Want to get more mileage out of your relationship? Try a tune up.
Is it time for your automobile to go into service for the recommended 5,000-mile oil and filter change, tire rotation, and fluid check? Most of us are “religious” about making sure we do that service check in a timely manner. We depend on our cars for just about everything, but do we give that same attention to our personal lives? Do we take the time tune up our relationship?
How many of us tune-up our relationships? Perhaps we feel we don’t need to. “She knows how I feel about her,” we might tell ourselves, or “He should always be there for me, that’s what a good husband does.” Think about your friendships for a minute. How do they survive? Do they get regular tune ups? I believe our friendships get rejuvenated every time you say something positive or kind to your friends because they are an important part of your life. When we show someone our appreciation for the friendship and communicate our gratitude, we tune it up. Every time we see value in a friend and let them know it with a compliment, we make sure that friendship remains strong. As Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
There is no greater compliment than time spent together. The mutual affirmation of making one another an affectionate priority. So why do so many of us seem to feel our relationships can exist on autopilot, without our attention? If you are one of those handing out love, appreciation, and thanks, then you are ahead of the curve. What I have observed in my daily relationship counseling is that many couples are in trouble because they neglect the small, daily business of emotional errands that say “you are special.” My goal here isn’t to judge, but to try to pass on some insight that might keep a good relationship strong or prevent a shaky marriage from breaking down completely.
Most psychologists agree that happiness requires a close, positive relationships with others. In fact, statistics show that married people are happier and live longer than single folks. People living together are also happier than singles. We all want to be happy, so why not be proactive and keep the wheels turning smoothly? A relationship tune-up doesn’t have to be difficult or take a lot of time. In my book, The Gift of a Lifetime, Building a Marriage That Lasts, I refer to a “Maintenance Agreement” where every day you make your marriage a priority.
Here are some specific ideas for revving up your relationship engine.
- Check the “Fun Gauge.” How much time are you spending on doing things for the kids, on household chores, weekly errands, and your job? Do you even remember the fun things you used to do as a couple? What was your best or most memorable date like? If you could take the time to do anything with your partner, what would it be? Think it over, find the answers, and then make an action plan to get some of that back. You don’t have to pay for a month in Europe; what matters is picking an activity that is within your budget, and shows you understand what your partner likes to do. For example, you could take a bicycle ride in the country, to have a picnic lunch for two. You could visit a museum with artwork that elicits emotion, so you can and share your interpretations.
- Try something new. Sometimes the old activities are no longer enticing. Maybe you can’t stand another fishing trip or endure one more foreign film. Perhaps you need the inspiration of taking up a new hobby, going on a different kind of vacation, or learning a foreign language together. There are hundreds of different spices on the shelves—one of them will help you to create the perfect recipe for a romantic evening for two.
- Replenish the romance. Think back to when you were dating, engaged, or newly married. Recall how you used to try and be romantic with each other. Remember the stolen kisses, holding hands in the movies, whispering sweet nothings, candles in the bedroom, showers together, bringing home flowers, and writing love notes? Bring back the “oldies.” People often drift apart just because they forget what drew them together in the first place. Doing something to show you remember your passion for each other is one way to tell your partner that you are still attracted to them.
- Stay sexually active. Couples need to express their closeness physically. Some of us might feel that making love every night is important, while others are satisfied by a less ambitious goal. The vibrancy or meaning of the experience is more important than the frequency. Making love is a great way to nourish your connection. Ask your partner if he or she has a fantasy to share, or if there’s something the two of you once did that might be fun to try again. Accepting your partner’s erotic secrets is yet another way to say, “I accept your unique self, and I love the new things you have brought into my life.”
5. Share your goals. Relationships need dreams. Your life does not need to mirror the lives of your friends or neighbors. Maybe one of you is secretly wondering if it would ever be possible to take a trip to somewhere exotic. Perhaps you want to move to a house on the lake instead of just going there for vacation. Does somebody want to learn French cooking? Does one of you want a few months off to try and write a book or a screenplay? Is there a graduate degree that you would like to finish? By sharing your dreams, you let each other into a deeper emotional place and create a vision a future together.
A marriage or committed relationship is meant to last a lifetime. Cars are not and yet we follow the manufacturers’ recommendations to keep them in good running order for as long as possible. Relationships also experience wear and tear. Why not be pro-active and create a happily-ever-after by tuning up your relationship often? Take my advice and start right now. You’ll be glad you did. Tell me in the comments how being more attentive to your relatioship has made it better.