Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is the tough part. I am sure you’ve heard or read this a gazillion times or even experienced it yourself.
If you’ve had the chance to read my other post – When Resentment Overtook Our Marriage, then you’ll know staying in love did not come naturally in marriage for my husband and me. In fact, we almost fell out of love when our levels of self-awareness and ability to be other-centred fell to an all-time low.
Thankfully, the minute we realised that things were spiralling out of control between us, we took steps to retrieve what we had lost. Listed below are a few things that really helped us get back on track with each other.
If you’ve begun to think it pointless to attempt it because you either don’t feel like it or are sceptical that your spouse would reciprocate, why not still give it a shot?
I’ve learnt the hard way that if we wait till we feel like making the effort, it often never happens; and while it certainly is easier if your spouse is in on this too, it always helps to maintain a personal mind-set that believes that “Change begins with me.” On our own, we can each take the first steps to rekindle the loving feeling that might have been lost.
It always helps to maintain a personal mind-set that believes that “Change begins with me.”
When my husband and I realised that from being two peas in a pod, we’d turned to being at loggerheads with each other on so many issues on so many different levels, we decided to change the way we related to each other and we became more intentional about praising, encouraging and appreciating each other.
Praising Each Other
At the start of any love relationship, while in the throes of infatuation, idiosyncrasies displayed by our loved one are often deemed endearing but why is it that after some time, they appear to be downright annoying?
It’s so easy to slip into being critical once we’ve been married for a while. At social gatherings, some of us even think it funny to crack a joke at our spouse’s expense to get a laugh from our friends. How often do we take the time to sincerely praise our spouses in private and in front of others? If anything, we should always aim to be our spouse’s number one cheerleader.
It really helped us to focus on each other’s strengths and to compliment each other every chance we had.
I recall we had a chat once and agreed that we needed to aim to impress each other just like we did when we were first dating before marriage and seek to praise each other for our efforts in doing so. We reflected on the fact that if we had the energy to present the best versions of ourselves to each other and validate each other consistently before marriage, why should it be any different after marriage?
If we had the energy to present the best versions of ourselves to each other and validate each other consistently before marriage, why should it be any different after marriage?
Encouraging Each Other
We also realised that while we were busy pursuing our career goals and other life goals, we weren’t really keeping tabs on how our personal goals were affecting each other. We had stopped being encouraging of each other because we’d gotten too busy focusing on our individual needs. We learnt that checking in regularly and making sure we had each other’s back when facing challenges really helped us stay connected.
It’s also easy to fall into the trap of letting external stressors affect our relationship – work and parenting challenges, tensions with extended family –these can rob us of our peace at times. However, being aware of how these might affect us and choosing to not to take it out on each other helped us be kinder. We began to look to each other for encouragement and did our best to give it freely.
In times of conflict, we sought to learn what it was that was truly bothering the other and we worked towards finding ways to better understand and encourage each other. Of course, there would be times when we still said hurtful things – but we found that the key is to always apologise and get back to cheering on each other.
Appreciating Each Other
When we realised that we were taking each other for granted, we started to intentionally seek out things we were grateful to each other for. This helped us to reconnect. We also felt that simply dropping a mid-day text that said “I love you” or sending a heart-shaped emoticon via Whatsapp, though small gestures, also helped us stay connected and feel appreciated.
Regular date nights also helped us to better appreciate each other. The busyness of day-to-day living can often suck the joy out of marriage but going to favourite haunts together, doing stuff that we both enjoy all helped remind us why we fell in love with each other in the first place.
Staying in love entails having a great degree of self-awareness and other-centeredness. I am grateful that with a shared faith and belief in being committed to marriage, coupled with plenty of prayer, we were able to get back the loving feeling we thought we might have lost forever.
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Life is a journey, and we all need a little help at times. Let our professional counsellors help you and your spouse build a stronger relationship together. Find out more at www.family.org.sg/counselling.