With so much going on in life, it can be easy to let your marriage end up on the back burner. Unfortunately, once it’s there, it does not tend to automatically become priority again on its own. It requires active effort by both partners. Before we get into what you can do to remedy the situation, let’s first find out why this tends to happen.
First, as a human being, you have a natural tendency to habituate to what is consistent with your environment. In other words, once you get comfortable with the people and things in your life, there is a natural tendency to begin to take it for granted. When your partner no longer seems novel to you, you may stop trying to learn about him or her, or you may stop working to ensure that they will stay—because they’re already here! Most people are completely unaware when this happens, and it by no means is a sign that you no longer love your partner! This is a human thing! We all simply adapt.
Another reason your relationship may have taken the back burner is that now that you both accept that the other one is here to stay, you get to compete for attention with all other life commitments and the worries and stress they bring. Work related problems, financial problems, kids, are all screaming allowedly for your attention—and you are comfortable enough with your partner to give your all to these other commitments! It is only natural that you would. Before you know it, you are busy putting off the endless fire of life, while forgetting to tend to your love life.
Life happens every day for everyone, and your relationship does not need to suffer for life to happen.
Here is what you can do:
TIP 1: Team Up to Work on Your Relationship Together
Ask your partner if he or she is in, on working with you to improve your relationship. Then, schedule a time to meet that is good for both. During this time, you will share ideas of how you can make some time for your marriage, and you can still make a date of it. Take a walk in the park, and reminisce about the best times you have had together so far. This is also a good opportunity to address any issues or concerns you may have. Remember, to use “I” statements when addressing these issues. Example: “I feel hurt when you ….” versus “you hurt me”. This way of communicating will help view your partner view your concerns from your point of view, rather than feel attacked. Teaming up, creates an opportunity for both parties to take responsibility for their role in the relationship, and this will help to reestablish your connection.
TIP 2: Make Your Marriage Your Priority
Commit to going on weekly or bi-weekly dates. You can go out to a restaurant, or picnic at a park, or the movies (remember this is not intended to be a family movie night- it’s a date!). It is important that you respect this commitment. If you need to reschedule you can, but do so for the same week. If you absolutely cannot make it that week, you have to give each other a rain check and schedule a makeup for the date you missed.
TIP 3: Become Well-Disciplined With Your Marriage
During your first meeting, you can agree to meet once per week for (30 minutes or so), to check in with each other. Use this time to assess how well your plan is working, and adjust it as needed. Make sure to keep the conversation ‘in the moment’. Do not focus on what isn’t working, instead look for alternative solutions together.
During these follow-up meetings, you will ask each other how you can contribute more to the happiness of each other (how can you help more, what would you like that your partner might be able to provide). Do offer to contribute anyway you can to ease things up for each other. Also, give each other breaks from house shores. Remember to recognize that sometimes your partner cannot help much more because of other life committments. You can make it up in the future, or you can hire part-time help for temporary relief.
TIP 4: Create Space Between Each Other
While you are working to reconnect as a couple, you also need to reconnect with yourself. Find time for yourself to do something only you are passionate about. This does not have to be big. You can take on a hobby, go for a daily run, or spend time with your friends.
When you create space between each other, you get to preserve your individuality, which was what attracted your partner in the first place. This will make you desired and interesting again, keeping things renewed. Remember that we adapt to certainties in life! That is, we stop focusing with enthusiasm on the person and things we interpret to be permanent in our environment. Keeping things fresh requires balancing your personal needs with the needs of your relationship.
TIP 5: Educate Yourself
There are many tools you can use to help improve your marriage, such as in the aspects of communication, or how to balance parenting and romance. You can use your weekly check in time to read a book together, by taking turns reading to each other. You can also enroll in a workshop to help jump start things. Or, you can even see a relationship coach or counselor for direction.
TIP 6: Show Gratitude and Appreciation
This is probably the most important tip! We all can use a little validation and recognition. Do not just assume that your partner knows how much you appreciate him or her. Tell them instead. Say thank you! Express your gratitude every day. For example: “Thank you for putting the dishes in the machine today; thank you for driving the kids today, it was very helpful to me; thank you for cooking dinner tonight, I know this must have been difficult for you considering you have so much work to do.” “I am really grateful to have you as my partner!” Showing appreciation and gratitude is a practice, if you need to, set reminders in your phone until you have trained your brain to focus on the positive aspects of your partner and your relationship.
You and your partner get to decide together about how important your relationship is. Then, you can choose to invest 20 minutes per day on yourself, plus at least 30 minutes per week on the couple, plus 2-hours weekly for a date together. The math adds up to a total of 1 hour and 40 minutes weekly to yourself, and approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes weekly together. Is your marriage worth this time?
Good luck and remember to be patient with the process. Implementing new things take time, and this is why you have the weekly 30-minute follow-up meetings to make the necessary adjustments.