Top 10 Tips for keeping your partner in love with you
As a licensed counselor, I have the privilege of not only helping my clients figure out how to make better choices, but also, I learn how to make better choices myself. For example, after one particularly intense Couple's session; I came home and picked up the clothes that I typically drop by my side of the bed, walked into the kitchen and shut the cabinet doors and made a mental note to always remember to shut them. I put the cap on the toothpaste and I told my partner how wonderful she is, how grateful I was to have her in my life, and that I would do better to help her.
What happened in that session struck me with how important the little things are. This couple, having been married for over 20 years, was now on the brink of divorce because she was fed up with having to pick up after her husband year after year. He was blindsided and bewildered. I was stunned by the fact he had passed through the years completely oblivious to her unhappiness. He failed to respond to her early initial loving requests to clean up after himself, then to her sturdy reminders that she needed help. He ignored her anger (attributed it to nagging) and didn't notice the death knoll to their marriage when she stopped bugging him altogether and seemed not to care. She really didn't care anymore. This is when she stopped loving him. He didn't see it coming and it was too late. She couldn't get the love back for the years of disregard for her feelings. The marriage ended in divorce. She was happy and free (and contentedly picking up after only herself). He was devastated and confused and trying to navigate the world of on-line dating. Not a happy ending.
I've seen this scenario, or some form of it over and over again until I finally had this brilliant epiphany-- a little embarrassing because it is so obvious--but like most things obvious--I had to face it in my office again and again to get it. The epiphany is: If you want to stay married, you have to stay loveable.
When we're dating, we're so driven by our desire to be with this person that we don't have to remind ourselves to shower regularly, keep our teeth brushed and our homes and cars cleaned. We laugh often; we are thoughtful, considerate and generous. We happily engage in boring conversation when we'd rather sleep and we turn off our favorite TV shows for a chance to spend time with our lovers. We pretend to like things that we don't, and we do things we wouldn't do in a million years if we weren't in love. We wear fashionable clothes. We keep bathroom, stomach, and gas issues to ourselves. We think of our partner all day. We think everything they do is sexy. We can't wait to see them at the end of a day -- go back and remember. I bet you can add a bunch to this list.
Then we get married.
This article is to give you the perspective I'm privileged to get in my role as a therapist. So take note: here are my top 10 tips for staying happily married:
1. Remember that whether you are legally tied or not, the decision to stay with someone is a matter of free will. You can leave, or they can leave any time they wish. It only takes ONE member of a couple to end a relationship. Never assume that because they married you, they have to stay with you. Work at keeping them interested in you. Don't take them for granted.
2. Little things matter. Know your partner and go out of your way to meet their needs, both in the physical and emotional worlds. If he doesn't like to build things, don't bring him power tools and if she doesn't like chocolate, don't buy chocolate. See the world you both live in through the other's eye. Maybe you're a slob. But if your partner isn't -- be respectful. Change
3. Stay attractive (and clean for Pete's sake). We can't help aging, but we can help how we manage our bodies. Remember, there is someone else out there who can catch the eye of your mate. Work to keep his/her eyes on you.
4. Purposefully think of your partner during the day. Remember when you first met. Remember how you felt about them. Remember times in your life that they made you laugh, or took care of you when you needed them. Stay grateful and show them your gratitude in your language and behavior.
5. DO NOT assume that your partner would never have an affair on you because of religion, honor, vows or anything else. Do not make the mistake of thinking that because you "know" your partner, that they would never have an affair. . Don't be suspicious and paranoid, just keep in mind that most people don't set out to have affairs, but if you don't stay loveable, someone else will, someone who brushes their teeth, laughs at their jokes, is generous and thoughtful, you know the rest --
6. DATEeach other at least once a week and it needs to be a date. Dress up, flirt with each other, touch each other, talk about something interesting. If you can't afford to go out, date at home, but the important part is that it has the flavor of a date. All of your attention goes to your mate for a certain amount of time and you bring your most attractive, loveable self to the date.
7. Balance the amount of give and take. There are times in every relationship when one partner or the other has to give more. That's ok. When it becomes a problem is when there is never reciprocation or when the give and take is not balanced. Make sure you are contributing somehow! Make yourself valuable in the relationship. If you aren't, your partner will begin to build resentments whether they want to or not. No matter how in love we are, if we are exhausted or feel used, love evaporates quickly.
8. Don't think the way to get your partner to love you or change for you is to be angry at them. Yelling does not engender love. Anger does not foster intimacy. You can't brow beat someone into loving you or changing for you. Stay loveable. Ask for your needs to get met. If you've been loveable, they will work to meet them. If they don't. Ditch them. They don't deserve you. THEY failed to be loveable. There is someone else out there who will appreciate your continued effort to be loveable.
9. Continue to grow as an individual, but keep your partner informed and involved in your growth. Likewise, encourage them to grow, and stay informed and involved in their growth. We evolve as individuals if we're healthy. The trick is to evolve individually, but also be sure that we don't evolve too far away from our partner. Stay connected.
And last but not least...
10. Don't let sex get too far down the priority list. We can't get enough of each other in the beginning, but as time goes on, we have to pencil it in the calendar. This is a mistake. Sexual intimacy is powerful. Do NOT underestimate its influence. Work at keeping your sex drive active (with your partner ONLY). Keep thinking of yourself as a sexual person. As we age there can be physical limitations but make sure that you keep physical intimacy in some form part of your relationship.
I meet couples who proudly announce they've been married for 20, 30, 40, or more years. I'm not impressed. When I was in my 20's I was sitting in a sauna with an older woman. She said, "Today is my 60th wedding anniversary" I had been married about 2 years at the time. I said, "WOW! Congratulations!" She said, "60 of the most miserable years of my life."
Some people have really high pain tolerances.
But if someone says to me that they've been married for decades happily-- that's something to be