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How I Keep the Spark Alive in My 10 Years of Marriage

How I Keep the Spark Alive in My 10 Years of Marriage

Have you been having a difficult time connecting with your partner? Whether you’ve been together for decades or just a few months, it’s important to always take steps to keep the spark alive.

We’ve all heard of the seven-year itch, but getting past this point doesn’t make a long-term relationship any easier. The truth is that marriage is something you have to work on daily. Without a conscious effort on your part, it will be much easier than you might expect for your relationship to go from hot and heavy to complacent and even resentful.

In more than 10 years of marriage, I’ve discovered that nothing kills the romance faster than falling into a boring routine, especially if this doesn’t include prioritizing each other. If you take only one thing out of this article, let it be this:

We prioritize each other.

This is the secret to my marriage’s longevity, and it’s something that everyone can do. In fact, placing a greater emphasis on making my husband a priority by giving him my undivided attention is one of the quickest ways to stop us from bickering or beginning to drift apart. The best part is that when I prioritize him, he prioritizes me in return.

Of course, there’s a lot more that I do to help keep the spark alive. Prioritizing my spouse also means looking for opportunities to connect with each other mentally, emotionally and physically.

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Fortunately, there are many easy ways to turn a boring day into an exciting evening. If you and your partner haven’t been connecting properly and have started talking about going to couples counseling, consider trying the following tips first.

We always explore somewhere new together to explore the way to spark.

Whether you head off on a long vacation or simply take a day to explore a new park together, there is extensive evidence that visiting new places will be good for your relationship. In fact, studies have found that couples that make an effort to go somewhere new experience many positive benefits, [1] including:

  • Increased playfulness
  • Less stress
  • Improved sense of connection
  • Emotional nurturing
  • Personal and relationship growth

We make a romantic meal at home to save our marriage (and money!)

Couples tend to romanticize going out to eat together, but this can be noisy and expensive. Instead, start the spark in your own kitchen by cooking a romantic meal. It’s nice if one of you cooks for the other, but in my experience, it’s even better if you share the cooking duties. This puts the two of you together in a creative space, which can easily lead to touching and kissing.

If you’re concerned that cooking takes too much time, don’t worry: most people spend 34 minutes or less per day on food prep. [2] Consider this time to be like the foreplay of your mealtime, and the evening is virtually certain to go in a fun direction.

We express gratitude daily to wipe off negativity.

If you’re anything like me, you dated quite a few frogs before you found your Prince (or Princess) Charming. One of the biggest issues that leads to couples counseling and ultimately tears relationships apart is being negative with each other instead of focusing on the positive.

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Take time at least once a day to tell your spouse something you’re grateful for about them. It doesn’t have to be something huge; it can be as simple as saying, “I’m grateful that you are kind to strangers.” This will have big mental health benefits for both of you:

  • Reduced depression
  • More positive thought patterns
  • Overall better well-being

In turn, this will make your relationship happier, less stressed and more conducive to romance.

We just say that we find each other attractive.

Do you still tell your spouse that you find them to be attractive? This is something that many couples stop doing over time, even if they still feel the same level of attraction.

The problem is that people need to hear positive feedback on a regular basis. Therefore, if my husband were to go an extended period of time without indicating that he’s attracted to me, I could naturally start to feel unattractive.

Help your spouse’s self-esteem and rekindle the romance by doing things such as giving them a genuine compliment daily and letting them know when they look nice in a new outfit. Another great spark starter is hitting on them with the looks and words you used to express interest when the relationship was new.

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We schedule a weekly date to spend quality time together.

Do you carve out at least a few hours weekly to be alone together? Kids, work and other obligations may seem more important at times, but they’re not. This is because numerous studies have found that couples that don’t make alone time a priority are much more likely to end in divorce. [3]

A date doesn’t have to be a big, expensive night out. What it should do is get the two of you outside of your home and away from kids, jobs and any other responsibilities. You could go for a walk in the woods, dine at your favorite restaurant or attend a concert together. Just be sure to make some time to talk during the date. Making this a priority will help the two of you in several ways:

  • Improved sense of commitment
  • Rekindled passion
  • Romance booster
  • Better communication

We hug every day and are physically affectionate.

I’m not a big fan of public displays of affection, so I can understand if you don’t spend your date night constantly touching each other and making out. However, it’s very important for casual physical affection to be one of the cornerstones of your daily life. This helps keep intimacy alive, and allows the two of you to check in on each other non-verbally.

Hugs are especially powerful, and researchers say sharing a 20-second hug at least once a day will greatly help both of you. In fact, hugs may even be the key to improving cardiovascular health! [4] Aside from reducing your blood pressure, a 20-second hug will help the two of you bond and strengthen your relationship: [5]

  • Hugging relieves stress and anxiety
  • Improves feelings of trust
  • Generates more compassion

It’s definitely easier to be romantic when you’re not stressed out and are with a partner you trust. Try giving your spouse a 20-second hug before and after work each day to see how it keeps the spark alive!

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We schedule intimate time and get closer.

It may feel odd at first to consider scheduling time to be intimate. Many experts have indicated, though, that it can actually not only spice things up but also save your marriage. [6] After all, most of us live hectic lives. I certainly do, and it’s common for me to work seven days in a row. This makes it hard to wait for sex to just spontaneously happen.

Scheduling intimate time instead allows you to prioritize being together physically. This is just as important as going on a weekly date. As an added bonus, the two of you will have something to look forward to. This anticipation can make everything much better, and it will encourage flirtatious behavior between encounters.

We do these simple things all the times and our marriage is drastically improved.

As you can see, all of the things on this list require you to prioritize each other. Without developing this one simple habit, it will be very difficult for any relationship to thrive and couples counseling may quickly become a necessity.

Fortunately, I’m living proof that making my spouse a priority by doing things such as having a weekly date night and expressing gratitude can keep the spark alive for more than 10 years. It’s never too late to make a change; spice up your relationship today!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

More by this author

Holly Chavez

Writer, Entrepreneur, Small Business Owner

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Last Updated on August 20, 2018

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1]Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2]Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3]Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4]Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5]Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6]The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7]Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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