This post is continuation of the previous one. These are the things I learned in my marriage. Hope you'll find them helpful.
6. Give each other space.
This may seem like an opposite of the point above, but it actually enhances time spent together. There are two extremes that can potentially ruin the relationship. It's neither healthy to ignore each other nor to hold on so tightly that there is no room for individuality.
I had to learn to let go the hard way when my husband joined the military and was gone for months at a time. We had "withdrawals" for the first year then decided to get a grip and became too self-sufficient. Later on, we had to learn to reconnect again and finally found a good balance but this taught us to value each other even more.
The process doesn't have to be extreme. It might just mean you need to give your significant other time alone or with friends, allow him or her to make their own decisions (and mistakes!), be Ok with him or her taking longer to process something, for example, not being ready to make a big decision on a spot. When you let go of control and let your spouse be themselves, you create stronger ties based on respect and trust. Plus, you can use this time to focus on yourself.
7. Appreciate each other strengths and weaknesses.
This leads to another point that we need to learn to value our life partner for who they are.
When we first got married, my husband and I saw each other through the pink glasses of infatuation, but this barrier was soon taken off. We were in for a big revelation. Apparently, we had weaknesses and to our surprise, our strengths turned out to be even more annoying. Over time, we learned to handle both.
When you decide to spend your life with somebody, you can't pick and chose what you get to take for the journey. It's a packaged deal. Doesn't matter if your spouse is a total opposite of you or if you are like two peas in a pod, there are things you will love about each other and things you will get irritated by. Learn how to deal with all of it.
A lot of times our flaws are just misguided talents. When we understand what our spouses are made out of, we can help them apply themselves correctly, encourage their gifts, cover their deficiencies, and challenge them to become better people.
8. Pick your fights.
Speaking of challenging each other, there are some things that are not worth picking on. Over the years my husband and I switched professions, styles, hobbies, outlook on life. We discovered more about each other, became better at certain things but, in an essence, we remained the same individuals.
Sometimes no matter how much you remind, nag, beg, scold, or shame, some items will remain the same. During the dating period, it is important to ask yourself if what you see is something you are willing to put up with for the rest of your life. Don't imagine that you can improve anything. Yes, people do try to be on their best behavior for each other but will they be able to keep up with it year after year? A change is possible but we often have little control over how and when this happens.
If the disagreement is over the way to do laundry or put a toilet paper in, let it go. Pick on what really matters and stick to it.
9. Set boundaries.
What to do then if a disagreement is about a fundamental thing, something that is very important to you and that you can't overlook?
When a certain issue crosses the line for you, a personal boundary has to be set. You still have no power over what the other person decides to do, but you have control over your own life and what you allow in it.
First, you need to let your spouse know your expectations and what the consequences will be for not meeting them. For example, a spouse who is always late for dinner will get to eat a frozen meal (that is if eating together is a big deal for you). A spouse who spends too much, gets a separate account, etc. But you need to be ready to stand by your principles with consistency.
Don't try to fix everything at once and remember that new habits take time. Start with one small rule and go from there.
It doesn't do anybody any good to enable the unwanted behavior.
In our marriage, we had to deal with a few "no-nos". That's when ultimatums were given. For instance, early in our relationship, my husband used to walk out of the house every time I raised my voice until I learned to control my tone. For me that was normal, for him unacceptable, and I had to respect his boundary. Tough love is sometimes the best love.
10. Speak in each other's love language.
We not only give love differently, but we receive it in distinct ways. What's important is learning your spouse's love language. For me washed dishes speak louder than all the flowery words put together. For my husband, if I don't hug him all day, he feels abandoned even if I was busy cooking a three-course meal. It's little things that make all the difference.
Find out when your significant other feels most loved and make a conscious effort to provide that.
But what if your partner has not been giving you any love and attention for a while and you are tired of always be the one to initiate? Here are a few questions I found helpful:
- Does he know what I need? Did we talk about it?
- Is he showing me love and I just don't see it?
- Is this all he can give now because he is too busy, stressed, etc.?
- Am I comparing him to men from the romantic movies?
- Have I been showing him any love lately myself?
Remember that your spouse is a human with limitations. If you have a need for love, he or she does too. Take the first step.