How Do You Keep A Long Term Relationship Fresh, Passionate and Rich?Jan 28, 2017
My husband and I were together for 32 years. When I look around in the world at most people who've been together for many years I see one of two places the majority of couples end up. Either they are "comfortable" with each other which means they fit like an old shoe and I imagine that he may come home and watch TV or read the sports section and she comes home and does her routine. They're fond of each other but so are many brothers and sisters and long-term friends fond of each other. The other extreme are those who are fed up with each other and living their own lives or thinking of divorce.
But we are in a third kind of relationship – a vibrant, healthy one. Some of what makes it healthy is the following:
Being two mature adults with good self images, we had the flexibility to each know when we come first or when we need to put our partner first. For example, I like early morning but I never conceived of waking up each weekday by 4:15a.m. I always liked 5:30. Well, for the ten years my husband taught high school and left the house before 6. Since I wanted this older guy to live a lot longer (he lived to 80), I prepared both a healthy breakfast and a healthy portable lunch. Also, since he came home tired at the end of his long day, it became our habit to connect over a cup of organic coffee before he left for work. So although by putting him first I sacrificed my sleep, I do not feel resentful or like a martyr because he taught so I can stay home and write and coach.
Years ago at the very beginning of our life together we learned a secret – tell the emotional truth quickly. You know those pesky feelings that start coming up after you've been in a relationship for awhile? The ones that may sound like, "Stop telling me what to do!" or "I've asked him a million times not to leave the @#$& toilet seat up", but he still does it! Yeah. Those. Well, everyone knows that your partner doesn't want to hear what you are upset about so maybe you try to keep it in – and then the resentments build up. Or maybe you yell those feelings right out loud, get mad, walk out, slam doors. Whatever. Believe it or not, the second way portends bigger success for the long term. But the key here is to communicate all your feelings – not just the negatives. If you don't know how to do this, find some help (unabashed pitch for taking at minimum Relationship Readiness 101). Oh, and we have tweaked this to say, "check your timing." If you want to be heard, don't approach your partner when they can't listen.
Another vital answer to our long-term success is that we both take full responsibility for everything in our lives. Even when our partner is fed up with us, we know that we have created that, too. It's not as if we are so perfect that we do this immediately but it is a deep, core value that we both hold and so we can each trust that the other will eventually get there.
I can tell you many, many more reasons why we had a healthy relationship. But remember the question is how do we keep it fresh, fruitful and passionate? It takes work and intention.
When we got too comfortable and our relationship started to feel so much like an old shoe that we didn't really pay attention to what we knew was there but didn't excite us, we made a date. That date may have looked like going on a vacation to our favorite spot and BEING with each other. For us that looked like no TV, no internet, no phones. It also looked like reading separate books but being together, walking in the woods together, hanging out in laid back, quiet coffee places and investigating the deeper parts of our human journey – both as a couple and as individuals. Mini versions of that occurred on an as-needed basis at home, undressed, with no phone answering and no email and no time constraints. We adopted a practice of telling each other what we loved about each other and really hearing what each other was saying which tended to make the intimacy happen more quickly. And, most importantly, we looked for what might make us a little shy or scared to share and we shared it. It's the untapped places in each other that we dare to share that create the relationship over and over again.
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