Couples often present to therapy when they are in a crisis. Couples’ Therapists often cannot help when there is no longer a pulse to the relationship. Most individuals go into marriage thinking that they’ll always get along as well as when they take their vow and are shocked when they or their partners fail to dazzle anymore. What Disney movies don’t show in fairy tale relationships is the work it takes AFTER the “I do”!
Couples often know ‘theoretically’ that marriage takes work but when the proverbial doo-doo hits the fan they lack what to do ‘practically’—we all agree that maintaining our cars, even when they seem to be running perfectly, is a must, but we often do not think relationship check-ups are necessary. Here are some proven tips to maintain your relationship so it hits the 200,000 mile mark!
Tips to Give Your Relationship a Tune-Up
1) Get regular tune-ups! The ink was not even dry on the purchase of my new vehicle when I was notified of my 6000 mile check-up. I was reluctant to go, after all everything was running smoothly why should I spend the time and money when likely my car was perfect? I could just check the oil and if all was good I could drive a few more thousand miles, right?? WRONG! We all know that by the time we hear that weird sound in the engine, we will likely be dropping several hundred dollars. And the look the mechanic gives us for not sticking to a maintenance schedule can be pretty embarrassing. Same with our relationships! If we are not ‘checking in’ we could be setting ourselves up for some serious time and money later on!
Just as you would hire an attorney on retainer, stay connected with a professional who specializes in proactive couples’ work. You may have attended pre-marital counseling prior to your marriage, see if you can set up a ‘check-in’ schedule every few months when things are going really well and more frequently during tough times. This professional should be grounded in positive psychology or a strength based approach. He or she should be asking about what works, how you solve difficulties, what you love and respect about each other! That person is an advocate for your relationship so when something gets broken, he or she believes in the relationship and has seen you at your best. That person can remind you that a trade-in is NOT in your best interest!
2) Get a wash and a wax! I used to live across the street from a man who would wash and wax his convertible Corvette every Saturday. Jim would spend hours, his car under the shade of a big oak tree, wiping and buffing until his baby gleamed! He took such pride in his car and such pleasure in keeping it shiny and beautiful. Don’t ask about Jim’s marriage though; last I heard they had split up. She got the house, he got the car.
Any marriage counselor will tell you that you get out of a relationship what you put into it. This can be very difficult to hear when you’re raising kids, starting a business, maintaining a home, caring for aging parents, and trying to have a little “me time” by going to the gym or playing golf. Spending time together is not just another thing
check off on the to-do list though. It is important to create a white picket fence around the garden of your marriage. This means you must create rituals of togetherness that nothing and no one can get in-between. Often couples plan a ‘date night’ and that is great but it is more than just that. Happy long-term couples show more of an interweaving of their lives. They have common experiences, they know each other’s stories, they are in each other’s corner, and they listen to each other’s dreams and hopes. This comes from spending time with each other, every day, every week, all year long.
3) Take her out for a drive! In the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Ferris’ nerdy friend Cameron agrees to let Ferris take his father’s much loved, but never driven, 1961 Ferrari out for a joy ride. We first see this beautiful car in a pristine, glass enclosed, garage as more a piece of art than a vehicle designed to give pleasure to the driver. Ferris enjoys every minute (as do a couple of valets!) of driving the machine! The car, says Ferris, is meant to be driven.
Pleasure is something that is meant to be part of your relationship. Many couples come to therapy and, when asked, cannot remember the last time they received or have given each other pleasure. Mind you, they may have had the obligatory bonk the night before but even that has failed to give much pleasure to either or both of them. Take each other out for a joy ride! Figure out what new pleasure you can offer. Don’t take the same route home each day—take a Sunday drive! Remember when you first began seeing each other, and you spent a significant amount of time thinking about what the other person wanted or liked? Revisit that place in your mind—become excited with the thought of surprising each other.
In reality there are no hard and fast rules that will guarantee a life of marital bliss but it has been found that what we decide to focus on becomes more of our reality than what we choose to ignore! To the extent that we focus on our relationship and privilege our beloved we will create a relationship we can be proud of. In the end a vintage Porsche in pristine condition will always be worth more than a brand new Ford Fiesta!