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Long term relationships are so rewarding but they take intentional work. Intentional work in my relationship looks like self-exploration and awareness. We’re two individuals who want to support happiness, peacefulness, and stability in each other. Doing so requires being open to what each of those things looks like to the other person.
Over time, my husband and I have explored different ways to make our relationship work. We have had good years and bad. The bad years are growth years, and we’ve learned to welcome them into our journey. The good years are the reward for our intentional work, for the ways we approach each other with compassion and respect.
There are a slew of changes that have drastically improved our relationship; communication and vulnerability being at the core of every change. These are a few of the changes that led to more openness and overall harmony.
This was a tough one for my husband. His love language is touch. He’s a cuddle-on-the-couch, kiss-upon-greetings-and-partings, hold-hands-while-driving kind of lover. And it’s one of my favorite things about him, but sharing a blanket while sleeping doesn’t work for me.
I read about a couple who had separate blankets and brought the idea up to my husband. He hated it and I shut down. Deep down I was resentful, I fantasized about what it was like to curl up in my own blanket. I revisited the issue, letting him know I understood the emotional implications for him, and I needed to do this for me. He expressed compassion and space for my needs.
I ended up redecorating the bedroom and purchased a second blanket in his favorite color. I made the bed with the new blanket on my side and the old on his. I told him it would be his blanket that I used, like a girlfriend who borrows her boyfriend’s sweatshirt.
That seemed to work because it’s become a really sweet and romantic thing.
I started hiding this at first because I was afraid nobody would actually respect that I needed my own toothpaste. Hello childhood trauma. Letting my husband in on my past traumas and giving him the opportunity to understand my inner world, has created so much space for compassion. I used to feel as though I needed to completely and thoroughly explain why I needed so much of my own stuff.
My husband noticed this and wanted to give me a safe place to choose my own important items. He is now protective of my toiletries and even makes sure to move them if I’ve rushed out of the house in the morning.
Finances can be a tough topic. While my husband and I have always had a fairly decent relationship around money and how we spend it, life has a way of testing things. If there was an expensive repair or change in business, we would need to have difficult conversations.
The problem we were running into was that we were talking about finances all over the place. It felt as though the problem could pop up at us any minute.
Setting weekly meetings to discuss finances, household issues, changes in schedules and so on, allowed us to have boundaries around administrative tasks. When we have a routine change, we put it on the list for Monday.
I even email my husband a Monday night meeting agenda. We order take out and sit at the dining table with our notebooks and laptops. We make the kids a tv dinner, give them little tattoos, put on a movie and call it “Dinner & a Movie.” They think it’s so special and we get a solid 40 minutes to review.
Faith & Spirituality
Emotional neglect or abuse can damage faith and spirituality even if the trauma is not in relation to faith and spirituality. Identifying powerlessness, forces greater than yourself, and purpose in life all feel silly when you don’t receive healthy love on a consistent basis.
Both my husband and I considered ourselves atheist. We convinced each other that science disproved religion, that spirituality was weak, and that faith was ignorance.
We didn’t know how or when to use faith or spirituality. Using them in the wrong way can lead to a lot of confusion and disappointment.
Not using faith or spirituality at all can create disconnect within your community, family, and household. A sense of community and working together is central to spirituality, which means incorporating this in the right way will lead our actions to be more in alignment with not just each other but our children and the way we want to live and share our lives within our communities.
Faith promotes micoactions and patience which gives us the chance to grow into trusting ourselves and the directions we choose.
Scheduled Date Nights
Date nights are really important for me and my husband. We have four children so it’s not often that we get to have an unbroken conversation. I used to have the mindset that we’d have a date night when everything felt “settled”, whatever that means.
I’d want all the chores done, project list done, some activity for the kids, etc. etc. etc. I was always putting off date night and eventually we started to feel like business partners.
Our relationship was suffering because we weren’t making space to have the relationship. Every month now when I do my calendar, I choose the weekend and schedule the date night.
Because we know it’s coming, we end up researching ideas, restaurants, or different places to visit to make the date nights really fun. I also reserve this as a time to buy a new outfit so I’m not overspending on clothes all month.
My husband and I love to send each other articles and memes throughout the day. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re relative to our relationship, and sometimes they offer insight or perspective into dealing with trauma. Our google doc has been one of the best ways to sort this information.
After arguments, we review where we were triggered or used certain communication habits, the google doc has been an incredible tool in reminding us of where these habits came from and how we decided to respond to them in a healthier mindset.
Communication is the key to improving any relationship. We have to be vulnerable enough to say what we want and brave enough to not falter when the reaction is not a welcoming reception. Sometimes our requests will hurt our partner’s feelings. We’re humans with emotional experiences, hurt feelings are to be expected as we navigate personal and relational living.
As we come to terms with this truth, it becomes easier to release our wants and needs and allow our partner the opportunity to move through their own response and work with us toward mutual fulfillment.