We all know how difficult it is to have romantic dinners when the Fiesta Trio from Dora the Explorer is blaring from the living room, and what it’s like to try to have an adult conversation in the car when you’re being constantly bombarded by clever observations and (less clever, less polite) demands for juice and pacifiers. What is the secret to a great relationship? Making the effort!
How can you make the effort? Here are my suggestions:
1. Stop thinking of marriage as a competition. Who got a night out last? Who changes more diapers? Who works harder? Who makes more money? Who drives the older car? Just stop. Who cares? If you’re looking for your spouse to turn to you and say, “Wow, I can’t believe how much you handle, and how gracefully you do everything.” Then either just tell your spouse that’s what you want to hear, or forget that you want to hear it. Or, here’s a novel concept – say this to your spouse and MEAN IT. Without any eye rolling or sarcasm, tell your partner that you are impressed by everything he does, what he does well, and that you appreciate him. In my experience, saying something nice to someone leads to hearing something nice about yourself in return.The more you nag, the less someone will want to say nice things to you. The more you complain, the less inspired someone will be to compliment you. Try it with your girlfriend, “Why Sheryl, I just love that color on you.” What’s she going to say? Something mean? No. She’s going to say, “Wow, that means so much coming from you because you always look so put together.” Men are the same way. Just don’t expect the response to be as immediate as your girlfriend’s. Every marriage has its issues, but competition between teammates shouldn’t be one of them.
2. Now that you’ve created a culture of “nice”, create a culture of sexy. Now, I won’t go into too much detail here, because my mother in law has been known to leave a comment or two on this blog, but c’mon – shave your freaking legs. How much time does it really take? I never understand women who complain about the 2 minutes it takes to shave, and then complain that their husbands never touch them. Get your hair done, get your nails done. Yes, these things cost money. It’s true. But it’s also an investment, showing your partner that he/she (this is a liberal blog) is worth the effort. It takes time. Yes, also true. But isn’t it worth it? In my experience, these efforts go much further than fancy lingerie. And, Dr. Laura is right about one thing -and arguably only one thing – no one is going to be turned on, or feel welcomed home, to find you in that morning’s PJs or in a spit-up covered t-shirt.
3. Date Nights. Date Nights. Date Nights. Jessica posted that a monthly date night is among her resolutions. I would argue that this is a good start but not enough (especially for people with “free” babysitting available by grandparents). Weekly date nights – every Saturday night – I put on makeup, heels, and get ready for a nice walk, dinner (even if it’s sharing a burrito or sushi and a beer) and coffee or ice cream before heading home. 2-3 hours. No movies. Only talking, interacting, and no talking about Diapers or issues relating to the kids. Finances are fine. I always encourage productive discussions about finances. And even sex. But not about kids.
4. Plan a weekend getaway. If you’ve never done this, schedule it now. Arrange the babysitters, days off, hotel. Instead of fancy birthday gifts, give the gift of a getaway. It doesn’t need to involve an airplane (although one of our friends really impressed me by whisking his wife away to Mexico and never telling her where they were going until they made their connecting flight). If you already do one weekend away each year, plan a second. I really believe in getting away, just the two of us, every 2-3 months.
Which of these will you try to implement this year?