It seems that the longevity of marriage is becoming a blur on the relationship highway. My wife and I celebrated 25 years this past July and we have received many “way-to-go!” comments and questions about what does it take to last. I feel like 25 years has shown me that we need to continue to be proactive in investing in each other so that we finish well.
The prophets of our culture in Hollywood have not helped much in the area of longevity. The relationships of the celebrity world are notoriously short, take for example the 10 million dollar Kim Kardashian/Kris Humphries marriage that lasted a scant 72 days. What’s frustrating about this dilemma is that media has so saturated our existence that celebrity relationships are the ones we see and hear about all the time. The message that flows to us and the next generation is that marriages are disposable, and you can always find a way out.
Here are four things for you to consider that will help your marriage L.A.S.T
Most people are horrible listeners. We tend to listen with about 25% of our available ability because we need the other 75% to formulate our own point or response. Here’s one we’ve all heard before, “Well I’m sorry for continuing to interrupt you but I’m afraid I’ll forget what I was going to say! But really I’m listening!” No only do we not listen, but we are actually interrupting the other person from communicating. Maybe forgetting what you were going to say may be the best thing that can happen. When we choose to listen, we are giving our spouse a great grace-gift.
So the next time your spouse is talking, instead of figuring out how to tell her she is wrong, or that you have a better idea, or that she doesn’t understand, or you have just unloaded all your advice… pause…put down the remote….release your agenda…and simply listen. One of the reasons listening is a bit harder for men (although women struggle with listening as well) is because it seems that we have been wired with a “fix-it” mentality. So in some ways men think they are helping because they want to get to the fix, but very often our spouse simply wants us to listen.
I like one of Anne Lamotts’ acronyms she employs when things are getting overly wound up, she says, “W.A.I.T.” Translated as “Why Am I Talking!” Sometimes the best way to love on the ones we love is to stop talking, and when we are talking we should ask ourselves why am I talking!
When you really listen you will finally begin to hear more than words. You will sense emotion, color, hope, sadness and so many more nuances. Listening well will change the way you respond, perhaps instead of words it will be touch, or a deeper sigh that communicates that you get it, you understand, and you empathize.
Most couples don’t begin their marriage thinking to themselves, “Hmm…how am I going to change that trait about my spouse!” But somewhere along the line, our habits and behaviors begin to rub each other the wrong way.If you want to make your marriage last, you need to stop trying to change your spouse. First of all you need to know that you can’t change your spouse. You can make sure your wants and needs are known, but if you take on the role of change-agent you are heading for some pretty rough waters.
There are so many differences between men and women. Personally I believe our wiring differences are part of the divine design to keep us engaged in relational growth. I love this anonymous quote:
“To dream the person you would like your partner to be is to waste the person your partner is.”
As time continues we often forget those incredible qualities and traits that drew us to our spouse in the first place. The little irritations build up as we are trying to create a spouse in our own image. A good homework assignment for you this week is to sit down, and write out a list of the traits, qualities, and expressions that you spouse has and does. After you have the list share it with your husband/wife and choose to release your need to change and control. Remember you can’t anyway and if you continue to try, you will be damaging the love you have.
Ah, that got your attention eh! Intimacy, physical touch, romantic and non-romantic. From simply holding hands to a knowing pat on the behind speaks a language of its own. Maybe you have lost some of the fire over the years…Maybe you have told yourself that you’re “just not the touch-type.” Regardless of the why, a relationship that doesn’t have a high level of touch will suffer. There are so many things you can begin doing to build a deeper level of intimacy:
- Proactively schedule a regular date night. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be consistent. Make a deal that on your date you will listen to each other, not talk about the job, kids, bills or whatever subject keeps you both too cerebral and at arm’s length.
- Plan your romance. If you have kids, the days of spontaneous romance or sex are probably on hold as your life has become overwhelmed with all of the other “to-do’s” that come with raising a family. That is why you need to think ahead and plan out times for intimacy. If you don’t plan for it, it probably won’t happen.
- Hold hands. Talk a walk together and hold hands. Remember the electrical charge you used to get when you were dating simply by touch the skin of your partner’s hand. Recapture that as you interlock your fingers and stroll.
- Kiss. Often and for more than a half a second 🙂
- Rub your spouses neck, back, feet or shoulders without being asked. That will be a win!
- Send a romantic text to your spouse throughout the day.
- Leave a posti-note on your spouses dashboard letting them know that you’re thinking about them.
- Hug and hold each other…just because.
The list could go on and on. In fact, why don’t you leave some ideas in the comments section.
Research consistently shows that touching more creates a stronger bond by releasing oxytocin, and that will also help you build a marriage that lasts.
I knew a principal whose motto at the Elementary school was “Catch em’ being good!” He knew that its positive reinforcement that makes a bigger impact on people than negative reinforcement. Developing an attitude of gratitude will improve your health and invigorate your life. Building the habit of thankfulness towards your spouse will rocket your relationship to the moon.
When your spouse does something good or helpful let them know how thankful you are, even if you think they should be doing it anyway! It’s hard enough working for an employer that doesn’t give you encouragement and thanks, so, if we don’t find it at home our souls take a hit, and often we try to find it in the wrong places.
When you take a moment to slow down and think about the things that you are thankful for concerning your spouse, you will have taken a big step in building a marriage that lasts. So stop nagging on each other and start bragging on each other and see what happens.
Let an attitude of thankfulness fill you and flow out of you and you will notice that all your relationships will improve.