As a follow-up to last week’s post we came across this article at msn living by Andrea Syrtash that enumerates the things that Arnie and Kay didn’t know at the beginning of the movie. These are things we’ve known for a long time and perhaps you have, too, but it is always good to be reminded of good things we can do to enhance our marriage. We have been reading several books lately that also reference these things.
- A good “we” starts with a good me. Each of us has to take care of ourselves if we want to be in a relationship. There are many ways to do this. It could be diet, exercise, reading, praying or counseling. Think about what you need to do to be the best individual you can be. You can invite the other to join you in the activity but it is more important to look at yourself. For years we walked together and Bob always thought he wasn’t getting enough exercise because I couldn’t walk as fast as he can. He began to ride his bike again and finds that that it is his “solitude” time and allows him to clear his mind, or think of things that he needs to do to get in touch with himself and his relationship with me.
- Sweat the small stuff. We so often hear the phrase “don’t sweat the small stuff.” That is true in many situations. Sometimes we just have to let go of things or they prevent us from being and doing what we should. However, in a marriage relationship it is important at times to do the opposite. Little acts of kindness, a hug or kiss, cooking a favorite meal, remembering a special occasion, not just an anniversary or birthday, wearing the outfit the other likes, giving them the last bit of dessert, letting them sleep in. You get the idea. I have said that couples can handle big issues in their marriage but it is often the lack of recognition of the little things that ends marriages.
- It is okay to fight. I have a problem with the word “fight” because to me that implies unkind words and actions. However, since we are two individuals and have remained two individuals we don’t always agree on every issue – whether it is politics, religion, friends, jobs around the house, etc. What I think is important in this insight is that we can’t let things pile up that we don’t attend to. We have to agree to face issues in a constructive manner or they become big issues where there will likely be a big blow up with words and actions that are difficult to take back. What we have learned is that when one of us can sense tension in our relationship he/she will begin to state the feelings that are going on inside them. We don’t blame each other we just talk about what is going on with each of us. Then we can start to clear the air and make changes where they are necessary.
- Keep expectations in check. Part of our marriage commitment that we have grown to love is the comfort with each other that we have in our relationship. We know many of our needs will be tended to and taken care of. However, it has on occasion led us to unrealistic expectations of the other. It is important to remember that expectations are mine and aren’t always shared by Bob. It is okay to have expectations but we have to recognize that we have them, state them, if we wanted them to be filled, and recognize that some are unrealistic.
- Nothing compares to their love. The grass is always greener… or is it? Bob has said in jest at times: “Just because you are on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t look at the menu.” While we look at other couples, we have grown to accept that as long as we are tending to our relationship no one’s is better than ours – for us. Comparing your relationship with others doesn’t allow you to recognize and celebrate the goodness you have.
- It’s OK to schedule sex. As Homer Simpson says: “DOH.” If we had to rely on “it” to happen we would likely miss out on some wonderful times. Putting it on the calendar is important but don’t let that take all the spontaneity out of your sex life.
- Don’t be sure that you know your partner. Bob says I surprise him all the time. After 46 years of marriage I still do and say things that he doesn’t expect. The fun part of this is that we constantly get to learn new things about the other. It is one of the amazing things about the journey of marriage.
- They are present. This phrase in the article doesn’t quite say what I think it means. Presence is giving more than physically being in the same room. One of the things that I’ve learned is that if I want Bob to listen to me I have to communicate that to him, so often when I want to begin a discussion I start it by asking him if he has time to listen to me. It prevents the “you didn’t tell me that.” It is acceptable to respond with something like: “as soon as I finish typing this paragraph.” That allows the one responding to be consciously present and fully engaged. Presence is at times just ease with each other and entering into the moment. When we used to come home after a day at our jobs we would consciously give each other a meaningful greeting rather than just a little hi or kiss on the cheek.
Enjoy your relationship. None of us are perfect all the time and even if Hope Springs had a sequel Arnie and Kay would have time when they likely slipped back into their old ways. However, once you make a commitment to keep your relationship fresh and alive you will never go all the way back.
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