Keeping the Marriage Strong

I am an avid reader. I see a number of blogs and articles about maintaining the most important relationship in the world: the relationship with a spouse. This post goes deeper into that relationship, and is written primarily for those who are married (or in permanently committed relationships as I considered the relationship with my man to be before we could legally married.)

Here is a summary of some of the best ideas I have read — and employ — to keep our marriage strong.

1. Have exclusive “us” time

Time to reconnect, talk, and listen is critical to a healthy relationship. Turn off the TV, radio, and put down that cell phone. Sit with your spouse… even hold hands… look into each other’s eyes and listen to the other while he is speaking. Even 10 minutes out of a very busy day can make an important and sustaining difference in the quality of your relationship.

2) Have date nights out of the house on a regular basis

It is important to have time together doing things that you did when you were courting. Go to dinner, see a movie, visit with friends, see a concert, go to an event together as just “you two.” While my spouse has a lot of physical pain that prevents him from doing many of the activities that we did when we were courting and in the earlier years of our relationship, we still try to find things to do together out of the house, just for fun.

3) Make room for intimacy

Yes, problems of illness, aging, and distractions with children, work, and family affects love-life big time. But there must be room for it once in a while, right? It may not always be the most romantic kind, but there is nothing that cements the deepness of a relationship more than being intimate.

4) Have a sense of humor (or look for the lighter side.)

Life will really suck sometimes. Not everything must be gloom-and-doom all day, every day. Learning to laugh at some of the most bizzaire things you observe can help relieve tension. Laughing at yourself, such as when you put the pill bottle in the refrigerator and the milk in the medicine cabinet, can help a lot.

5) Have a “we are a team” mentality.

You and your spouse are both in this world together. The rest of your life is probably a roller coaster of ups and downs, but guess what? A roller coaster is a lot more fun when you’re sitting next to your best friend. And when you come up against battles along the way with doctors, insurance companies, family members, lawyers, etc., it’s so much easier to have a teammate, a partner by your side. Also, you don’t always have to agree with each other on every course of action, but in public it helps to have a strong united front.

6) Have solo activities that recharge your batteries.

Make sure that you each have individual activities that you can do alone or with friends that will recharge your batteries. I like to ride my Harley and belong to a motorcycle club. I make time to ride with them and even to lead rides for them at least once or twice a month during riding season. I also look after dozens of senior pals and do many home repairs or take them grocery shopping. Whatever I do, these solo activities make me feel better. I am not always dwelling on the illness my spouse is dealing with. My spouse has his solo time when I am at work and he is at home. Since he retired, he has begun pursuing a bachelor’s degree by taking college courses on-line.

7) Resist the temptation of alcohol and drugs in excess of moderation

Drugs and alcohol are easy to abuse when you are feeling afraid, uncertain, or depressed. They say “at first, recognition of a problem is necessary before you can deal with it.” If you find yourself drinking more than “a few” beers, or those “happy pills” seem to ease the mental anguish you are feeling too often or too easily, then it may be time to see your physician or another professional and get some help.

For me, when I feel this way, I call a friend and go for a long, long walk. Or I will call my brother or sister (or both) and have a heart-to-heart, let-it-all-out cry. I know how easily I could be drawn into abusing prescription meds or resort to the dulling effects of alcohol. I am better than that, and my spouse is depending on me. So I find other ways to deal with my personal pain and move on one step at a time.

8) Readjust your priorities.

Many men feel like working hard Monday through Friday is job #1, and then spending the weekend doing manly weekend work (yard work, repairs, etc.) as job #2. They’re therefore not present for a lot of sharing the life of their spouse. Maybe an adjustment is in order. Maybe skipping the yard work one Saturday and going to a family event together or taking the load off a niece while taking her young kids to the park may help you both. Have fun, play, and do something completely different.

9) Live in the moment. Try not to look too far behind or too far ahead.

Easier said than done, but oh so important. Try to live each day as it happens. Try hard not to compare it to what happened yesterday or what may happen down the road. Disease effects lessen. The effects worsen. What the disease caused yesterday may not happen today and vice-versa. Also looking too far ahead can get you in a funk. Will your spouse ever be cured from this disease? Will he need constant care? Looking too far ahead can destroy you and your marriage. Yes, you need to plan for it financially and mentally, but dwelling on it is deadly.

10) Get rid of the “what ifs,” the “blame game” and the “grass is always greener” syndrome.

My spouse still has problems with this one. There is no person to blame for my spouse’s illness, especially me. But he often gets bogged down in the what ifs (what if I didn’t get bitten by that tick? What if I had noticed the signs of that illness earlier when it could be quickly cured? What if I didn’t…) It goes on and on. So it is what it is… And that is what we both do to avoid the “what ifs.” We say aloud, “it is what it is.”

11) Get on a regular sleep schedule.

Yep, 8 hours a night, or longer if your body requires it. Regular sleep helps the body maintain itself and gives you a much healthier, brighter outlook. Sleep is important for your sanity and for your marriage.

12) Get off the Internet and sit on the couch and watch TV with your spouse.

The dinner dishes are done and your evening chores are completed. Now get off the Internet. Stop researching that latest gluten-free recipe. Stop Googling all things related to the disease. Stop trolling Facebook. Don’t read any more email, especially on a smartphone. Stop reading other people’s disease blogs. Turn off the computer and veg out on the couch and watch TV with your spouse. Or better yet get, go to bed. And get some sleep … or even better yet have some sex.

Life is short: keep focused on the one who makes your team so incredibly important. Marriage takes work. A good marriage is the result of that work.

1 thought on “Keeping the Marriage Strong

  1. Hi. Your advice is worth its weight in gold! I’m happily married to a woman. I’m really just now realizing that I have to work hard to make my marriage the best it can be, and to not take my wife for granted!

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