Marriage is often alluded to as a chance meeting of two souls. Yet every single day is an active choice to be and stay married.
There’s no doubt that marriage is a roller-coaster of all the moving parts necessary to meet our emotional, physical, and mental needs. Then there is the compounding effect of how much we evolve throughout life as individuals.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’. Even if we tick all the boxes; trust, love, communication, respect, support, compromise, and so on, keeping relationships alive, happy and healthy for (hopefully!) decades on end is both a daily challenge and a remarkable opportunity.
Despite statistics showing that, in Australia, the divorce rate is steadily declining, the last thing any couple wants to become is a statistic. Relationships require effort. But let’s not confuse ‘effort’ with ‘labour’. If it requires effort to keep your relationship thriving but feels more like a job, then it’s probably time you both took a closer look at what you really want – and need – from the relationship, and what you’re still prepared to give to maintain it.
With that in mind, here are my top 10 key ingredients to a happy, healthy marriage.
1. Time alone with your partner
The chaos of everyday life, with one or both of you working, conflicting schedules, raising children, your personal time for fitness and hobbies, running a household, putting food on the table, and so on, is it any wonder that many couples are guilty of leaving their relationships simmering on the back burner? Throw caring for an animal or two into the mix, not to mention some quality time socialising, both individually and as a couple, it’s understandable that chemistry can be lost along the way.
Time alone does not mean having to put a dent into the savings account either. While a night or weekend away or a romantic dinner is a great opportunity to connect, so is a 30-minute walk, holding hands, or sharing an ice cream.
(Remember to put your phone down during this time.)
2. Communication (isn’t just ‘I love you’)
Putting love aside, hearing phrases like ‘I’m really proud of you’ or ‘I appreciate that you did that for me’ and ‘you mean so much to me’, can really help in cementing the bond between you and your partner. It’s also a great way for us to self-check that we don’t take our partner for granted.
It’s important to notice your partner and make them feel appreciated – and fair for you to expect same in return.
3. Let’s talk about sex…outside the bedroom
Physical intimacy is incredibly important in any relationship, and switching it up, even having a giggle about it, can truly strengthen your bond and overall the unity in the relationship. Not every love-making session you have with your partner is going to set off fireworks, but talking about what you enjoyed, or what you would like to try will help you forge a deep emotional connection.
Remember, not experiencing the same high level of sexual passion you did when you met, after a few years together, is totally normal.
Bonus Tip: Try the Kindu App. It’s like Tinder for couples, but instead of swiping on other people, you’re browsing sexual and romantic activities instead. When you swipe on the same desire as your partner, it’s a match! The platform is so much fun and was designed to help couples reinvigorate their romance and learn more about each other. There are thousands of sexy and intimacy-building prompts that you can explore and bring a bit of novelty to your relationship.
4. Support: be each other’s #1 fan
A strong support system has so many positive benefits, such as reducing stress and giving us better coping skills. Having a supportive partner and knowing, without a doubt, that they have your back, gives you the freedom to explore life and (importantly) fail and fall – securely. Similarly, offering constructive criticism, without putting down your partner’s core values, shows respect, even if we don’t agree with them.
As your partner’s ‘cheerleader’, you should provide encouragement, emotional support, and reassurance, especially with regards to their dreams and aspirations.
On the flip side, if your partner isn’t as supportive of your goals as you’d like him/her to be, ask them why. They might actually have great advice to share.
Regardless, supporting each other’s plans and dreams should be important to you both.
5. Be adventurous and push your boundaries
Try thinking outside the square and doing something completely off your radar, like organise a game of tennis, or rollerblading, going to a fun-park for the day and jumping on a roller-coaster, or signing up for a cooking class together. Or go for it and book in a tandem sky-dive!
Not only will trying something new feel fun, but seeing your partner in a different environment, outside of your comfort zones, may teach you things that you didn’t know about each other.
6. Don’t be silent. Learn to listen and express what bothers you
Having a happy partnership does not mean pretending everything is rosy all of the time. It’s important to ‘check-in’ with your partner. Sit down and ask. Sounds simple, however, making time to listen and learn sends an important message that you’re invested in keeping a strong bond with each other.
7. Go out of your way! Do something nice.
Small or random acts of kindness are a wonderful way to show love and appreciation towards your partner. Wash your partner’s car. If you have kids then the parent who does the running around with kids in the back seat will appreciate you clearing out the snacks, wrappers, odd socks, tissues, unfinished juice boxes, and lost toys that live on the floor/seat/window for days, even weeks!
Place sticky notes with little love gestures or affirmations that your partner will find throughout their busy day. Leave one on the bathroom mirror, in a drawer, on the steering wheel, in his/her wallet, on their coffee cup. The possibilities are endless and can really make your partner’s day.
8. Play! Couples who play together, stay together
In particular – foreplay. Although most men are like a genie in a bottle (it only takes a couple of rubs!), women are not.
Did you know that it takes at least 20 minutes for a woman to relax, get in the moment and become completely aroused? Whilst the occasional quickie may be adequate for you both, you need to put in a little time with your partner for emotionally-connecting sex.
Don’t be in such a rush. Take your time. Explore his/her body with your fingertips first, see how their body reacts, start at the top and work your way down, slowly and gently. Then repeat the process with your tongue and mouth. You may discover a different sensation or something new that you both enjoy.
Bonus Tip – A game I love to play, which is a great way to try new things, is very much like a ‘Lucky Dip’! Each person writes down six romantic or sexual activities on separate pieces of paper. Fold them and place them into a bowl. Each time one of you gets a little frisky, randomly pick one from the bowl. Whether it’s a random bubble bath, or to watch some pornography, or perhaps engage in mutual masturbation instead of sex, release your inhibitions and try it.
If it makes you giggle, great, ‘laughter is the best medicine’.
9. Kiss! Like teenagers making out behind the bleechers
Whilst a quick peck is nice on your way out the door, think of how you’d feel if your partner pulled you in close and kissed you deeply and passionately instead. Being spontaneous with your affection, when there’s no expectation or reason to do so, can put a spring in your partner’s step.
Catch them off-guard in mid-conversation or when you’re heading to dinner. Random acts like this remind your partner that you love them. A meaningful ‘pash’ triggers happy hormones, releasing a cocktail of chemicals that leave you feeling good and which ignite your body’s pleasure centres, all of which has a positive impact on your emotional and physical well-being.
10. Remember why you fell in love! Take it back to the beginning
When you think back to the beginning of your relationship, how were things different? How did you treat your partner? How did they treat you? How did you both behave differently?
Remember when your love seemed so big? Take a minute, right now, to go back there and remember how big and important those feelings were. Remember how much you wanted to make your partner happy. If you can continue to reconnect with what it was like in the very beginning, why should it ever end?
Whatever you do, make loving your partner a conscious choice. The more effort that you put into your relationship, the stronger it will be. And that goes both ways.
When you wake up tomorrow morning, take a second to look at your partner and choose to love them that day, no matter what.,