Dear Heather

Dear Heather,

Last fall, I married a wonderful man. Things are great right now, and I want to make sure they stay that way. I see other couples who have been married for a long time and have grown apart, and I don’t want that to happen to my husband and I. How can we make sure that our love stays strong over the years to come?

Pam, Calgary AB

Hi Pam:

Congratulations! Finding the right person to marry is half the battle; if he’s as committed to the relationship as you are, then you’ve got a great foundation to work from. The rest is just a matter of a little effort and attention.
Foremost, both of you need to respect each other. So many of us find ourselves treating strangers with more courtesy that we show our loved ones. An occasional dig or critical remark can quickly become a habit, and it’s easy to forget to thank a spouse for cooking dinner or picking up your dry cleaning. Don’t let that sort of habit become established in yourself, and don’t let him do it either. It’s also important, if you argue, to fight fair: the rules about respecting each other don’t go out the window just because you’re angry. If you realize you’re about to say something just because you know it’ll wound him, don’t say it — that sort of thing can hurt for years, and can never be taken back.

Right now, valuing and appreciating your husband comes naturally, because you can still remember what your life was like before you found him. But it’s easy to take someone for granted if they’re always there for you, and after you’ve been together for a long time it may require a conscious effort to remember how important he is to you. That’s why now is a good time to get in the habit of periodically reminding yourself, and him, of how much his presence adds to your life. Just staying mindful of the fact that you’re fortunate to have each other will go a long way to ensuring that you both remain committed.

One mistake a lot of people make when they get married or move in together is that they stop dating. This is especially true if you have children, demanding careers, or other major demands competing for your time and attention. Don’t forget to spend some time with your husband, at least once or twice a week, just to talk and have fun together. Keep doing the things you used to do before you got married — dancing, weekends away, long walks, candlelit dinners, or whatever. Even when life gets really busy, it’s important to do this — these small ongoing investments in your marriage will help keep it strong. It’s very sad to be married for a few years and suddenly realize that you have completely stopped doing all the things you used to love to do together.

As harmful as never doing anything together, is never doing anything apart. Make sure you both retain your own interests and activities. This way, you won’t get tired of each other, and you’ll always have a lot to talk about over dinner! Respecting each other is a lot easier if you both have your own goals and interests, in addition to the ones you share. Having time alone and with your own friends is also important to your sense of self, which is essential to a good marriage.

If a problem does arise, even if one of you just seems a little distant, make sure you deal with it right away, before it becomes a pattern and before the problems start to pile up and become insurmountable. It’s a lot easier to fix these things while they’re still small and manageable, rather than waiting until they become an established part of how you relate.

In a nutshell, the key is for both of you to continue appreciating each other, devoting time and attention to each other regularly as well as spending time apart, treating each other with courtesy and respect, and dealing with problems as they come up. Most importantly, don’t forget why you married one another, and show your appreciation in little ways on a regular basis. A strong and healthy marriage can be a wonderful place to live, and if you both nurture the relationship, there’s no reason it can’t last forever. I wish you all the best!

Heather

E-mail your questions to Heather at advice.voice@ausu.org. Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. Heather is an AU student offering objective advice to her peers; she is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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