Couples trying to revive the romance they felt in the early stages of their relationships sometimes turn to big, headline strategies to demonstrate their affection for their mates. They take exotic vacations, buy expensive gifts or make elaborate Valentine's Day or anniversary efforts in the hopes that with intensive, regularly scheduled maintenance, love will trundle on. Alternately, if relationship stress has reached a saturation point, they count on efforts like these to solve problems.
While these activities can send a jolt of joy into a relationship, their results don't last long. By the time a couple reaches the airport back home or the fancy bouquet wilts, the old lackluster feeling usually returns.
It's hard to sustain love through the day-to-day grind of full-time jobs and the needs of children, pets or aging parents. At times, tending to your closest relationship can seem like just another duty in a long list of weekly chores. Without trust that your partner will reciprocate your efforts, it can also seem like a risk to be the one to make the first attempt.
From years of leading workshops with thousands of couples with my wife of more than 25 years, Helen, with whom I created the Imago therapy movement, I can say with certainty that a little investment (from your heart, not your wallet), small changes in the way you treat your spouse will not only lead to his or her happiness, but to warmly returned, mutual support that will cushion you from your own life's daily blows and demands.
Instead of lavishing money and attention on your spouse a few times a year, lavish curiosity on them throughout your time together. Adopt an approach of open, engaged interest. When you're curious, you learn new things about your mate—his desires, fears and struggles. You'll hear secrets, wishes, regrets. You'll learn practical things, like what she really would like to do on her birthday.
Even if you've known each other for years, you'd be surprised how much there still is to know about your partner. In the hundreds of workshops Helen and I have presented over the years, we continue to be amazed at how frequently we hear, "I never knew that about him!" or "I just heard this amazing story!" from spouses who have been married for one, 10 or 50 years. Continue reading ...
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