As a fitness professional, I can tell you that if you don’t move your muscles in a challenging way, you lose them. In the same regard, if you don’t stimulate your relationship in challenging ways, you forget why you are together in the first place.
Not only are Americans putting on the pounds more so than ever, marriages and long-term relationships are out of shape too. Despite a bigger population, less people are marrying and more are divorcing.
We get our car tuned up regularly. We go to the gym to keep our waistlines in check. We get our annual physical whether we feel sick or not. Relationships also need an occasional tune-up. We have a better chance at couples longevity if we take the time to exercise our monogamous muscles.
Try these tips:
- The 5 Minute Formula: Like a warm up at the beginning of an exercise routine, spend the first few minutes each evening greeting your mate with a hug and some pleasant small talk, as opposed to, say, biting their head off for leaving the gate open so the dog got out. Research shows that if you set the tone in the first few minutes, the entire evening will go better.
- The Criticism Sandwich: If you have to bring up a negative topic with your mate, sandwich it between two positive statements. Rather than, “Hey, I told you to put your tools away yesterday and you didn’t do it.” Try saying, “Honey, I know you are getting so much done on that backyard project – but do think you could put the sharp tools away each time you use them so that the kids don’t need stitches? It’s really going to look awesome when it’s finished.”
- Budge-ability: Be willing to budge on stale-mate topics. Think of it as cultivating empathy. When a topic that’s been beaten to death comes up once again, consider seeing it from your better half’s viewpoint. As hard as it is to be open-minded about hearing their side of an argument about why the his parents should visit twice every week, be willing to listen with new ears. Your partner may return the favor next time you need him to give a little.
- Intentional Dialog: Take turns talking and do not interrupt. Start sentences with, “I feel” rather than, “You always.”
- Compliments: Flirt with flattery. It gets easy to stop saying those nice words as the years go by. Remember, it’s easier to catch flies with honey.
- Let’s Get Physical: It’s a fact that men do not need the warm-up for intimacy that women do. But if women define our desires, meaning telling your mate specifically what you like and do not like, we have a better chance of getting satisfaction too. Meeting in the middle is an important consideration in the bedroom.
- Surprises: Get out of the rut. Surprise your mate. This doesn’t necessarily mean an expensive gift. Try a kiss on the neck while they do the dishes or a note on their pillow. A little goes a long way.
- Remember Why You Fell in Love: Get out the photos from when you first started dating. Discuss old memories. Remember the highs by talking about them when they cross your mind.
- Date Night: You need time for just the two of you on the calendar once a week, if possible. No other couples. No talk of kids and carpools. Again, it can be as simple as a walk, or a cup of coffee after diner.
Using these relationship rules can help you stay in shape, love-wise. Just like with exercise, muscles respond to daily use. Muscle memory forms so that activities get easier. In the same way, daily mental practice keeps your mate muscles moving. Ask anyone who’s been divorced and they will tell you that maintaining a relationship is definitely preferable—and easier–than repairing it.