Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Keepin the Flame Burning: Tips for Maintaining the Spark

I'm not super big on Valentine's Day. It's not that I'm bitter about anything. I'm not a "love hater" or even a Hallmark hater. It just comes and goes so fast and now that I've got three kids, its more about making sure they have something cute to open than it is about decorating and going out for dinners and whatnot. Shoot, I'm so tired from taking care of the kids all day long and my hubby is tired from work that neither of us really have the energy to even go out at night. I end up chugging coffee to stay awake on the date and then I'm so wired for the rest of the night that I can't sleep. Ahh... to go back to those days of dating...

My husband and I have been married for over 4 years now. To some reading this, that's going to seem like nothing. To others, it may seem like a lifetime. I'm not going to compare our marriage to any one elses but I will say that in the time we've been married, we've gone through SO MANY things that I think most people would be shocked and amazed. Shocked that it's possible to have actually gone through the physical number of things that we went through and amazed that we've survived it all.

There was a  Valentine's Day a few years ago that was different because my husband and I were overcoming a lot of obstacles as a couple. I look back on that time and I thank God that we're not that same couple. I love where we're at now. But it's taken a lot of work to get from that point to now. I am more in love with my husband today than when I first fell in love with him. We not only had to work through our own issues and our issues as a couple but we had to do it while dealing with children. It wasn't easy.

I thought I'd share five tips that we have for keeping the flame alive, for maintaining that spark and connection as friends/lovers/parents/spouses while dealing with children and life and all the rest that comes along with it. Things that we've learned over the years that really help. It's easy to fall into a routine in your relationship and that routine is dangerous. Keeping things upbeat and interesting and fun is so crucial.

1) Have hobbies together. Find something that the two of you can do together that you both enjoy and look forward to. Try to make it something that only you two can do. With out the kids. My parents, for example, ride motorcycles. They each have their own bikes and pick out their own parts and accessories for their motorcycles. They also take some pretty awesome trips together. I love that they use these trips as "dates".

2) Everyone loves surprises. It lets them know they're being thought about and that you think they're worth your time. I like to make cookies or other little treats specifically for my husband. Tonight, I had candles lit when he got home. He's gone to the gas station to get a soda or gas or something and came back with a rose for me. Or one of those delicious Arizona Teas for me. Getting little gifts. Or setting up something special that they'll enjoy. Taking them for a surprise date. Or setting up a romantic bubble bath. Or anything else that they had no idea you were planning but that lets them know that they're important enough to you for you to spend your thoughts and time on.  

3) Try to work on your physical appearance. I'm not saying looks are everything. But it helps. It is my opinion that if I am not what my husband wants physically, then he is more likely to fall into the temptation of looking at someone who is what he wants. Not that he will, but it will be harder for him not to. I have also learned that most men are willing to pay whatever the cost to help their woman look good. My husband was eager to support me going to the gym. He used to set up my hair appointments for me. I'd complain about being too busy to do it and so he'd schedule the appointment and make sure he was home to take care of the kids for me. The same with my nails. Most of my nice clothes and purses were things that my husband bought for me. Men LOVE to have a hot wife. Ask any of them. No man will tell you that he wants a frumpy wife. It wont usually stop him from loving you but still... it helps. It makes a difference. Often, when they see you trying, it boosts their ego and pride and it makes them feel worth it too.

4) Sometimes, the best way to say "I love you" is to just keep your mouth shut. I'm STILL learning this one. And I mess it up almost every time. But when I DO get it right, its amazing how much power is behind not saying anything. My husband is so much better at it than I am. There are SO many times when he could have said, "I told you so" but didn't. He has had more than one opportunity to put his two cents in when I'm ranting about a family member that has hurt me but instead of agreeing with me and just fueling my angry fire, he lovingly sits there and listens. When I'm PMSing and just start moaning and groaning, he doesn't tell me to be quiet or ask me if I need a midol. He either ignores me or uses quiet, short sentences with me. I'm not as good at it yet as he is... but really. You don't always have to say anything at all and sometimes it's safer and healthier not to.

and

5) Little things make a big difference so pay attention to the details. Most people would have said something about the love languages here. While I'm a huge advocate of knowing and understanding love languages, if you're married to a man like mine, it's like trying to use an emotional version of hooked on phonics. Doesn't apply to everything. Or it can be confusing. My husband loves to GIVE gifts. And here's a small detail I had to pay attention to: although he likes to give them, he hates getting them. He feels awkward more often than not and it just makes him feel uncomfortable. I know exactly what kind of cookies he likes. And how he likes his socks folded. And that me sitting next to him while he's doing something makes him happy. I know that certain rooms being open drive him nuts or that he needs the driver's seat pushed back so he can get in the car to drive it. I know that he likes his milk in his cereal a few minutes before he actually eats it and that he likes his coffee tasting more like coffee flavored sugar syrup. He has a particular brand of hot dog he likes. He steals the blankets during the night... every time. And he has no idea he's doing it. I buy the brands he likes. I fold his socks the way he likes, make his coffee with extra creamer and keep an extra blanket on the bed for myself now. Knowing what to do to make the other person happy or even to not bring up something like the blanket thing and to just fix it instead of making it an issue is huge. The little things can ALWAYS turn into big things if you don't handle them properly. Always. Paying attention to the small things in life that bring happiness to your spouse will go SO far. The little things will be there forever. Big things tend to come and go. The little things stick.

Love is tricky but at the same time it isn't. It boils down to this: Put the other person and their joy before your own all day every day and you'll be amazed how much stronger it makes you as a couple.

My hubby and I have been through a lot. More than a lot of people go through in their first 5 years. Some awesome and some not so awesome. But if we hadn't and weren't learning from our mistakes, how foolish would we be? We've come so far and I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him.

Happy Valentine's Day.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for these tips. Although my marriage has failed, I'm sure I could use these in my next relationship :).

    You're right about the little things...they do matter. Although it's hard, we women do need to hold our tongue sometimes. We can just make them feel guilty later on :)

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  2. I wanted to let you know that I have given you the Versatile Blogger Award!
    http://shutterbugsocial.blogspot.com/2012/02/versatile-blogger-award.html

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  3. Love this Abby. I can relate so much with everything you've said here. Marriage to my man is always an adventure...and I wouldn't have it any other way. Like your husband, my hubby is extremely supportive when I need time or money to get my hair done or do anything else that would maintain or even improve my physical looks. He's always very clear that he loves me just the way I am, inside and out. But he's also not shy about letting me know what he thinks is hot. One of the things I love about him is that he thinks I'm hot when I've gone the gym, had a hard run, I'm all sweaty and smelly, hours have gone by before I'm able to take a shower from that run because of the demands of motherhood, and I feel like I look my absolute worst. He tells me all the time that he thinks I'd make a burlap bag look sexy. That's a man worth keeping! Lol! :-) Hope you enjoyed your simple Valentine's Day. Ours was very similar. Simple. Sweet. Surprises. Dinner with the kiddos followed by chocolate covered strawberries. They loved being a part of the special day.
    Hugs to you dear friend,
    ~Rosann

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