Valentine’s day, a day to celebrate the love in your life.
Love is the most important asset that enhances the value of every other asset that you appreciate. Love may be the most profound gift of life, but yet can be quite painful at times.
Most of us are never taught the winning strategies for the biggest relationship of our lives. We learn our marital strategies from our parents’ marriage or just common sense. Our parents might not have had the best marriage, or the strategies that worked for them might not work for us in a different day and age.
The fallacy of common sense is that men and women think differently and hence what is obvious to one partner might not be obvious to the other and vice versa.
As the years go by, the pressures of life mount, rejuvenation of the marital spark is the not primary goal in the minds of most. We all get into a comfortable rhythm and gradually the intensity of fire reduces. Even without external distractions, maintaining a warm and healthy relationship is not easy.
But, when we add our social influences through conversation and Facebook images of others’ exotic vacations, we start questioning the quality of our life and our relationships. I am no expert in relationships and I have made more than my share of mistakes in my relationships, but after 21 years of marriage, I have found the following seven strategies that can enhance and revitalize your relationship with your significant others.
1. Make a list of the great qualities of your spouse and go through the list often: This might seem like a trivial exercise, but it is very powerful. By making a list of the positive qualities that you appreciate, your gratitude and temperament improves and that emotion makes you behave in relationship-enhancing ways. Furthermore, during the times of disagreements, conflicts and issues, you are able to balance the blame and anger with the list of positives that you have already articulated multiple times within yourself.
2. Understand the love language of your spouse and communicate your love in that language that she responds to: Few years back, I read a book called, “The Five Love Languages” – by Gary Chapman. This was a very valuable read. It outlines five ways to express and experience lovethat Chapman calls "love languages":
- Gift giving
- Quality time
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
Most of us have one or more of these ways we appreciate expression of love. Most often, we assume that our partner appreciates and experiences love the same way we do.
This leads to situations where one or both partners try to express love for each other, but it does not get reciprocated because of different love language that the spouse has. Hence, it is important to understand your love language and your spouse’s love language to provide the expression and experience your partner seeks. To understand love languages for you and your spouse, you can go to Gary’s site at http://fivelovelanguages.com
3. Have regular date nights without the kids, where the focus is more on listening, understanding and not just over kids' homework issues: When we start our relationship, we are excited to meet, talk and share our thoughts. As life progresses after marriage, career, children and financial concerns take the front seat and romantic aspect of the relationship gets crowded to background. Continuing to live like this, results in empty nesters who don’t know enough about each other to connect back during the most promising years of life. To prevent this scenario, proactive steps must be taken to keep the relationship rejuvenated, effort must be made to listen to the partner and understand what is going on in his/her private life. Little gestures of love like flowers and breakfast in bed (for women) and allowing extended time in man-cave (for men) must be a regular habit.
4. Never compare internally or externally with others to the disadvantage of your spouse: Comparison is a dangerous slope. When we compare our life with our friends based upon an incomplete picture of their lives, we tend to judge our life harshly and this leads to persistent dissatisfaction. When you communicate your comparative thoughts to your spouse, it really hurts him/her. If you have to compare, share how your spouse is better than other spouses. There is a saying that, “It was not love that hurt my days, it all was because of little ways”. The little ways of appreciation are not little at all.
5. Take a pause during the times of intense disagreement or conflict: Human mind has been designed for survival and during intense anger situations; it goes into auto-pilot without any supervision from the rational part of the brain. This is why we hear about murders because of road-rage and bar brawls. When you find yourself in the middle of an intense conflict, there is a good possibility of causing some real damage to the relationship either verbally or physically. A good idea is to take a pause from the conflict and come back to it after the anger has subsided. This simple strategy can solve some big complicated problems.
6. While resolving conflict, seek to understand and then be understood: This is a habit that I learnt from Stephen Covey in his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. This habit is critical to resolve the tough challenges in any relationship. When you sit down to resolve a conflict, understand the perspective from your spouse's perspective and make sure that she feels understood. Then explain your point of view in a calm tone. Also, explain how a specific behavior makes you feel. Then, synergize to get the best alternative. Sometimes, you can get a better alternative when you work together and sometimes you might have to be satisfied with a healthy compromise. Men and women think differently and this difference must be kept into account while discussing and finding alternatives. A very valuable book which highlights the different meanings and styles of conversation between men and women is “Men are from Mars and Women from Venus”. Reading this book can help you to understand the subtext within the main text of conversation and can help to have a better resolution of these challenges.
7. Never go to bed angry: One important rule that many successful marriages adopt is the rule that no matter how angry they are with disagreements throughout the day, they make it a habit to speaks words of affirmation and validation before going to bed. This can be done even when the conflict is not yet resolved. For example you can say that, “I understand that we see things differently and we still have to find a resolution for the problem X, but I want you to know that no matter what the resolution is, I love you and I am grateful that we are in this relationship.” This simple habit can prevent issues from festering and worsening the relationships.
These strategies can help anyone to improve their relationships. Am I an expert on relationships with multiple degrees? No. Do I never make mistakes? No, I make a ton of mistakes and my list of mistakes might be very long. But, all of us can’t be PhD and still have to live in relationships. My goal is to share what has worked for me and hope that it might work for you too. I wish you the very best of rejuvenated and evergreen love this Valentine’s Day.