Is it a fairy tale or can we make it fact in our lives? I don’t think we can “make it” fact (we can’t “make” anything be anything really) but I think we can go a long way in terms of creating a fantastic environment for it to flourish long term.
Viewing marriage like a garden I think is a great analogy. For your garden to flourish and look good all year round it needs to be weeded, watered and maintained regularly, not just one big blitz once a year. I think it’s the same with marriage, if we expect one holiday or special weekend away a year to keep it running smoothly we are going to be disappointed. Weeds will have grown in the cracks. Some things will have grown and taken over, sucking up to much water. Other aspects will have died in their wake.
Gardening is a “little and often” activity, and so is marriage. It creates the space and environment for it to grow in a way that is actively nurtured, not just left to it’s own devices. It’s very easy, especially when children enter the equation or work is full-on, for the marriage to be the gardening that always gets put off for another day when the sun shines and there is more time. And that’s where I see couples who have grown apart or taken each other for granted. I did this myself (I got married first time at 23) and it’s bloody easy to do. By consistently prioritising something more fun that gardening (my rapidly accelerating career) we grew so far apart that no machete could clear a way through the jungle that had grown up over the years. And I can look back now and see that was something I (and we) chose each day without realising it. Very sad.
So as I say I think it’s a case of creating an environment, through regular nourishing and maintenance (after the exciting phase of the new garden has worn off!) that you can both grow in together. Here are some of my gardening tips:
1. Kiss often.
Kiss Good night. Kiss Hello. Kiss for so reason at all. Keep connecting in the way that marks this relationship as different from all others. This is the only person you kiss in THAT way, so do it often!
Question: when was the last time you kissed. Meaningfully not just a peck on the cheek? ___________________________. You know what action to take here!
2. Know Your Love Languages.
Different people show love in different ways. Love can come in the form of checking your tyres, oil and water in your car or ironing a shirt. It’s called a “gift of service”. Love can also come in the form of words. Or touch. Or time. In Gary Chapman’s eponymous book “The Five Love Languages” he explores and defines the different languages of love. You can do a very cool little test in fact right here to discover your own profile.
Why is this important? Knowing your style and preference, AND that of your partner, how they are similar and how they are different means for better communication and better prioritization. You recognize love when it is expressed each day, even if it doesn’t look how you thought it might or you wanted it to. Often I see clients who think there is no expression of love in their lives, but actually it is there, it’s just they are speaking a different love language. Highly recommend you BOTH do this work!
Action Step: take the “The Five Love Languages” test or read the book. Find out how your personal languages are similar and different. Learn to speak in the language of your beloved and educate them in yours.
3. Sex is marriage glue.
Sex is glue that binds a relationship and that makes it different from all others. It’s a primal drive. It’s important. It’s easy to deprioritize it, and the more we do that the less of it we want so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Respect the natural ebbs and flows of desire but do not underestimate the power of sex as glue to bind something tightly, or to bind something else tightly. Flirt. Kiss. Have sex. Make time. Make effort. Sex is glue.
Action Step: make time, make effort, make love.
4. Keep listening.
It’s really easy in the vortex of the business that is life to only really connect over the big stuff. To kind of stop listening once agreement on the chores or the school pick up has been agreed. When you know each other so well it’s easy to skip everything else out. Keep looking with fresh eyes, what would someone who had never met your partner before see and hear? What is fascinating about them NOW. Who are they now? How are they growing and evolving. What can you see that’s new or different? Listen with new ears.
Action Step: find out something NEW about your beloved. Ask good and new questions. Be curious and open-minded.
5. Prioritise time together, just the two of you.
Whether that’s dinner at home with no phones on, or a regular date night, or a weekend away quarterly, find a rhythm of regular contact that is dedicated time for the two of you to connect, and lock it in the schedule. Get the babysitter block booked a month in advance. Make it a priority. Plan it in. Lock it in. Make it the priority it is.
Action Step: prioritise regular connection (gardening!) time for this week.
6. Cherish. Cherish. Cherish.
Love is rare. And incredible. And robust. Yet fragile. Cherish it when you find it. You can cherish by making time. You can cherish by making effort. You can cherish with your words. With your actions. By what you DON’T choose to put in your day and well as what you do. “Love” is a verb as well as a noun. It’s a description of what you have but unless it’s also a consistent action then it will be fragile. Cherishing is the doing of love. Not just being in love, but the doing of it. Cherishing is the journey of a happy partnership. Cherish. Cherish. Cherish.
Action Step: think of three ways right now you can show your beloved that you cherish them. What is something you could say? Do? Create? Little things are just as valuable as big things. Be creative!
And that my darlings is the end of our mini-series on relationships! Hope you enjoyed, I have loved reading your comments on Facebook. Want a recap? We covered:
Part One: How not to let the break up break you
Part Three: Should you stay friends after?
Part Four: 7 ways to be happily single
Part Five: How to know if he/she is the one