During the first lockdown we ran one of our most popular courses, The Marriage Sessions, online, because we knew the months ahead were going to be tough for a lot of couples.
In the ensuing weeks, we were thrilled to see so many viewers getting in touch to say what a huge difference it had made to their relationships.
Although over two thousand couples signed up, we recognise this is a drop in the ocean of how many couples there are, many of whom were going into the national lockdown unprepared and under-equipped.
The strain of being in each other’s space 24-7 was always going to have an impact, and last month, we saw a number of lawyers predicting a ‘boom’ in relationship breakdown. In lots of ways, it’s not hard to see why. Misunderstandings may have increased, endearing idiosyncrasies could have turned into irritations and tensions can build with little warning. All these elements can add up and cause strain.
To that end, here are some helpful ideas to help keep love alive in your marriage …
1. Love with the will
Years ago, Rob Parsons asked a young man who was determined to walk out on his wife, why he was leaving her. The man said he didn’t feel in love anymore. Rob replied, “Didn’t you know the feelings of love go up and down? That sometimes you have to love with the will, and not just the heart? That you have to fight to keep love alive?” The man replied, “No, nobody told me that.”
There will be times where the feeling of love fades a little, but often in those times, choosing to love can bring couples through a tough season. Practically this means we love by giving the relationship time, speaking positively to each other and doing thoughtful things that you know the other appreciates. All these things really can restore the feelings of love that may feel dormant.
2. Fight for love
Now, we know it’s not always possible to save a marriage, and sometimes it’s not even desirable, but we also know that time and again, marriages, where love seems to have died, have come back from the brink. In the timeless words of Cheryl Tweedy, sometimes couples have to “fight, fight, fight, fight, fight for this love”. And that lyric is oddly true. It’s not a one-time thing. You have to fight to keep love alive over and over, because our relationships, like anything, need time and attention – they have to be nurtured. In essence, point one of this list may need to be repeated throughout your marriage, but that’s normal in almost every relationship.
3. Carve out weekly time together
One great idea is to have a weekly date night where you dress up nicely and have quality time together. That could be a steak and a glass of wine at the table or a kebab and a coke on your lap, but the idea is that you have intentional time, where you make a real effort, and invest in each other. Sticking on Disney Plus for a few hours can be great, but it’s always important that you have time to look at each other and talk. Maybe even put your phones away.
4. Have ‘check in’ times
Another helpful tip is to have a regular time to ‘check in’. This is about setting aside perhaps half an hour every fortnight to check in and make sure each of you are doing OK. Agreeing questions together in advance can help this and it stops it feeling personal when the time comes. You might for example ask: how are we doing; is there anything reoccurring that we need to figure out; how can I be more helpful to you; are there any plans we want to start thinking about for the future?
You could do anything really, but while life is in this strangely intense place, going that extra mile for your relationship can really help.
5. Be quick to apologise and quick to forgive
Finally, one helpful principle that many couples have found helpful in keeping love alive, is being quick to apologise and quick to forgive. Cut each other some slack. Where you can, let the small things go. And if you’ve messed up or said the wrong thing, own it. If you’re the one receiving an apology, accept it. This isn’t always easy, but it’s healthy not to hold on to your partner’s mistakes. Rather, focus on the good and move forward together.
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