What if you could do just three things that would revamp, recharge, and revitalize your marriage? Just three things. Your marriage is worth that!
When I was a kid, I had this toy car that resembled the black-and-red van from the iconic television show, The A-Team. (For you younger generations, you can ask Siri or Alexa or the Google or whatever you kids are into these days about that).
In order for the car to roll across the floor on its own, you had to rev it up several times along the ground before you let it go. And if you revved it up enough, watch out! You could pop wheelies, jump ramps, and all kinds of other tricks that were reminiscent of the fancy driving of A-Team member B.A. Baracus (again, ask the Google).
★ In our work with couples, we’ve been asked many questions such as: How can we keep the communication going in our marriage? How do we re-spark intimacy? How can we feel like we did when we first met? ★
In essence, the questions boiled down to this: How can you keep your marriage revved up and rolling full speed?
There are probably as many ways to answer this as there are the number of times A-Team leader Hannibal said, “I love it when a plan comes together…”(the answer is, a lot…Google, man, Google). However, without a doubt, there are three important things you should do for your spouse that will impact so many other aspects of your relationship. And even if you focus on just these three, they will have your marriage flying higher than Murdock’s helicopter (that’s A-Team-speak for “It’ll be awesome”).
Key #1: Take care of yourself.
Right off the bat, this sounds counterintuitive and possibly even a little selfish, self-centered, and self-seeking.
But here’s the thing—if you pay only a small amount of attention to your physical, emotional, and mental health, there’s not much of your self left to give to the one you love the most.
I’ve experienced this in my own marriage. In the past, I felt so wrapped up in my job (for the sake of providing for my family, of course, or so I told myself), rattled by stress and constrained by deadlines, that all I had to offer my wife when I got home at night was the leftovers of my being. I was tired. My body was in poor health. And my mind was spent. I wanted to connect with my wife, but the wheels had fallen off the A-Team van.
So, self-care is actually one of the most selfless gifts you can give to your spouse. Give a little to your self, and you’ll find you have so much more to give to your spouse. And then, watch things rev up and the wheelies fly!
Key #2: Have realistic expectations for your spouse.
Having expectations of your spouse is normal. But there is a fine line between great expectations that make a marriage great and unrealistic expectations that make a marriage unrealistic.
The bottom line is this: It’s unrealistic to see your spouse as the be-all-end-all for your happiness. Everyone wants to see their spouse happy, but happiness can’t be induced by another person. Putting that kind of pressure on your mate sets them up to fail at something they weren’t meant to do and can cause all kinds of tension and conflict.
Dr. Gary Chapman calls these kinds of expectations “If Onlys.” If only my spouse would work less… cook more… watch more of “The A-Team”—then I’d be happier.
Unrealistic expectations can be counteracted with creating spoken, shared expectations that are truly realistic and healthy. Marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman lists several expectations that healthy couples have in their relationship:
- Be good friends.
- Trust one another.
- Be fully committed to each other.
- Have a satisfying sex life.
- Manage conflict constructively.
- Watch lots of “The A-Team” together. (Okay, I made this one up. But you never know what this may do for your relationship!)
Key #3: Pursue your spouse!
I don’t mean in a creepy, follow-them-to-work, stalker kind of way.
Let’s put it this way: Remember that feeling you had in the first couple of years in your relationship? When you were setting up that big surprise romantic date? When you were anticipating giving them that special gift you had been hiding? How talking to your spouse late into the night vitalized your feelings for them?
There’s a good reason you had these feelings. Research indicates that the newness of romantic attraction causes a neurochemical called phenylethylamine (PEA) to squirt through your brain, causing feelings of heightened romance, physical attraction, and physical and emotional energy. And, it motivated you to keep on pursuing your spouse!
But, the research also says that this chemical is only active in your brains in the first one or two years of marriage. After that, it takes more work to rev things up.
The great news is that it’s not rocket science, and it doesn’t take an insurmountable amount of effort to keep the wheels rolling and get the PEA squirting again. Regularly pursue conversation and have a curiosity about your spouse. Pursue romance and new experiences. Pursue laughter, fun and connection, too. Continue to be curious about their dreams, likes, dislikes, and goals. You get the picture.
Gifts That Keep On Giving
Finally, remember that self-care, realistic expectations, and the pursuit of your spouse are three gifts you can give to the one you love the most that keep on giving. Write these down somewhere you will see them. Talk about them with your spouse. Make them a regular part of your daily rhythm and practice. Watch your marriage rev up, make tracks, burn rubber, and hammer down.
And for Pete’s sake, go Google The A-Team. You’ll thank me later.
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***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***