I am coming up on my 10-year anniversary with my life partner and the last decade together has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. We committed to each other when we fell deeply in love, not really knowing the ebbs and flows of what a life commitment meant.
Not long after we fell in love, my husband had an accident and his body took nearly a year to heal. I had to take care of him while he recovered. That was the first of the many curveballs life threw at us. Then, we graduated college with no job prospects due to the economic recession. I worked three part-time jobs, while he fell into a terrible depression that lasted eight months. We moved cities and continents, four times within three years, with each move more stressful than the last. We fought with our families—often.
Then, I had a death on my side of the family, which uprooted us yet again to a different country—an impulsive decision that paid off in the long run. After the death of this family member, I suffered from depression for nearly a year, while my husband pulled it together and started his career. While everyone else around us was travelling, getting married and having children, we were just starting out. We worked and worked, we budgeted and stayed home and, five years later, we were finally able to pay for our wedding—so at last we said “I do”.
Then I got pregnant and fell so sick for the entire nine months that I had to completely stop working. We had our child and the upheavals continued! As I reflect on the past decade, there have been so many ups and downs already that I wonder what the next 10 years will bring or even the next 60 years... Keeping our marriage alive through all of these external struggles has definitely been a test of commitment for me and my husband.
Making your own happy ending
The truth is that there is no such thing as ‘happily ever after’. Things like job security, money, family, death, anxiety, moving and health can all affect your marriage. To add to those, you will be going through moments of different personal interests and common everyday disagreements. Certain stressors can affect their behaviour and moods, and you never know how long these periods will last. So yes, sometimes it may be hard to be with your spouse.
I tend to look at marital problems as a way of life, telling me that a certain area requires my attention. If I am having a hard time with my spouse, I take it as an indicator that I need to work harder at my marriage by introspecting, ever so gently. Sometimes life shoves couples on a whirlwind, away from each other. And being married for life—it is YOUR job to find your way back to each other and reconnect.
Here’s what you can do:
Remember why you got together in the first place
Even in the hardest times, you must get back to the source; that is, the way you used to be in the good old days. Remember what qualities attracted you to your spouse, even if they are now shrouded. Remember why you fell in love with her and the beautiful things she used to do. Reminisce—together if you can.
Spend quality time
I once read somewhere that an average couple only spends seven minutes of quality time together per day. Work and looking after the kids can distract you from your bonding time. Take the opportunity to look for moments of your togetherness where you can improve your reconnection. This could even be as simple as sharing a meal together and asking your partner how their day was. Or, when you are going to bed, turn off all devices and just be there with them. Spending quality time is all about giving your undivided attention to your partner.
There is nothing like physical touch to unite a couple because, in tough situations, sometimes there are just no words to say. A quick kiss as you go out of the door, a hug before bed, or even just an old-fashioned handholding does wonders.
Never stop making the effort to date and woo your partner. Set up a weekly date night like going for dinner and a movie on a certain day of the week and stick to it—don’t cancel, even if you have been arguing. Spending quality time together will reconnect you faster, and more frequently.
No ‘problem’ talk
Everyone will say that you should communicate with your spouse, but you shouldn’t overdo it. If you are having issues, briefly speak of them and then give it a rest, do not nag them about it. You should not pollute your quality time with talking about all your problems, all the time.
Take time for yourself
Sometimes the best way to take the pressure off your marriage is to spend time with yourself so that you could work on ‘you’. In a marriage, it is so easy to give-give-give to the other person that you unconsciously start to resent them. You also need to ask yourself what you are bringing to the table for yourself and take an inventory of your needs.
No marriage is immune to life’s strains. In a long term partnership, you have to be able to ride the waves in the good times and the bad. Then you can weather any storm that comes upon you.
Alexandra Madhavan is a writer and photographer living in Vancouver. She writes on intercultural relationships, parenting, travel, and wellbeing. For more about her visit madh-mama.blogspot.ca
This was first published in the April 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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