Some of us may hold too tight, others barely hold on at all. But if we are to keep our romantic relationships from slipping away, we must first learn how to hold ourselves, and then learn to gently hold the ones we love.
Being in relationship with others is not an easy feat. Add in love and you have a learning experience that will last a lifetime. I do not profess to have all the answers and I certainly haven’t walked a mile in your shoes, but I know my shoes well and have learned a few things on my journey.
24 Hours in a Day
Every relationship is different and every couple has different needs and desires. In my relationship, we spend about 20hrs/day together, 7 days a week, and have never spent a night apart. This kind of time devotion is not necessary to build a healthy, strong, and vibrant relationship, but it’s where my husband and I find ourselves and it suits us well.
Perhaps your partner works out of town, or maybe the extra commitments of your children or family members have you rushing in opposite directions on school nights, or maybe you set aside time together on Sundays. Whatever your schedule of work and play looks like, I believe there is always time available to love each other. It’s about finding it, prioritizing it, and being present with it.
And here’s the truth:
Time is so very precious, and love takes time.
Making Time For YOU First
First on the plan to rev up that romantic engine is making time for yourself.
If you are not taking time for yourself to set goals, reflect on your day, your week, your life, you will undoubtedly feel pulled in too many directions and you may not be able to see the amazing opportunities in front of you. You may also have developed an apathetic attitude, “This is just my life now. Why even pretend I can change it?”, or have unknowingly shifted your priorities, “I won’t be home for dinner tonight – I have to stay late and send a few emails.”
One method to encourage this practice is to embed 5 or 10 minutes into your evening routine to reflect and prepare. Spending a few minutes alone with your day can be a nourishing practice, so don’t be afraid of your own company.
Write down 2 or 3 things that went well today. What are you proud of? What surprised you? What made you smile?
Look at your day tomorrow – what will you need to do upon waking to ensure you have a great day? What kind of attitude will you need throughout the day? Determined? Patient? Enthusiastic? What are the most important elements of your day tomorrow? Write those down.
This simple, short practice could really make a difference in helping you feel grateful, relaxed, prepared, and even excited about your life!
If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times: couples are struggling to make time for their relationship to grow and flourish.
I can almost guarantee that if you take that 10 minutes before bed to empty your brain from the day and prepare for the day ahead, you will be heading to bed in a much healthier and happier place to connect with your partner! But it goes beyond that.
Making Time for “Us”
Relationships – especially serious, romantic ones – require dedication. You must be committed to your purpose, in this case, being a couple. So what are the expectations around that commitment? What does your partner expect from you? How do they feel and experience love? These are big questions, and if you are scratching your head at any of them, this would be a good place to start.
If you can, open up a conversation around love. Ask questions like, what things do I do or say that make you feel loved? When are some moments in our past together when you have felt close to me? What things are we not doing as a couple that you would like to do more of?
Take notes! I know that may sound silly, but in such an emotionally vulnerable conversation, you both may become swept up, and by morning, you’ve forgotten things you wish you hadn’t. Keep your notepad subtle (you’re not interviewing your partner!) and let them know your intention is to take their words to heart and you don’t want to miss or forget anything important.
Want to know how your partner truly feels and experiences love? Check out the 5 Love Languages Quiz! This free, online quiz can determine your love language, i.e. what experiences make you feel loved. Once both you and your partner know and understand your main love languages, you can begin building your relationship around loving each other in a way that truly feels meaningful to each partner. For example, I do not feel loved when I receive a small gift. I am grateful, appreciative, and I sometimes even feel special, but if you truly want to love me, I want quality time with you. Relationships with individuals who have chosen to love me by buying me gifts have never worked out. I always end up feeling unimportant and lonely.
Once you have had the chance to talk about your relationship with your partner, it’s time to make time for each other! This will look different in every couple and could be largely influenced by the results of the Love Languages Quiz. Maybe the time spent together is doing household chores: you mow the lawn while he weeds the garden beds. Or maybe the time put aside for each other is spent leaving work a half hour early to arrive home with a small gift of flowers and bubble bath for your loved one. Maybe you put aside time during the day to send little funny, positive, or sexy text messages to show your partner you are thinking about them. Or in our case, we make sure we are setting aside quality time each day to connect with each other – no work, no phones, just love.
Making Time When There is No Time
If you’ve put aside some reflection and goal-setting time for yourself (even if it’s in your own head while you brush your teeth), and you’ve had your open conversation with your partner, the next step is to actually begin carving out time to love each other more fully.
Now, if you’re feeling like life is already too busy, perhaps you’ll want to read my post on banishing “busy” from your life. But if you’ve already crafted your 24 hours into a well-oiled machine, and there’s just no wiggle room to add in more time, I have one last trick for you.
Now hear me out. If you and your partner spend the evenings eating dinner and helping the kids with homework and bedtime, then truly be there with each other and do these things together. Unplug from your texts, emails and social media. Put on some of your favourite music during dinner. Read stories on the couch with your kids together. Play footsies under the table. And once the kids are asleep, take a shower together. Truly be present with each other and honour the time you do have together. This little shift in mindset could make a big shift in your relationship.
Choosing Love is Worthwhile
There is nothing more fulfilling or life-giving than my marriage. It’s the single greatest thing in my world. But it takes dedication. I have never liked the saying that “marriage is hard work”, because it doesn’t feel like that to me. Loving my husband is a choice I make with great joy. Ensuring our relationship is strong and vibrant may take commitment and attention, but it is a life task I willingly and lovingly embrace.