Dating and marriage is different than it was twenty years ago. In todays society, more than 50% of all marriages fail for one reason or another. Just thinking about that makes “commitment” seem scary. It seems that when relationships are faced with challenges, people quit trying. Dating is more like a marathon, trying to date as many people as possible, instead of taking time to get to know someone at a deeper level. For married couples, divorce is not biased. Whether married for thirty years or eight months, the outcome can be the same.
The fact is that relationships, whether dating or married, are hard. Things do not always go perfectly, fighting does occur, and it takes a 100% commitment from both parties to make it a success. Often when people break off a relationship, they feel as though something is missing. The “spark” has gone, leaving one or both people feeling inadequate and unfulfilled.
However, even though the odds are not very good, healthy, and long-lasting relationships are definitely possible and proven by many people. Look at Paul Newman and Joanne Woodard, Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman, or Nancy and Ronald Regan. What secrets do they possess? The answer is that they all work hard at their relationship. They made a decision of choosing to love their mate rather than relying on the “warm and fuzzy” feelings, which everyone knows will fade. By making love a choice you are making a decision that even in the bad times, you stick it out.
Think of it like choosing a car. You pick out the make, model, year, color, and features that you believe are best for you. After driving your car for a couple of months, you realize that perhaps you should have purchased a larger car, or that maybe the leather seats would have been better, or on hot sunny days, the sunroof would have been nice. However, it is now too late so you choose to keep your car and make it work. It is the same for marriage. Not everything will be perfect and there will be major obstacles to overcome but you have made your decision and now you choose to make it work.
There are hundreds of things you can do to better your relationship. To help get you headed in the right direction, I have chosen 5 ways to build, strengthen, and enhance your relationship.
Remember, little steps taken every day will add up to big successes.
1. Start Over
When couples first get together, everything is new and exciting. They overlook the little annoying things the other person does. However, after time, the nagging starts, instead of hearing, “You look beautiful,” they might hear “Why are you wearing that shirt?” If this sounds like your relationship, first, the two of you need to sit down and be honest that things have changed. Identify the things each other did in the beginning of the relationship that created the attraction in the first place. Then together, make a commitment to start over. The truth is, both of you will have to work on this. It will not automatically be easy but it is possible. Start by forgiving each other, forgetting the past, and then start over with the flirtation. Focus only on the special things your mate does and relearn to put the unimportant things aside. It will take some time so be patient.
2. Schedule Time
Spending quality time together is crucial. This time can be with friends, dining out, attending a sporting event, or cuddling together while watching a favorite movie. The activity is not what is important but the fact that you are together, doing something that you both enjoy. People have extremely busy schedules and between work, family, the home, errands, and everything else going on, finding time for your mate can be difficult. Just as you would schedule a meeting on your calendar, show some courtesy in the relationship by scheduling time with each other. Once the plan is in place, no backing out unless you have some life and death emergency.
3. The Power of Touch
When a child is ill, doctors will tell you that it is proven that a simple, loving touch of a parent can quickly pull the child through a crisis. It is the same for relationships. Playing with your mate’s hair, rubbing their hand, a soft kiss on the neck, a soft pat on the leg or giving a gentle back rub will make a huge difference in how your mate responds to you. When was the last time you walked up to your mate for no reason and without saying a word, affectionately placed a kiss on their neck? This is not in a sexual way, but an affectionate way. There is a difference. The next time the two of you are sitting in the car, at the grocery story, or standing in line at the theater, quietly reach over and take their hand. Do not be surprised if you get a strange look of curiosity the first time!
If you and your mate have scheduled some time for a Friday night dinner, put together a surprise instead. For example, if your mate loves professional wrestling, buy some tickets near the front or if they like concerts, purchase the tickets ahead of time, getting the best seats possible. When Friday night comes around, insist on driving and head toward the location where the event is taking place. When asked where you are going, simply answer, “I have a surprise for you. I know you love professional wrestling so I purchased two great seats for tonight’s performance,” or “I know we had planned on going to dinner, but I wanted to surprise you with something special. I purchased tickets to see one of your favorite groups in concert.” The idea of you getting the tickets for something THEY like and then keeping it as a special surprise will touch the heart!
5. Needed Space
As important as it is to spend quality time together, it is equally important to give each other time to do something they like. If your mate loves to fish but you have no desire to bait a hook with little, slimy worms, or if you like to go to the casino but your mate would rather do something different, encourage each other to take time apart. Try establishing a set time for this very purpose, if possible. For example, perhaps you could determine that every other Friday night is “singles” night. This is not a time to date other people, but to enjoy preferred activities. Remember that you have to place trust in your relationship. If you try this and then drill them, to see what they did, whom they were with, and where they went, then the exercise has failed.