Who does not dream of a snuggling up in front of an open fire on chilly days? It is beginning to look a lot like winter out there and we are starting to smell smoke in the air as people crank up their fireplaces. We just cannot wait to come in out of the cold.
Sadly, many homes are as cold on the inside as they are on the outside. Sure, the thermostat may say 70 degrees, but the chill factor between couples is often below freezing. Many relationships begin with warmth and then grow cold over time. Just as a fire needs to be stoked to keep its warmth, relationships need to be repositioned and shaken up to keep the flames blazing.
So, how do relationships retain this warmth? What can couples do to keep their fire burning as the novelty of their love story wears off and the years pass?
- Be mindful of the words you speak and the tone you use. We may not go on many dates throughout the month, eat many expensive meals, or explore many exotic lands, but we will talk to each other. Conversation is something we share consistently throughout the duration of our courtship and marriage and can be a means of connecting or bridge burning. How we speak to each other is extremely important, especially since it happens all the time. Couples who speak to each other softly and gently have fewer blow-ups and feel more freedom to be open with their thoughts and emotions.
- Sow gentleness; reap closeness and openness – An environment of gentleness and understanding breeds openness. How do you interact with a dog which occasionally bites you versus a dog which is normally calm and snuggly? Obviously, we are much more cautious with an aggressive dog; we approach gingerly and look for negative body language in order to choose our actions carefully as not to incite its wrath. However, with gentle dogs, we approach with ease. We feel comforted in their presence. We want to scratch behind their ears and hug them (at least I do ~smile~). It is not much different with people. After we have been bitten by someone emotionally, we build walls around our hearts. We approach cautiously as to not awaken the beast. But, when we trust someone to listen, understand us, and cloak us in gentleness, we are free and at ease around him or her. We can open our hearts more over time because we know we are safe. When a mate feels bitten at home and safe elsewhere, affairs become a true temptation.
- Prioritize the insignificant moments. You will only have a handful of life-changing, memorable moments. Graduations, your wedding day, welcoming your children into the world – these events comprise an extremely small portion of your life. Most of your time will be spent in the mundane moments. If you do not pour your energy into the less exciting times, your relationship will begin to break apart. Years after you get married, find ways to show your sweetheart he or she is still your best friend – still your favorite person and the love of your life. This could happen with post-it notes, gifts, kind words, back rubs before bedtime, or in any number of ways; but, it needs to happen and it needs to happen often. Those “insignificant” gestures will be like crazy glue to your connection.
- Enjoy conversations in every season. It will be easier to carry on full length dialogues at certain junctures of your relationship than others (e.g., newlyweds vs. having toddlers in the house), but it behooves us all to keep the lines of communication open. Even ten minutes of talking a day is worlds better than letting weeks go by without checking in with each other. The “How was your day?” talks are essential to remaining close and involved with each other.
- Be best friends, not just partners. You can work well with your business partner and yet have no desire to take him or her on vacation. You and your future spouse have many tasks ahead of you, but it is important to occasionally set aside the business of being married so you can enjoy being friends. I have fun with friends; I laugh with them; I purposely choose to go to movies and play games with them. If I have fun with friends, but only conduct business with Eric, our relationship will suffer deeply. Business keeps the engine running, but friendship makes the trip worthwhile.
My hope for you is that ten, twenty, thirty, forty, and even fifty years from now, you will still enjoy going home to a warm and fulfilling relationship. However, keeping your future marriage warm and inviting will require you and your sweetheart to go against your natures. Naturally, we want our way and our needs met. We concentrate on securing our own comfort and happiness.
In order to create a warm and lasting home, we must seek our mate’s needs first, hold our tongues when we want to speak harshly, humble ourselves, engage with each other often, and remember to stay best friends.
Come in out of the cold for a lifetime. Want to?
Are you and your sweetheart creating a warm atmosphere in your relationship which you can carry into your future marriage?