When couples get married, they imagine what it will be like to grow old together. It is an ideal to live up to. But, how do you improve your odds?
Just by living, you are going to grow and change. You will set and meet goals, and face unexpected challenges that make you question your life. You may even face life threatening situations that change everything about you. You can expect these changes as a normal part of living.
Like most of us, you strive to make better decisions and become smarter about life. Who you were at age 18 is not who you want to be at age 40. So, you seek out new experiences to broaden your horizons. Or life happens, and you have to adapt to your new circumstances.
In marriage, you have the expectation that you will grow together. You stated or implied that even though you will change as an individual, you will still fit together. Sometimes, this is a challenging prospect. Especially when major life events rock your world.
In every marriage, there will be times when you feel out-of-sync or disconnected. You will not always grow at the same rate. Most marriages go through some pretty big challenges. As you work through them, you have to adjust who you are and how you relate to others. In friendships, it is easier to let a relationship go if it runs into trouble. In marriage, it is much harder to walk away when one of you has changed.
You can increase the odds that your marriage will be one to stand the test of time. You need to focus some effort into growing together. If you assume it will automatically happen, there is a good chance that you will grow apart.
Couples who keep their love alive are intentional about their relationship. They cultivate activities that make them feel connected. They notice when they feel distant and take actions to keep the relationship strong.
Tips to Grow Together:
Spend regular time talking with one another. Give yourselves time to know each other well. When you share details about your life, you build the relationship. Talking frequently, you are more likely to will deal with problems when they are small. Ideas:
- Talk to one another daily for 10-20 minutes about the events of your day. Include both the highs, lows, and antidotes.
- Share the ways that you are each growing.
- Talk about topics other than your jobs, family, and house. Discuss world events, your dreams, and memories. (If your conversations stall, google “Conversation Questions” for ideas to liven your discussions.)
Set aside time for your spouse every week. Give your partner your undistracted attention. When your partner knows they will have your undivided attention, it takes the pressure off other times of the week. You will have fewer pop-up discussions that get derailed. Ideas:
- Eat lunch together one day a week.
- Go on a weekly date.
- Take a class together.
- Regularly have coffee together.
All couples struggle with solving problems. You are supposed to have different ideas about how to live. You are two separate people with different ideas and experiences. If you avoid dealing with these differences, they don’t go away. Instead, they fester and start to contaminate other parts of the relationship.
You need an effective way to bring up problems and work through them until you have a solution. You will have more confidence in the relationship if you know that the two of you can deal with the issues that come up. If you address the differences between you when they are minor issues, they are much easier to fix.
Talk with your partner about how you deal with problems in the relationship. If you have difficulty coming up with a plan, look to experts who will teach you good conflict rules.
Remember the beginning of the relationship? You had a lot of fun getting to know one another. What did you do differently? These are the things that you need to practice regularly. Why would you give up the best parts of the relationship? Ideas:
- Share a hobby.
- Share funny stories.
- Travel together.
- Plan new experiences together.
Setting goals and working towards them as a team helps you create a joint life. It will strengthen your bond when your that your partner supports what you want in life, and they will help you achieve those things. You also get more support about where you are spending your time and energy. When you look back on your life, you will appreciate seeing the things that you accomplished as a couple.
Spend some time talking about what each of you wants out of your life individually and as a couple. Set goals so that both of you gets what you want.
You can’t possibly know all the tools that will help your marriage stay strong and connected. Even if you grew up with the best example from your parents’ marriage. There are still opportunities for you to learn better ways to relate in your own marriage. It strengthens your bond when you intentionally improve your relationship. Ideas:
- Read a Relationship Book together. Even a bad book will give you a lot to talk about.
- Follow a Couples Relationship Expert.
- Go to a Marriage Retreat.
- Take a couples enrichment course.
- Go to Couples Coaching or Counseling.
Regular discussions about the big issues in your lives will head off many problems. A yearly planning meeting can reduce a lot of daily conflict because you will align your plans on a large scale.
If you are wondering what topics other couples talk about, read Yearly Conversations Every Couple Needs to Have for ideas. Then tweak the questions to fit your relationship.
One of the biggest challenges that couples face is when they grow apart due to individual growth. During your busy lives, you struggle to spend enough time together. You often live parallel lives with many different experiences.
One of the most powerful things you can do to grow together is to share your experiences with one another. This allows you to metaphorically bring your partner on your journey. So, share what happens in your life, your insights, and your reactions. That way your partner will continue to know you at a deep level, even when you are doing different things.
You don’t have to do all these. Look through the list and brainstorm ideas that appeal to you. Talk with your spouse about which they like the best. Try out a few options to see which work the best for you. Then choose the best one or two options and make it a part of your routines.
If you are thoughtful about what matters to each of you, you will reap the benefits for many years.