Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about all my marital problems (this is candid, but not that candid!).
But if we’re being real, the fact is, marriage really becomes work after a few years. The euphoria you feel in the beginning (the butterflies, the “he can do no wrong” feeling) fades quickly. In a study done by psychologist Dr. Dorothy Tennov, she concluded that the average life span of a romantic obsession is two years – I suppose most people would call this the “honeymoon phase” (The 5 Love Languages, Chapman 30). After that, we begin to recognize irritating personality traits and behavior patterns in our significant other – sound familiar?
Falling in love is effortless; if you think about it, it’s often something we can’t control. But once that initial feeling fades, the real work begins. “Real Love” as Dr. Gary Chapman calls it in his book, The 5 Love Languages is a love that “unites reason and emotion,” and it involves the act of will and discipline. We must choose to love our spouse, each and every day (despite the faults we now recognize).
I think having kids means you have to work even harder at love. You have to set aside time for one another, and make sure you have conversations about your relationship instead of just talking about how many of the diapers you changed had poop, why your toddler got three time-outs, and who will be picking the kids up from school tomorrow. It’s easy to get lost in the throngs of parenthood and forget that your family actually began with just the two of you falling head over heels for one another.
My husband and I have been married for 6 1/2 years. We were fairly young when we married (22), and we’ve had to learn a lot about each other as we’ve grown and matured. I know the process of learning will probably never end, and we try to be active about communicating and figuring each other out each day. It was only recently that we decided to read The 5 Love Languages because we realized that after 8 years together, we still didn’t know how to show love to one another in the ways we each needed (a.k.a. we didn’t know how to speak one another’s love languages). Yes, it has taken us 8 years to realize we were missing something crucial!
Do you feel like your relationship is often the last thing you give attention to? Perhaps you feel the need to rekindle some romance?
Here are some of the ways we try to keep the love alive, maybe they will work for you too:
- Read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman (each of you), so you can understand how your spouse needs to be shown love. Believe it or not, everyone’s love language is different and it can be life-altering when you finally figure it out!
- Have lunch dates. Getting a sitter and paying for dinner can be expensive, so try a weekday lunch date instead. It’s easy for my husband and I because we both work from home, but even if you are working outside of the home, try meeting up on your lunch break. We go on days when my daughter is at preschool and really enjoy spending some time in the middle of the day talking and catching up without interruption.
- Spend some time apart doing things you enjoy. Yes, I’m telling you to separate in order to rekindle your love. I can’t stress the importance of having your own time to relax and enjoy your own interests; whether that be time spent alone or with girlfriends. Returning home feeling refreshed and having missed your spouse can be just what you need. So can remembering that you are your own person and not just someone’s wife. Learning to care for yourself can and will make you a better wife and mother. Allowing your husband to have the same time to himself without making him feel guilty for having fun without you will have the same benefits.
- Answer random relationship questions with silly games like this one. My husband hates doing this, but he does it anyway because he loves me (what a guy). We recently went out to eat and I pulled this question game up on my phone; we took turns picking a random number, and then we had to answer the question corresponding to the number. Some of these questions are really good to contemplate and share with your spouse, and honestly, when else would you discuss things like future goals and what makes you feel fulfilled as a wife/mother if you weren’t forced? I always feel closer to my husband after we answer some of these personal questions and I tend to find out something I didn’t know.
- Create some routines for your family. Saturday morning pancakes, friday night game night, or a weekly date night are all good ideas. If you have these pre-planned and part of your regular routine, you won’t have to carve out special space to make it happen. You’ll get regular time with your spouse and with your family, and time spent doing something together is always beneficial.
What are some ways you and your spouse try to keep the love alive?