What if we make marriage a lot harder than it needs to be? What if I told you there are a few tips for a happy marriage you can follow to easily bring intimacy and closeness back to your relationship?
The good news is that most couples do not need an overhaul of their relationship, they just need to be reminded that it's going to be OK. The military lifestyle throws a lot of curveballs, and it can make anyone feel like the relationship is on shaky ground, even if it isn't.
It is completely normal for intimacy with your spouse to ebb and flow. It can be days before you get an evening together when your service member is training. Some schedules have you feeling like you are ships passing in the night, literally. Even reintegration after a military separation or deployment can leave your military marriage feeling disconnected.
For many couples, anxiety runs high wondering if they will ever feel close again. I know this sounds strange coming from a counselor, but sometimes reconnecting doesn't have to include massive processing or rehashing the relationship.
Even if your relationship is struggling with bigger issues, here are a few tips for a happy marriage that are not only amazingly simple but effective to "get there" quickly.
Tips for a Happy Marriage: Daily Check-ins
When one or both spouses feel insecure, it is easy to go overboard on communication, especially when you haven't seen each other for a while. A "check-in" is a simple five- to 10-minute conversation that gives your spouse a highlight reel of how you are doing. It's perfect for early in the morning to communicate how you slept (which impacts your mood and day) or at the end of the work day. You simply take turns briefly answering these questions:
1.How am I feeling (physically and emotionally)?
2.What is on my mind? (i.e. I slept horribly, I have a million things to do, etc.)
3.How can I best serve you today?
Notice that this is not a time to solve problems, talk about bills, or even process emotional wounds. You would be surprised how often your spouse's mood has nothing to do with you. Speak briefly in one to two sentences per question and catch up. Give each other the permission to not worry about the relationship by checking in.
Tips for a Happy Marriage: Hold hands
When was the last time you held hands? As ridiculous as it sounds, we can too easily fall out of this habit. Have you ever tried to argue when you are holding hands? It's pretty difficult to be mad at someone when you are holding hands. Physical touch is a strong communicator that says, "I'm cool with you." Often, it is better than words.
Usually one spouse values physical intimacy more than the other and gets a bad rap as if all they want is sex. Instead, it actually means they experience deep connection, love and express love through touching first.
Holding hands goes a long way. Reach out to your spouse, take them by the hand, and try your check-in. It is pretty powerful.
Tips for a Happy Marriage: Eye contact
Yep, it is really that simple, folks. Couples who come to me for marriage counseling or who are on retreats tend to sit shoulder to shoulder rather than facing each other. They start to squirm when I ask them to sit knee to knee because it is a more intimate posture.
Technology is also robbing us of intimate moments when our eyes are diverted to something else. Lately, our family is attempting a "Life After 5 p.m." rule in which all devices are put away at 5 p.m. It is a time to acknowledge each other, look each other in the eyes and be fully present.
Eye contact also opens your hearing in a way that will reduce miscommunication and express that your spouse is the most important person in your world. Want to go even deeper? Stare into each other's eyes for five minutes without talking. At first, you will giggle, but if you can make it past that, tears will naturally follow. Soul connection doesn't always involve words; we just want to be truly seen.
The next time you feel like it is all falling apart, try one or all of these things. You will be surprised at how much difference they make. Physical expressions of love, undivided attention and briefly communicating your internal world go a long way.
While some marriages have major issues that trigger conflict (or what I call "minefields"), most if not all can reduce those mountains back to anthills by working on these simple solutions.
Stress a little less by being just a little bit more intentional. It may be just that easy.