I am always open and honest about my marriage, and the reason I am so open and honest about it, is because people look at photos on Instagram of happy-seeming couples, and then begin to question their own; as if their relationship isn’t good enough or if they are missing something.
And the reality is, perhaps there are issues. Perhaps your partner actually isn’t the person you will be spending the rest of your life with. But that’s not the point of this post.
The point of THIS post is simply to give you a big dose of reality, and that is: even the best relationships are hard as f*** and take a tremendous amount of work.
Greg and I don’t have marital bliss. We have a marriage based on trust and loyalty and love, but it has not been easy. We have both faltered and made mistakes that some would consider irreparable. We are also both career driven individuals, and sometimes that has come at the expense of the other person in the relationship. And then add two kids to the mix, damn…it’s just a LOT.
It is no wonder that we often feel stressed, overwhelmed, buried in our own personal and professional pressures, along with parenting two kids, that we sometimes forget to nurture the most important relationship: the one we have with one another. We are human!
I wanted to share the top 5 ways that Greg and I stay connected. And note, we aren’t perfect, and these things don’t always work. But what I do think is the most important is that both people recognize the need to make time for the relationship and SHOW UP.
So here are some of the things that we do —
With two little kids and jobs that keep us working well into the evening, it is much easier to get to sleep early and forget planning dates and forgo sex. For many couples, sex comes naturally, even in stressful and busy times, but for us, it doesn’t. It is something that we both need to be in the mood for at the same time.
Why? Not because we are flawed, but because we are all unique humans with different things we need to make us tick. So we have a schedule! And we stick to the schedule, or else a week or two will go by and we forgo sex and that connection, leaving us feeling disconnected.
We also do the same with scheduling date nights, though this pandemic has really thrown a loop in that. Since we aren’t going out to dinner as much, our scheduled dates nights now look like wine and cheese dates in bed after the kids go to bed, or snuggling on the couch watching a movie. The point is that being physically next to someone, talking, connecting, keeps the spark alive.
There is often a misconception that only couples or people with problems should go to therapy. I think therapy is for EVERY couple, whether you have issues or not. And if you are a couple that doesn’t have issues, WHO ARE YOU? Every couple has differences, and it is really nice and refreshing to have a neutral third party to help you communicate and see things from different perspectives. I like to think of our weekly therapy sessions as preventative medicine, keeping us nice and strong before any major meltdowns happen!
I am guilty of comparing my relationship to relationships that I see on Instagram, and judging the quality of my own relationship based on a perfect looking photo I see on Instagram. Then I come home and pick a fight with Greg. Sound familiar? Here is the thing. What you see on Instagram is hardly EVER reality. And even if another couple is sharing a blissful moment, it’s their moment and their moment isn’t your reality. I think you can use other people’s blissful social media posts to inspire creativity for your own photos and to genuinely show your love and support for other creators in seemingly healthy relationships, but you have to give yourself a big dose of reality and tell yourself that what they do has no impact on your own relationship. Stay in your own lane and work directly on your own relationship, but leaving out comparison from what you see on the ‘gram.
There is nothing that compares to the power of physical touch. And that does not necessarily mean sex! How about touching your partners face; their hand; their leg; not necessarily even in a sexual way, but in a way that simply acknowledges and reminds your partner that they exist. This tip might sound silly, but I guarantee if you stop and think about it, you could be touching your partner more, and it does make them feel good! In fact, oxytocin, that feel good hormone is released, which makes people feel happy and more relaxed. For us, I love to sleep naked, as it’s nice to touch each others leg and feel skin to skin! And sex doesn’t even need to happen 🙂
You might be surprised to find that this tip pertains to YOU and not to something I suggest doing with your partner. Why? Because sleep rejuvenates the body and the mind and makes you feel well equipped to deal with stressful situations, making more likely to communicate and say the things you truly mean, instead of operating out of pure emotion. The same thing with regular exercise. Exercise is great for the body and we know that. But it is also fantastic way to become a kinder and more patient person; get all that stress out and come back a nicer person. It works every time!
What tips would you share that work in your relationship? Every couple is so different in terms of their needs. Maybe you aren’t a touchy-feely person and so Tip No 4 wouldn’t be helpful for you. Figure out what would work, and do that.
Relationships are hard work, but when tended to, they are magical and worth all the effort!