Nearly 15 years ago, I met my husband. I was sitting in the middle of a Mexican restaurant trying to dislodge a pepper that had wedged its way in between my front two braces when he walked in. I wasn’t supposed to be there that day, but my older sister had convinced me at the last minute to join her for this extra credit lunch planned by their joint Spanish teacher. When he sat down at the table across from me, I fell in love.
Now, after five years of being “just friends,” a decade of dating, three moves, one baby, and countless learning experiences, I can tell you definitively that walking into the restaurant that day was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Like me, you may feel that you won the lottery in life and somehow stumbled upon your perfect partner (and thank God everyday for getting married just in time to avoid Gen Z’s dreadful dating habits). Or, you may have clicked on this post because you feel like you need a bit of help in this category. Either way, continually working toward enhancing your relationship is something we should all be striving for. I know I am.
In a culture that says we should constantly be putting ourselves first (but yet, we still expect our spouse to put us first??), I think it’s more important than ever to prioritize and cherish your relationship. While the Karens of the world may tell you that no matter what you do, your marriage will eventually be filled with resentment and sexless nights, I don’t believe that’s true.
Two people don’t stand at the altar and say “I do” in front of those they love most with the hope of becoming glorified roommates, co-parents, or parting ways altogether. So, how does it slip away then? My theory is that, in many cases, these couples stopped dating.
Do you remember the butterflies you felt when you first met? They didn’t disappear simply because of time that has passed. Maybe you stopped doing certain things that made those feelings come alive, like making out in the car, initiating spontaneous sex while watching a movie, sending mushy midday texts, or getting dressed up for date nights.
With the hardships of life’s ups and downs and the stresses of everyday responsibilities, it may be more difficult during certain times to schedule those one-on-one dates and put in the extra effort, however, I genuinely believe that your marriage depends on it.
I’m certainly not claiming to be the expert in any regard, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that have helped me personally over the years to keep my relationship spicy and thriving, as opposed to simply “alive and well.”
Today I’m sharing eight lessons I’ve learned over the past decade of dating my husband, and why I’m more obsessed with him now than on the day we first met.
1. Intimacy Is More Than Just Sex
When was the last time you grabbed your husband’s butt in the grocery store and whispered in his ear how sexy he looks? We tend to think of intimacy as sex, but it can, and should, be so much more than that.
We all want to feel desired; it’s a basic human instinct and extremely important in a healthy marriage. Try holding hands in the car, wrapping your arms around him while he’s making dinner, surprising him with sexy lingerie, or sending a flirty text during the day to let him know you’re thinking of him.
Hold hands in the car or wrap your arms around him while he’s making dinner.
And while I believe that there is more to a romantic relationship than just sex, sex still plays a very important role in keeping intimacy alive. You may think it’s not a big deal to go a couple of weeks or months without sex, but oftentimes a dry spell can lead to larger issues that are more difficult to repair (like cheating). According to a study, the happiest couples have sex at least once a week.
2. A Weekly Date Night Isn’t a Luxury, It’s a Necessity
You don’t have to spend tons of money on a fancy night out to get the benefits of some one-on-one time.
When we were broke college students, our “date night” would sometimes be going to the grocery store together, goofing around in the aisles, and riding our scooter home so I could hold onto him tight. Now, as new parents living in a state without family nearby, sometimes our weekly date night looks like a special, home-cooked meal at our dining room table once the baby has gone to sleep.
Even though we’re at home, as opposed to a romantic restaurant, we still put in the effort by lighting candles, pouring a glass of wine, and putting away our phones so there are no distractions.
Hot tip: Just because your spouse has seen you in sweats with no makeup countless times doesn’t mean that you should stop getting “dolled up” for them. Slipping into a sexy dress and spending 10-15 minutes making sure your makeup is on-point will not only show them that you care, but it will make you feel more confident (likely leading to sex).
3. Airing Out Your Dirty Laundry Is Damaging Your Relationship
To me, venting about my husband would be like talking crap about my best friend. Why would I want other people to feel badly about my man or form judgments about my relationship?
You sure didn’t call them to complain when you first started dating; I’ll bet that you gushed about every little thing he did right to your friends and family.
Even though you will likely move on quickly from the argument or situation you are “venting” about, the person you’re telling won’t forget so easily. Especially if you’re only going to them with negative things to say about your spouse, eventually they’re going to wonder why you’re with them at all.
You’ll likely get over what you’re venting about, but the person you told won’t forget so easily.
“Venting” is thought to be useful to understand how you’re feeling and allow for clarity on the situation, but to do this in a way that isn’t damaging to your relationship, it’s best to seek out a third party (ex. a therapist). If you feel uncomfortable talking to a therapist, write your thoughts down in a letter addressed to your spouse to experience the same benefits, whether you give the note to them or flush it down the toilet.
4. Correcting Your Spouse Publicly Is Rude (and Isn’t Doing You Any Favors, Either)
When you’re in a group or public setting, you and your spouse are a team. Even if you think your spouse is wrong in whatever they’re saying, agree for the sake of making them feel comfortable and supported.
If they’re telling a story you don’t remember (or maybe it didn’t exactly happen that way), go along with it anyway. What’s the harm in the end? Instead of cutting them off mid-sentence with “No! It didn’t happen that way” or “You’re exaggerating,” etc. and making them feel embarrassed, be a united front and resist the urge to be right.
One of my biggest pet peeves is being around other couples who constantly correct, mock, mimic, or disrespect each other in public. All of these forms of communication lead to contempt which is the biggest predictor of divorce.
If what your partner said actually upset you or you want to discuss a different point of view, tell them privately after the fact. Arguing in public makes other people feel uncomfortable, invites judgment into your relationship, and allows ego to get in the way of finding a resolution.
5. You Can’t Take Back Unkind Words
Point blank: don’t say something you’ll regret later. It’s never okay to hit below the belt or begin name calling to intentionally hurt your spouse. Not only is this not productive whatsoever in the moment, but it can be extremely damaging long after the argument has been resolved.
Remember when that girl in middle school called you fat or told you that your voice was annoying? Now, can you imagine the person you love most saying something hurtful like that? Those words would hurt much deeper and stick with you on a subconscious level, whether you want them to or not.
If you find yourself doing this as a result of a past relationship or from your upbringing, it’s time to unlearn the habit. When you start feeling heated in the moment, tell your spouse you need to “table” the conversation so you can take a walk/drive and think through your emotions.
Don’t doubt your husband’s intentions just because it’s convenient in an argument.
Think about the disagreement from their perspective and play devil’s advocate. “What point were they trying to get across?”, “Did I say/do something that could have hurt them or made them feel betrayed?”
I assume that you chose to date and marry your husband because you believe that he’s a good, trustworthy person. Don’t doubt his intentions just because it’s convenient in an argument.
6. Apologizing Is Our Superpower
My husband actually taught me this, because as much as I wish it weren’t the case, I was terrible at letting my pride get in the way of apologies when we first started dating. It’s normal when we’re younger to be immature about arguments and storm off or let them drag on longer than necessary, but no one benefits when you refuse to say “I’m sorry.”
We’re all human and make mistakes from time to time. Apologies should be given often and easily received on both ends.
Lastly, when the apologies are said and done, it’s time to truly move on. Don’t bring up your laundry list of old feuds when a new argument arises. It’s not productive and will only make your spouse feel defensive and skeptical the next time you resolve a fight.
7. A Little Appreciation Goes a Long Way
I know that communication is at the top of every “relationship advice” column, but it’s worth driving home the point. Communication truly is the most important aspect in any relationship, romantic or not.
One thing that I think isn’t discussed enough in regard to this topic is verbalizing your appreciation. Literally say “I appreciate you for _” or “I appreciate that you did that” in everyday conversations. It may feel awkward at first, but as someone who has practiced immensely in this category, I’ll tell you that over time it has become a phrase I say so comfortably now, sometimes I don’t even realize it.
Say “I appreciate you for _” or “I appreciate that you did that” in everyday conversations.
He did the dishes? “I appreciate that you did the dishes.” He offered to put the baby down so you could take a walk? “I appreciate that, thanks, babe.” Even if your spouse is doing something that you expect them to do or that isn’t a “big deal” in the grand scheme of things, don’t assume that they know you’ve noticed.
A common complaint in relationships is when one partner doesn’t feel appreciated. Even if that’s not necessarily the case, oftentimes the communication was simply lost. In the end, it only takes a moment to say the words out loud and it can make all the difference.
8. The Most Essential Language Is Love
Learning your love language and your spouse’s love language is critical in keeping your marriage healthy. The idea of showing and receiving love in vastly different ways was honestly lost on me until the book The 5 Love Languages became so widely discussed seven years ago.
If you’re expressing love to your partner in a way that doesn’t resonate with them, they may wind up feeling undervalued or rejected in the relationship.
Make it a fun activity for one of your date nights or long drives! Go through the five love languages together: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Have a conversation with your spouse about what their love language is and tell them what yours is so that you can give each other the tools to show and receive love accordingly.
No matter where you’re at in your relationship, reverting to the mindset of “courting” your partner can allow you to prioritize intimacy, compromise easier, and have respectful conversations filled with love, not resentment.
Learning to date your spouse again will not only enhance (and potentially even save) your marriage, but it will make your life more passionate and fulfilling in the process.
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