As a busy mother, I struggle to find time to visit family and friends, fit in a regular fitness activity, and take a shower. It’s hard to find time to use the bathroom by myself, let alone finding the time and energy to shower my spouse with love. Yet I do it. I take time for my spouse, just as surely and reliably as I replace batteries in my smoke detectors. A relationship is like a plant. It needs nurturing to prosper and grow. Just because you have exchanged your vows or found The One doesn’t mean you get to quit working. If you bought your dream car, it wouldn’t run on hopes and dreams. It still needs gas, people! Just like that dream car, your relationship won’t take you anywhere if you don’t fuel it.
One of the best things to ever happen to my husband and I as a couple was reading "The 5 Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. In his book, Chapman discusses how everyone has their very own way of expressing and receiving love. Though we love our spouse or lover, and though we express it, if we don’t speak the same love language, then the message is lost. The five love languages are words of affirmation (compliments or supporting words), acts of service (love comes through loud and clear if you just take out the trash!), receiving gifts (gifts=love), quality time (undivided attention), and physical touch (need to touch to feel loved). After reading the book, hubby and I realized that we were constantly attempting to show love to each other, but we were speaking different languages. I would annoy him by sticking my feet under his butt while we were on the couch. All I really wanted was to show him love by touching, but he didn’t get the message that way. He needed words of affirmation. And hubby would bring home some flowers (receiving gifts) or do an errand on the way home (acts of service), but I would be upset that he didn’t come straight home after work. I spoke the love language of quality time. We still hit and miss every now and again, but we realize what is happening and recognize that not only do we need to try the right love language, but that we really are showing love for each other anyway. There’s a quiz on Chapman’s website to discover your love language. I highly suggest taking it with your spouse. (http://www.5lovelanguages.com/)
Once you know your love language, the work is still not over (hint: it never will be). Now you need to find ways to express your love through your spouse or lover’s love language. Here are some ideas to strengthen your bond:
- Text them. Almost everyone has a cell phone these days, and people that do not can send messages on facebook or by email. Mention a bit about your day, tell your love you were just thinking of them, that you love them, what you plan to make for dinner, what you plan to do after the kids go to bed…you get the picture. Use your imagination. I sent my husband a joke today, because I thought he might need cheering up after running late this morning.
- Be faithful. I mean that in the obvious context with the whole don’t-cheat-on-them thing, but I also mean that in all things. Your love needs to know you believe in them. If they have a dream, don’t knock it. Encourage it! Buy them something to push them towards their goals, or carve out a piece of time for them to do so. Let them try to fix the washer! If someone talks down about them in your presence, stand up for them. Talk about them in the best ways to family and friends and keep your private moments private. Don’t fight over facebook where everyone can see it. You are meant to present a untied front to the world. Making it public breeds hostility and can only go in a downward direction. And use kind words with each other, even when you’re angry. Don’t say “you always” or “you never” when those are generalizations that aren’t really true. Don’t call them an asshole, even when you really want to. Not even then. Later, they will remember and have a hard time letting it go. If you love them, show them you love them even when you disagree with them or when they let you down. They aren't perfect, and neither are you. Glass houses.
- DATE!!! It makes me so very sad that people in long-term relationships quit dating. You need to date more when in a long-term relationship than you do when you’ve just been dating someone a few weeks! It keeps the romance alive! It helps you focus time on just each other for a while, especially after jobs and kids. Hubby and I go on two dates out a month, during which my mother watches the kids. We have a date nearly every Saturday night also. We just stay in and plan at the beginning of the week what we’re going to do that evening. It could be as simple as baking together, having dinner together, or popping in a television series on DVD. The point is that we are taking time to dedicate to our relationship. And not every date has to be spectacular, and you don’t have to have a new-found love for each other every time you hold hands. Sometimes, sure, but most of the time you are just decompressing and reconnecting. Don’t feel guilty about taking the time from your kids. They need a break from you too, and I totally agree with Tori on this: your kids learn relationship skills from you. Consider that. What kind of relationship and marriage would you like for your sons and daughters? I doubt you want a name-calling, bickering, blow-off for their spouse. Kids learn by watching you.
- Take care of them. Set out their work clothes, bake a favorite recipe, pick up something needed from the grocery without them asking, fill up the gas tank or wash the car. The options are endless. When they know you were thinking about them while they weren’t around, they will feel loved.
- Be intimate! Sex. Yes. It’s one of the most important things to a man, and one of the best ways to reconnect. All those feel-good hormones and cuddling go a long way towards a happy home. And I agree with Tori (again): do it even if you don’t totally feel like it. Chances are, you’ll change your mind. And make a sex date too! Plan ahead of time when you are going to make love so that you can both look forward to it all day, and you are less likely to make excuses or miss the time to do so (plus, you know when to shave! Always a bonus!).
- Sex begins in the kitchen. This is especially for all the men out there, though women, you need to know it too: if you don’t take care of and do for your lover throughout the day, she will not take care of and do for you throughout the night. If you watched the game rather than take her out to dinner, take care of the kids, or take out the trash, do not expect that she will be in the mindset to entertain your fantasies that evening. Even if she didn’t feel upset about it at the time, she won’t be feeling extra loved. If you take care of her, she will take care of you.
- Don’t go to bed angry. Whatever issues you have with one another, don’t take it to bed with you. Forgive one another before turning in. Resentment festers. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t sleep a wink when I’m angry, but hubby can. So then I just lay there and stare at his stupid face and get angrier an angrier until I wake him up and we finish the fight anyway. Admit if you are wrong! There’s no room for pride in a partnership. You have to be vulnerable to one another, and you have to work together.
- And for heaven’s sake, sleep in the same bed! None of this separate beds or sleeping on the couch nonsense. You are adults. You can figure out how to share a bed! It’s important as a bonding tool. If you don’t share a bed, how likely are you to cross a room to initiate sex? Come on! If your lover is all over the bed, get a bigger bed! You can learn to sleep together just like you can learn to show love to one another. And if he’s willing to share a bed with you and put up with your snores, ladies, that’s true love right there.
- Laugh together. Tell jokes, tickle fight, share funny stores, watch a comedy, enjoy fail videos on youtube, whatever! Laughing time=bonding time. Life would be so boring without laughter. It elevates your mood and prolongs your life.
I hope you have found some useful information here that you can put to good use and to love your spouse or lover more fully. It’s a lot of work to have a healthy relationship, but the payout is beyond amazing. There’s no feeling in the world as comforting as knowing that there is always someone there for you, and that they will have your back no matter what happens. You get that kind of security by loving one another and taking time to see what made your relationship so special to begin with. Don't forget that one day your kids will be grown and gone. The only person left with you will be your lover. If you take care of your relationship, those can be some of the best years of your lives.