Keeping the Love You Have

The pathway to love seemed so hard when I was single, and to be honest…even when I first met my husband. Keeping the love you have requires just as much work, if not more than the hunt. The difference is your investment and your perspective on how this person fits into your life long-term.

Relationships are like plants. They are all a little different, and require a specific type of care, but the basic principles are the same. You water it, fertilize it, give it the right amount of sun and attention, and it grows stronger each day.

For some the difficult task may seem to be finding your partner in life, your person, or as I like to call them – your lobster. The reality is that its harder to keep the love you have, than find it. Some may believe once I have netted that delectable lobster, I am all set and get to enjoy the fruits of my sea voyage. The truth is, your real journey begins. It takes work to meld two lives together. Two hearts, two minds, two belief systems, two sets of values, financial understandings, parenting beliefs, behaviors, etc. It only took your whole life to become who you are, is it realistic to think you can change another person overnight to do everything you want – or think is “right”? Of course not! A marriage/relationship is about coming together with a common set of beliefs and making it work for both people, then creating a new reality that honors the life you want to live – together.

Over the past few years in my marriage I have learned Five Principles that have helped us build a happy life together.

Principle#1
Build a foundation of love.

Even in the toughest debates, we keep in mind (and agreed to this early on in our relationship) that no matter how much we disagree, we always have the best of intentions for the other. So, if one has an idea, a want, a request, recommendation, suggestion or opinion that the other isn’t so keen on, we remember it comes from a good place.  This helps prevent the walls of defensiveness from building and allows us to have a respectful conversation with each other.  Nice parlay into Principle #2.

Principle#2
Communicate respectfully.

Communication is the keystone of any relationship.  You have to talk to each other like you did when you were dating — but deeper.  Remember when he stayed on the phone with you for hours?  He probably didn’t hear half of what you said but just enjoyed hearing your voice.  That can go away after a while, so finding ways to connect on regular basis is one of the most important things you can do for each other and the relationship.  Talk about your hopes and dreams, sharing responsibilities, review your planned outcomes (goals), discuss childhood, and retirement, your next vacation, career and educational goals.  The more you learn about yourself and your partner, the closer you grow together.  Ladies – my advice – FEED your man and he will feed your desire for conversation!  There is nothing like a tasty meal, some relaxing music and good conversation to fill an evening.

Harville Hendrix PhD gives a great analogy of the “process of dialogue” in a relationship.

Principle#3
Love often

Affection, quality time spent together, and sex are super important in relationships.  It isn’t the most important, especially as we age, which is why Principle #2 is so essential.  When you cannot make love the way you used to, you have to be able to connect with your partner on other levels.  I must say, holding hands, hugs and kisses and devoted time with one another are like fertilizer for your marriage.

My Couples Counseling Professor, Dr.  Emener, taught us the significance of the dailys, weeklys, monthlys, and yearlys of connecting with your mate.  My husband and I practice these rules in our life and notice when that regular connection has been missed.  For example, dailys – spend 5 minutes with your partner doing nothing but devoting your complete attention to them, no TV or kids, just the two of you connecting in a way that honors your love for each other.  The weeklies could be a date night or a run together on Sundays, perhaps a meal to chat about the week.  Monthlies may be an afternoon out together doing something you both enjoy together, a hike, a picnic, a beach day, lunch and a museum.  The yearlys are recommended to be at least a weekend alone together without kids and distractions, computers or cell phones.

Principle#4
Respect your health

Staying in shape and healthy has myriad benefits for both partners. Research shows that happily married couples are healthier and live longer.  Mentally, physically, emotionally – things just run better. When you are more fit and active, you are more attracted to each other, feel better about yourself, live longer and can better handle stressors.   Staying in shape is easier to do when you have another person around all the time that cares about you and notices when things just don’t seem right. Work out together, develop active hobbies that keep you moving and generate some fun times together.

Principle#5
Create an open dialogue about finances

Finances can be a major issue in relationships.  Be clear about your beliefs, expectations and goals around money. Develop a budget together that meets both your needs. There can be no secrets about finances in a marriage.  Where there are secrets, there is lack of trust, without trust a relationship will ultimately fail. Suze Orman has great info on finances for couples.

Finally, I leave you with a thought.  Get to know yourself, once you know you better – you can share yourself with another.  Keeping the love you have isn’t all about the other person, it is a journey you embark upon together.

Please share your thoughts, tips, stories of love!

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