When life has us busy, when we are feeling overwhelmed, or just when we get caught up with the day-to-day, it can be really easy to let less overtly demanding things take a backseat. But if we aren’t tending to the things in our life that provide a safe, healthy, loving foundation for us, those things will suffer. It can be easy to take your partnership for granted, but it is part of you, so here are some reminders and ways you can “water” your relationship to help it blossom.
Just like a tree changes with the passage of time, so too will our relationships. In the beginning they might be very spur-of-the-moment and fun, but as the years pass and family grows and careers are built and life happens, it feels almost impossible to be spontaneous.
Be ok that you might have to work a little harder to come up with ideas and adventures that used to come effortlessly.
- Date night may need to be scheduled
- Sexy time may need to be scheduled
- Grand gestures might morph into small acts of everyday kindness.
- Vacations will look different.
Watering with enthusiasm/passion may not even be possible in the season you’re in.
Maybe watering right now looks like showing up for an honest and vulnerable conversation where you share your heart, your struggles, and openly listen to your partner’s version of that. There are seasons so tough that just being willing to do the work is enough...try your best to not judge it.
It means being intimate in your conversations, letting your partner in. This is the person that most likely knows more about you than anyone else, so show up 100%. Trust that the “ugly” unresolved parts of you, if expressed in a raw and authentic way, is very beautiful to someone who loves you, especially your partner. There’s a place for them there, a chance to support you and hold you. How lucky and special it is to grow into that safe place over the course of a relationship!
Express your appreciation, consider the other’s perspective during an argument, actively support one another.
Be honest (with yourself and with your spouse), and be mindful about how you communicate within and about your partnership.
Choose to connect instead of turning away. Learn how to have arguments without blame and defensiveness. Hear the real story behind the story, and share your feelings and needs from a place of love and mutual respect. Find out HOW your partner wants to be loved...it may not be the same way you do and meeting them there will make a world of difference (check out this book for more insight). And sometimes, without speaking about it, think of the things you love and appreciate in your partner. Say a daily prayer for your person and your relationship.
Trust comes from real communication, from safety in vulnerability.
It comes when you keep your promises and commitments to each other, and when you hold each other accountable. Trust also happens when you and your partner make the conscious decision not to engage in backbiting (even if you are among others who are doing it). If you need advice, confide in friends who won’t take sides and who want the best for both of you. Better still, seek counsel from friends who have relationships you want to model; they have experience putting in the effort and their wisdom will reflect that! Trust that getting through a rough patch will yield necessary growth and a deeper joy, so do the work. Do the work for love itself, for something bigger than yourself. Choose each other, day after day, and trust in that choice.
Be your own person. Don’t believe the misconception that your partner makes you whole.
It’s not your partner’s responsibility to take care of everything you're feeling, lacking, needing.
Learn how to do your own inner work--and sometimes it’s better for your relationship that you seek out a trusted friend or family member or therapist, instead of your partner. Don’t use those precious resources as a dumping ground; venting is good but reflection and mindful actions are better. Spend time alone... if you can begin to love the company you keep in moments of solitude, then you can bring a more whole person to your union.
“Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit, who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth, and without light nothing flowers. ” -May Sarton