Keep the Home Fires Burning

Five ways to put the spark back in your marriage — and keep it lit!

Happy_coupleHave you seen this couple? Happily married for 47 years, they still look like a couple of young lovebirds as they stroll down the sidewalk past your house. Eager to share each new day, they walk hand-in-hand, still finding pleasure in the other’s company. They have that elusive gift: an enduring and truly happy marriage.

Want to be more like them? Follow these five tips and get the spark back in your marriage:

Have a Relationship Check-up. Like cars, relationships need timely check-ups, proper maintenance and upkeep. Otherwise, they deteriorate over time. So sit down and ask each other: What do you like and dislike about our marriage? If our relationship could magically change any way you wanted, what would that change look like? The answers will generate possibilities you may have never considered before.

Create a Safe Environment. To feel comfortable, we need to be ourselves. So make sure you have created a safe haven for the expression of thoughts and feelings that are integral to the growth of your marriage. This includes the expression of differences, as long as you are both committed to the best interests of your partners.

Laugh Together. Rarely are things as bad as they seem, so try taking yourselves less seriously. Use humor to diffuse tense situations. It’s a tried and true remedy for restoring perspective. Laughter really is the best medicine.

Surprise Each Other. One happily married couple I know shares post-it notes a couple of times a week. Their messages are endearing yet succinct: “Thinking of you,” for example. “Have a great day.” Then they place these notes in conspicuous places where they are sure to be found. What a unique and simple way to make your spouse feel cherished!

Play Nicely Together. When was the last time you had fun together? When I ask my counseling patients this question, many look at me as if I’m speaking Latin — having fun together is that foreign of an idea. If this sounds like you and your spouse, here’s a suggestion: Make a date with each other once a week — and keep it. If you have children, arrange for a sitter in advance. Then do something fun: take a class, go dancing, see a play or movie, or simply enjoy a quiet dinner alone. This will help you keep alive the early, idealized images of courting and romantic love.

You really can build and maintain a happy marriage. Just remember: A satisfying marriage is a process of continual change. So follow these five tips, and start resparking your marriage today.

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Joe Wegmann is a licensed clinical social worker and a clinical pharmacist with over 30 years of experience in counseling and medication treatment of depression and anxiety. Joe’s new book, Psychopharmacology: Straight Talk on Mental Health Medications is available at www.pesi.com. To learn more about Joe’s programs or to contribute a question for Joe to answer in a future article, visit his website at www.thepharmatherapist.com, or e-mail him at joe@thepharmatherapist.com.