I have been contemplating some things I can do to strengthen my marriage and relationship with my husband because, lets face it, relationships can be hard and if you don't work on them, like anything else, they will fade out and die. That is not something you want to have happen to a relationship you obviously have invested yourself in, or you wouldn't be married, have children with, or whatever the case may be, right? I have also talked with one of my sisters and a friend very recently who have also been having these thoughts so I figured there may be others too who are sharing these feelings. I really love Michelle's idea about keeping the notebook throughout the year and writing in all of the reasons they make you laugh or make you happy, but, let's face it, if you only give it to them once a year, there are 364 other days you may not be expressing those feelings and appreciation to them. So here are some ideas for you to do on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis to help strengthen your marriage and make things fun again!
1. Leave little notes for them to find letting them know you appreciate what they are doing for you: working to provide for your family, mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage, washing your car, helping with dishes....whatever they have done to help you.
2. Put "Conversation Hearts", stick-figure pictures, or other little notes in their lunch letting them know you love them, or giving them something to look forward to when they return home that night!
3. Try reading the book, "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. This should help you figure out what your spouses "Love Language" is so you can help "fill their Love Bucket". (Borrow it from the library, most will have a copy of it!) These are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Most people have one or two very apparent ones and if you don't know how to speak in this language, they may not feel your love for them, have a hard time expressing it to you, and make your relationship difficult!
Here is an example. My Love Language is very much Physical Touch, but my husbands is Acts of Service and Gifts. He would much rather have the house clean and dinner started instead of a hug and kiss when he gets home, and I am the opposite. It took me a really long time to realize this. I can always tell a big difference when I have the house cleaned up and his attitude than when he comes home to a dirty house and cereal for dinner!
4. Do something they like to do. Relationships are about 2 people, not just one, so we need to learn to be unselfish and compromise. This may be something as small as letting them choose the movie you will watch or which restaurant you will go to. Try doing something they like for a date every once and a while too. For instance, my husband really likes to play the Playstation 3 and I am not a big fan, however, I think playing with him for a date would be fun. Now, I will put limits on it like the shooting games but anything else would be fair game and fun. Try finding the thing you can do that he likes and you might blow his mind!
5. A Service A Day. I have always heard as I was growing up, that you will love those you serve, and if you don't like someone,start finding ways you can do service for them and you will learn to love them. I have seen this over and over with my all of the people who have become my best friends. It can be the same way with your spouse!
We tend to get in ruts with them and just do the same things over and over and it can become feeling like a duty or obligation, when really it is a choice to do nice things for them and serve them. Try looking for one nice thing, above and beyond what you normally do to give service to them once a day.
For example, my dad makes my parents bed every morning. He loves doing it and I think is secretly proud at how good he is at making it. I think if my mom were to quickly make the bed one morning every once in a while he would notice it as something nice she did for him that day to say thank you for always making the bed. Now, if she were to do it every day for him, he might start thinking she doesn't think he can do it good enough for her and take offense, so you need to think of something different every day!
One more example and I will move on. My husband doesn't really like to mow the lawn and I really don't mind it, but have PLENTY to do inside the house. Every once in a while, I know he is busy or tired, so I will just spend a little bit of my inside cleaning time to mow the lawn for him. I figure it is kind of a toss up because he likes the inside cleaned too, but would really rather not be mowing the lawn himself. Just be creative and have fun. Don't be offended if they don't notice your service, it is meant to be service, not jobs for pay!
6. Go on Dates. Yes! This is still extremely important! What did you do before you got married that got you to fall in love with this man? You were probably going out with him, seeing him out in all different settings and having fun with him. Dates help you get away from the stresses and pressures that are at home. Please try to remember to keep work, money, kids, and all other home problems at home.
Budget for this so it can be a reality. Dates don't have to be expensive either...sometimes the funnest ones don't cost a thing! Decide what is financially possible for you, but make it a must. Do a babysitting swap with a friend who has kids if you need to, to help make it possible to have your date night!
Here is a link to some dating sites or ideas:
Stay At Home Date Night
In House Date Night
Impress Your Man
The Dating Divas
7. Another book to try. I would suggest buying it because you rip out the pages and I would doubt the libraries will have copies because of this! Once you rip them out though, you can always put the his and hers into ziplock bags and do them again later. The book is called, "101 Nights of Grrrreat Romance," by Laura Corn. This has 101 different dates to go on. Every other one is his, then hers. They range from little to no money, traveling to a destination (dinner) to staying at home, and so on. Each week (or how ever often you two decide you will date), one will decide which page to rip out and then follow the instructions for that date. You can modify it a little if you need or like, but all of the instructions and things you will need are right there. It is a lot of fun, especially when you are both participating in the planning. I know how NOT fun it is to be the only one to plan date, get the baby sitter. . .
8. Try a NEW nightly ritual. By this, I mean more than just saying "I Love You", although that is VERY important. Everyone needs to hear and know this, EVERY day. Here are 2 examples of what I mean by this and you can come up with your own if you don't like them and/or have something different!
I was reading one from "The Dating Divas" that was really cute I would like to try myself. She said every night before they go to bed, they say, "I love you today because. . ." and then proceed to say a reason why. It could be something they did that very day, something in general, or something that has previously happened that has been on your mind. Another reader said their version of this is on a small white board. Every morning, he writes his reason on the board and hangs it on the fridge before going to work so she can see it when she wakes up. She will then write her reason while he is at work and leave it on his pillow to find that night! How cute! I love it!
My other idea comes from my son. For the past few years, he and I would take naps together, a lot, because he wouldn't go to sleep well at nap time once he was first sleeping in a big bed. I was totally okay with that because I LOVE naps! So, he started turning towards me and asking if I would hold his hand while he fell asleep. We would just hold right hand to right hand and both fall asleep like that, facing each other. It was so sweet and I LOVED it. Then, he went to kindergarten and I was so sad to lose that with him. I told my husband we needed to start that at night because I just felt like that was such a connection I had with my son, it would be awesome to have with my husband, falling asleep face to face, hands joined every night. He is not totally sold on it, and we have only done it a couple of times, but I am working on him.
9. Get them random gifts or treats. Maybe not everyone likes to be given things, but I really haven't met that person, have you? You don't have to spend much money at all. When you grocery shop, just think of their favorite candy bar, gummy treat, or chip, and buy that especially for them. Buy them a $5.00 movie you think they would like, wrap it up, and just out of the blue give it to them or leave it under their pillow to let them know you are thinking of them.
My husband apparently likes rye bread. I didn't know this until last year when I heard him telling one of our friends, so I have been making it a point to buy a loaf of rye bread to send with him for his sandwiches in his lunches. No one else gets the bread, I just keep it in the freezer and only pull out the slices I need for that day. He also likes gummy bears, so I just bought him like 2 pounds of it yesterday so I could surprise him with them and send some in his lunch as well. Maybe it won't mean a thing to him, but maybe it will make his day!
10. Do things for him you want him to do for you. I am not talking about manipulating him! I am saying this. A while ago, I was feeling down because I hadn't heard I looked nice, or thank you, or whatever else you start feeling when you are down, and then it dawned on me that I hadn't told my husband he looked nice in a long time either. I hadn't told him thank you for going to work every day for us, or thank you for providing food and a home for us. I hadn't been being as kind and caring as I was wanting him to be being either. It really made me start thinking about the things I was saying and doing too. I can't expect him to be full of compliments and thank you's when all I am doing is complaining and nagging, right?
If you want him to be opening doors for you, try opening his door for him when you are inside the car. Offer complements and gratitude daily. Be respectful and kind. As the golden rule states, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!"
Hope this helps brings some spark back into your relationship!