Smart Ways to Keep Your Marriage Healthy at Any Age
The honeymoon period in most marriages has a shelf life. But does that mean you can’t bring back those fluttery butterfly feelings of excitement and anticipation everyone experiences at the beginning of a relationship?
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes decades of time together strewn with a minefield of potential relationship wreckers. It’s a wonder that anyone ends up walking off into the sunset, hand-in-wrinkled-hand, with a silver-haired mate. What do those geriatric lovebirds know that you don’t?
A Woman’s Day and AOL Living poll found that a shocking 72% of women surveyed have considered leaving their husbands at some point. But despite the occasional rocky patch, 71% expected to be with their husbands for the rest of their lives. So how do you make it to the finish line with your relationship intact?
Each decade will have its own drama, be it child-rearing, layoffs, second careers, and middle-aged angst, along with a big helping of the in-sickness-and-in-health stuff. Here’s how to have a healthy relationship every step of the way.
Say thank you for the little things.
I’ve been guilty of keeping score, playing tit for tat is childish and will do nothing but chip away at the trust and connection you’ve built with your spouse. If you are so inclined, keep score of all the positive things your partner does in a day — and then thank them. Hopefully they’ll get the hint and do the same for you.
Practice honesty, even when you’re ashamed.
Although infidelity usually happens in bed, it also can happen with money. And it will be a tough road gaining back your spouse’s trust if you’ve lied about overspending.
Along that same vein, if you feel you aren’t connecting with your partner the way you used to, you need to say something — now. Don’t keep telling yourself that things would get better on their own, you might reach the so called danger zone before you know it.
Take care of your appearance.
With many years and kids under your belt, it’s easy to let your appearance slide. Think about when you first met your partner. Would you have walked around in stained sweatpants and without brushing your teeth? My guess is no. Sometimes your husband might say “wow, you look nice” as you are walking out the door for a girls’ night out. At least pay your spouse the same courtesy you do your friends by fixing yourself up for him or her every once in a while.
Foster relationships outside your marriage.
I’ve been going on girls’ trips for as long as I’ve been married. Yes, I love traipsing off with my spouse and three kids. But these weekends away with friends are also important. Swapping stories with others and enjoying new experiences make you — a more interesting person for your spouse to be around.
Your marriage should be your primary relationship — but it needn’t be the only one.
Watch your words.
There are many things you should never say to a longtime spouse, the first being: “Don’t you think our new neighbor is attractive?”. It’s also never a good idea to start a sentence with: “You know it’s always been your problem that…” Who wants to hear that from their partner?
“You always…” or “You never…” Think about it. Neither of these is true. If you start a sentence with these words your mate is certain to shut down or start a fight. Stop for a minute and think about what you really mean to say — and then say that instead.
Enjoy the silence.
Sometimes the best way to address a problem is to just walk away from it — as in seriously let it go. Not every slight must be addressed. Know that not every insult is intended. Practice letting go as much as you can. And once in a while, remind yourself of why you married this person. Focus on those reasons and let stuff pass without mention.
Recognize the peaks and valleys.
Relationships aren’t flat-lined; that’s death, actually. Life has ups and downs. We all go through periods where the mere thought of life without our partners can bring tears to our eyes and then a week later we can’t stand the sound of their breathing next to us. We’ve all been there. The trick is knowing that you won’t stay in either place forever. Truth is, in a marriage, you spend most of your time in an emotional middle ground.
This middle ground isn’t the couple who sit in the restaurant across from one another without conversing. Those people have actually flat-lined and just don’t know it yet. No, the middle ground is when months meld into years and you know what the reaction will be before you say something.
We tend to take advantage of those we love the most — probably because we know they love us and we can get away with it. You have a bad day at the office and come home and take it out on your mate. A much healthier pattern is to start out each day by asking yourself, “What can I do today to make my partner happy?” And mean it. Doesn’t it make more sense to put your best face on for someone you love? Look for ways to say “yes.” This rule applies to parenting as well, but in a happy marriage, people are busy trying to please each other. It’s doing things for your partner.
Maintain intimacy and passion, both inside and outside the bedroom.
Intimacy isn’t just sex and passion isn’t just doing it on the kitchen counter. Bedroom habits age along with the marriage. There may be no stronger aphrodisiac than a moonlight walk on the beach that ends in a kiss. There may be no greater display of passion than the zeal of a partner in a hospital room trying to get the nurse’s attention for an ailing wife. Don’t let others define what is a “normal” or “healthy” amount of sex for your marriage. Know that things change, but that doesn’t make them less exciting or fun. And intimacy comes in many shapes, including conversation and cuddling.
Watch your waistline
Now that you’re married, you can finally relax and skip the gym, right? Wrong. Wedded couples tend to have fatter waistlines, which can spell trouble in terms of sexual attraction and general health. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that your chances of becoming obese increase by 37% if your spouse becomes obese. So unless you want “till death do us part” to include chronic health issues like heart disease and diabetes, it’s important to establish healthy eating habits early on. Being aware of the potential fatty pitfalls of marital bliss may be enough to keep your portion sizes in check. You can just schedule exercise dates or to work off some of your hearty, homemade healthy dinners.
Have a financial plan
Nearly 40% of married people admit to lying to their spouse about a purchase, and money woes can quickly send your marriage south. In fact, money is the number-one reason couples fight, and relationships tend to suffer during poor economies. You should discuss and agree upon some hard financial ground rules, preferably before you tie the knot.
Stay active as you age
Pick up a life sport that you can enjoy together for decades to come, like walking, running, biking or hiking. You don’t need to be seriously sweating to reap the benefits of regular exercise. Experts say that moderate exercise is enough to help stave off heart disease and other ailments. Try to find new ways to stay active as a couple, whether it’s hitting the tennis courts or hiking trails. One study found that couples who work out together are more likely to stick with an exercise program. And some experts suggest that couples who exercise more frequently tend to have better sex lives.