“Good relationships don’t just happen. They take time, patience and two people who truly want to be together.” ~Unknown
My husband and I were going through a difficult time a few years ago. It felt like a pivotal time in our relationship. People say that marriage isn’t easy and you have your ups and downs. Well, we were definitely experiencing a low point.
We had been together for several years; we had been high school sweethearts and were each other’s best friends.
During this time we had several issues going on in our life, one of which was my husband being out of work, and suffering with anxiety, depression, and a lack of self-esteem and confidence as a result. Our relationship was in a bad place and we were being tested.
We were not spending any quality time together, nor were we going out together as a couple (my husband didn’t want to face anyone, including friends and family).
We didn’t feel like each other’s friends, let alone the lovers and best friends we had grown to be. At times we even felt like strangers—or even worse, each other’s enemies. We were forever fighting, bickering, and whining at each other.
After a lot of heartache and many heated arguments, we realized we could no longer go on like this. When we stopped to analyze the situation, we asked ourselves several questions:
Did we still love each other? Did we still want to be married? Had everything changed so much that we just couldn’t work things out?
Once we decided we wanted to be in our marriage, we each made a commitment to start treating each other differently.
We hoped that, with a new perspective and our mutual love and respect for each other, we could start working together and make the change we so desperately needed. We hoped that a change in attitude and behavior would salvage our marriage.
The following four elements became very critical in our relationship and led to us saving our marriage, as well as making it stronger for the future.
During this rough period we stopped communicating clearly. It’s funny how, as human beings, we withdraw from each other when there is a sign of trouble or misunderstanding.
We decided to consciously work on our communication. We spoke in “I” statements rather than “you” statements.
We expressed how we felt rather than blaming a situation on the other person. “I” statements work because they show how you feel, whereas “you” statements create a sense of accusation and blame.
This helped us be open with how we felt, stopped us from shutting each out, and allowed us to talk about our issues in a productive and efficient way.
We were feeling a lot of resentment toward each other, and not feeling loved and appreciated, so we put in place a daily appreciation diary. Keeping a personal gratitude journal is a great asset; it makes you focus on the positive in your life and leads to happiness.
Keeping a gratitude diary as a couple had the same benefits and gave us hope. It forced us to focus on the positives of the day and not just the negative events or what the other person did or didn’t say. It made us appreciate the other person and see them for the person we fell in love with.
It also made us feel good to be acknowledged and appreciated for what we had done on a daily basis. It helped to hear the other person say thank you, even though we were being thanked for doing our expected roles—me, for going to work full time and my husband, for taking over the home duties.
It was important for us to hear the gratitude from the other person so we didn’t feel like we were being taken for granted.
3. Quality time as a couple.
It was also helpful for us to schedule quality time with each other—getting out of the house and spending time together away from all the issues of our life; taking the step back and just being with each other.
It’s important to set some time aside to just be a couple; spend quality time together regularly, but especially during hard times. This doesn’t need to involve money; just a walk down the park together or along the beach will help. Just taking yourself out of your home environment will be beneficial.
We enjoyed each other’s company once again and started to feel more happiness as a couple.
4. Showing love as the other person wants to receive it.
We both still loved each other, but didn’t really feel that we were loved. I’ve read books and articles about how people receive and give love differently. Your partner may not perceive love in the same way as you; and remember, someone’s perception is their reality.
How your partner receives your love is important. You can’t assume the other person knows that you love them.
For myself, I feel loved when people spend quality time with me, making the effort to talk to me and listen. My husband, on the other hand, receives love by affirmations, people giving him compliments and positive statements.
With this in mind we made an effort to show each other love in ways that we knew would make each other feel loved on a regular basis.
By doing all of this we started to feel like we were in a loving marriage and that weren’t battling through our difficult life on our own. We had each other there for the support we needed.
We look back on this time as a lesson learned. We feel proud that we got through it and grateful that our relationship is stronger. We faced the challenge and came out on top.
We now practice these simple things every day to grow together and maintain a good and loving relationship.
We can be confident that by using these simple techniques, we can face the many challenges life throws at us together, such as having a miscarriage last year and our ongoing quest to start our own family.
If you are fortunate enough to share your life with someone you love, then you owe it to yourself and your partner to make an effort every day in your relationship.
They say love conquers all and that all you need is love, but unfortunately a solid relationship needs more than that. It requires being there for each other, showing support, feeling loved, being grateful that you are sharing your lives together, and above all, showing your appreciation every day.
Photo by Jeanne