build feelings of love and connection to one another, and in doing so, make your marriage the best it can be - no matter how long you've been together.
This is quite a long list, so we're splitting it up into two parts. Today, we'll look at the first batch of tips for getting the love back into your marriage:
1. Ditch The Distractions
One of the largest negative impacts of modern technology comes in the simple form of ignoring each other. We've all got smartphones, tablets, games, TV, Netflix… an unlimited number of tech-toys to capture our attention. If we aren't careful though, they can build walls between us and the people we love.
Try to limit your technology use, especially when spending time with your spouse. Put the phones away, turn off the TV, and spend some time actually communicating with one another.
2. Express Gratitude
It's all too easy to fall into routines, to come to expect that your spouse will do certain things simply because “they've always done them,” to take for granted their contributions around the house, etc.
To help build up the “love levels” in your marriage, say thanks! Let your spouse know that you appreciate what they're doing, no matter how small it might seem. Gratitude builds trust and appreciation builds love.
3. More Touching
Physical contact is an important part of a romantic relationship. Over time, though, as couples begin to “settle in” to the marriage, touch can become less frequent. When we share physical contact though, especially skin-to-skin, it causes our brains to release those love and connection-building chemicals, helping you feel closer to your spouse (even if you aren't consciously aware of it).
This physical touch includes everything from a light touch on the arm, to a long embrace, to sexual activity of all kinds… Touching each other physically brings you closer to together emotionally and psychologically!
4. Sleep Closer
To expand on the previous entry, even being close together while you're unconscious can help build up your connection to each other! This works in basically the same way as it does when you're awake, with every bit of touch - especially skin-to-skin - releasing those “love chemicals” into your brain and strengthening your connection.
The difference here is that we let other things get in the way of bedtime snuggles. We share the bed with kids or pets, go to bed at different times, or get used to sleeping on our own separate sides…
For a change, make a point to get some good cuddle time in, even if it means giving the dog the boot!
5. More Kisses!
Kissing has a similar effect as the “touch” items above, but in perhaps an even more dramatic way. All of these ways of connecting physically produce oxytocin, sometimes known as the “cuddle hormone,” and help increase attraction and connection to one another, but a kiss is something a little more special.
To enjoy a small moment of connection that will last throughout the day, make a point to hug and kiss your spouse for 30 seconds before you part ways in the morning, and again when we see each other later in the day.
6. Pursue Your Passions
This is one that many people overlook. They think that by chasing their own dreams, cultivating their own hobbies, and spending time on their own pursuits is ignoring their spouse… Or they think that a strong marriage means doing every last thing together. This is sorely incorrect.
Instead of thinking of a marriage as two people coming together to complete each other, think of the best marriages as two complete people coming together to create something even greater. If you're fulfilled by chasing your passions, by developing your skills, by pursuing your interests, you are more likely to be happy, engaged, and energetic about your spouse and your relationship. A more complete individual makes a stronger spouse.
7. Go On Vacation
Sometimes you just need a break, or a little change of scene to realign your perspective. Getting away from your daily routines for some special time with your spouse is a great way to rekindle your passions and gain some much needed room to reconnect.
It doesn't even have to be extravagant (overdoing it will likely cause more stress in the long run). The point is to enjoy a little escape with the one you love, free from the stresses of kids or work. Even just getting out of the house for a few days can do wonders for your sex life, your ability to communicate, and the fun you have in each other's company.
8. Give Compliments
When you spend so much time with another person, especially over the course of years and years, you tend to stop noticing the things that initially drew you to them, and instead see the things that irritate you (or would otherwise spur your criticism).
Well, because none of us are perfect, focusing on flaws is a surefire way to cause tension and arguments - one you start criticizing, the other person often feels the need to retaliate…
So how about the opposite? Focus on the positives as much as you can. Tell your spouse how attractive they are, compliment them on a job well done, tell them how much you appreciate a particular skill, and above all, let the know why you love them!
9. Surprise Each Other
One of the largest risks in long-term relationships is becoming stagnant. You settle in to your routines, you develop your schedules, and the weeks and months fly by while you barely even notice. While this is happening, you are essentially forgetting to be excited about each other - and forgetting what it's like to be excited with each other.
To break the cycle, plan some surprises! Make spontaneous decisions about dates, plan adventures to surprise your spouse, show up with little gifts, do favors without being asked…
Shake things up a little bit!
10. Support Your Spouse's Interests
Just as pursuing your own hobbies and passions makes you a better spouse, encouraging your husband or wife to do the same also helps maintain the strength of the relationship. When you show an interest, acknowledge your spouse's abilities, congratulate them on accomplishments, and encourage their growth, you are showing them how important their happiness is to you.
Even if you aren't particularly interested in the activity, it's important to your spouse, and taking an interest just for their sake - so you know what they're talking about, so you can tell when they're getting better, etc. - shows how much you care.
This just half of the list - there are still ten more tips for engaging in your marriage and rekindling the love between you and your spouse. Join us next time for Part 2!
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com