My wife and I turned the flame of our burgeoning relationship into a raging blaze on an epic three and a half month, 8,000 mile motorcycle trip. The result, over 17 years of marriage and eight kids! It’s been a magical journey, but nothing about it has been easy. It has taken work and more than a few difficult days to make life a joyful adventure.
I wanted to share a few of the lessons we have learned on keeping a relationship growing, more often than not, the hard way. We’ve thrown things, we’ve yelled, we’ve wanted to quit, we’ve wallowed in the distance of anger, yet we’ve persevered and learned to grow a relationship that is as deep as it is wide.
Here are ten thoughts on growing in a relationship:
- You don’t have to settle. You can grow your relationship and make it something that continually enhances your life. A good relationship is like anything you love, you must be committed to learning, to growing, and always looking to improve. When you feel like you’ve settled, you need to act, or else that settling becomes a chasm of stagnation or worse.
- Arguing is good. Many studies show that couples who argue have healthier relationships. It took a while to learn this in our relationship. For so long I saw arguments as a failure, but the truth is that they are necessary components of a healthy relationship. To argue well, i.e. when the sparks are done flying you can actually talk, means you must respect each other and the relationship enough to fight for it.
- Say you are sorry, and own it. When an argument goes bad, just walk away. Then when you can own your part in the debacle, return and say you are sorry. Expect nothing in return. This kind of unconditional response to adversity is a sure sign to your loved one that your relationship is more than skin deep.
- Make time to talk about your relationship. Schedule time where you give each other an opportunity to talk about the relationship without judgement or animosity. And by “talk about your relationship”, I mean treat your relationship like a third person. Are we talking enough, are their unresolved issues, etc.
- Remind yourself often of why you fell in love in the first place. Look at old pictures, tell old stories, remember those first magnetic embers of love. We aren’t just who we are in this moment, we are a culmination of the past, the present, and the future. Use the victories and lessons of the past as fuel for future growth.
- Share small adventures. Our lives can get so busy we begin to forget about small pleasures. Go for walks, shopping together, coffee, whatever. When life has consumed us, even a short pleasure can seem like a walk on the beach.
- Spend time totally focused on your partner. Massage them until your fingers cramp up, listen and don’t talk, go with them on an errand they could do alone, write them a poem or love letter like you did when you were falling in love. Pray for them. Focusing on them will make the relationship stronger.
- Schedule space for each other. You need space to grow. A suffocating relationship kills growth. We need freedom in the safety of a commitment. A strong relationship is one that is conscious of this space. Here is some good insight into a fully conscious relationship from www.mindbodygreen.com.
- Keep track of your growth. Set goals for the relationship and keep track of them. Growing a relationship is like anything else of value, you need to plan, set goals, work, and review.
- A healthy relationship is two individuals working together. A healthy relationship is kind of like a trinity, two individuals create something deeper and better than themselves, yet they are still themselves. For a relationship to grow, you must also grow as an individual and not lose yourself. This can be really hard for mothers. They can get so caught up in work, husband, children, that they don’t know who they are anymore. Make sure you help her with that.
After 17 years of marriage, I can honestly say that the most exciting part of our relationship is what lies ahead. We made it through the incredibly hard process of learning to grow together and now the future seems filled with possibilities even as our kids grow and we age. Life is about living. Living is about growth. Any healthy relationship makes you better, it encourages you to grow, it is there for you when you stumble and falter.
A relationship is hard work, but if you commit yourself to planting the seeds of growth, you will see something beautiful you could never imagine alone.
One more thing. As I was finishing up this article I asked my wife to take a look. She couldn’t believe I’d left out a key, monumentally important thought, so here is a bonus point for you all!
11. Morning Sex! Like anything else, work on it, make it a priority, and it only gets better and grows! There is no better way to leave behind the night’s worries and start the day with a full head of steam!
Featured photo credit: Bruna + Rafael by danielmviero.com via creativecommons.org