In long-term relationships (25+ years), it is natural for couples to find each other annoying at times, and even worse take each other for granted. Furthermore, relationships go in cycles when you are closer to each other and other times more distant. How can you keep your relationship fresh and vibrant over the years?
1. Tell your partner one thing you appreciate that she/he has done over the week. Be a spy and look for those ‘caring behaviors’ your partner does, especially for you, instead of focusing on what you didn’t get.
2. Ask each other what ‘little things’ you can do to show your love. Write them down and then do 2-3 a week. Be on the lookout to find surprise gifts (you may notice your partner is looking at a magazine or a book).
3. Have your own interests and also share common interests. Be curious and excited about your partner’s hobbies and achievements. Watching your partner change and grow can be a real turn on.
4. There is no room for criticism (attacking your partner’s character, such as, saying ‘you’re a slob’). However, you can make an appointment to discuss a complaint (‘I hate when towels are left on the floor’). Choose your complaints carefully on a scale of 1-10. If it’s below a 5, let it go. You are trying to keep putting positive energy into your relationship. It’s difficult to reverse years of criticism and negativity.
5. Listen to what your partner is saying without putting in your own opinions and judgments. Find out if your partner wants to vent or wants you to give a solution. Be there, work on understanding where your partner is coming from and show empathy for her/his situation.
6. When you fight, see if you can take a time out so you can get out of your ‘reactive selves’ and will be able to listen to each other. Get rid of the words ‘always.’ ‘never, ’’right, ‘ and ‘wrong.’ You don’t want to put your partner down.
7. Have regular sex dates. Having orgasms releases the hormones oxytocin and vesapressin which help couples bond. Being a long-term couple, variety is needed to spice up lovemaking. Some ideas include where and when you make love. You can plan on going to different kind of hotels dressed for the occasion and pretend you’re meeting for the first time (this includes ‘flirting’ and coming on to each other). Another idea is going shopping together for sexy lingerie. You can share fantasies and make love at different times of the day in different places. Get rid of the ‘performance’ expectation of your youth.
8. Laugh, have fun, and tell your story over and over again of how you met, what you valued about each other, and all the good memories.
One long term couple of over 40 years told me,” I’ve been married 8 times. It was to the same person as we changed and grew seeing each other with new eyes.”
Ann Klein – Columbia Marriage and Relationship Counseling teaching couples effective communication skills to resolve conflicts, reestablish intimacy, and restore caring and connection in their relationships.