Taking Your Marriage Back to the Future After years of marriage, many couples forget where they started. Here are some simple ways to remember the early days of your budding relationship and reconnect with your spouse. BY DENISE J. CHARLES
Take your marriage back in time to remember the building blocks of your relationship and to recognize the strength of your foundation.
“ We must never forget the 'ideal' of why we got married, and that memory if we keep nurturing it, has the power to sustain our relationship if we allow it to.”
This year my husband and I will celebrate 28 years of marriage, and I really donít know where the time has gone. I remember when I got engaged at 18 to be married one year later, the prospect of life ahead with my husband Gabriel held so many possibilities. I was ecstatic, young, romantic, idealistic, but not too naive. I had already endured childhood and adolescent challenges like sexual abuse, low self-esteem and the resulting self-hatred had developed a confident exterior that fooled everyone. Although young, I was tough and mature beyond my years with a promising future ahead in academia.
So my husband was everything to me and my marriage was going to be my utopia, or so I thought. Itís amazing that our marriage survived its initial and recurring challenges brought on by the weight of my emotional baggage, my husbandís own issues and the glaring fact that we lacked any type of premarital counseling; not exactly popular in those days. It would actually take lots of self-discovery, couplesí education, reading, reflection and counseling to take our marriage to its potential "promise land." Apart from our deep faith and our belief in marriage, what I believe also held us together was the continued memory of a young love and all the promises we had made to each other. We did not intend to let those ideals go even when it seemed that we did not like each other at times.
For each marriage to be successful every couple must set out to nurture specific points of reference to which a couple can retreat in times of hardship or challenge in the relationship. Iíve coined this, "going back to the future" in our relationships. We must never forget the "ideal" of why we got married, and that memory if we keep nurturing it has the power to sustain our relationship if we allow it to.
While each of our individual and couplesí stories is no doubt unique, the common thread we most likely share is an initial intention to make our marriages work. On the day of our wedding it probably stood as a lofty future ideal, which we imagined journeying towards. Constantly taking our marriages "back to the future" is therefore a fairly relevant way to keep us actively engaged with the uniqueness of our marriage story. It is not so much about living in the past, as it is about constantly dovetailing the past with present memories. These can then be linked to the future ideal of where we want to take our marriage, knowing that it can always get better.
So how exactly do we make this happen? Hereís how:
* Use celebrations to reflect. Apart from the wonderful dinners and gifts, which usually accompany anniversaries, you and your spouse should use this time to look back at wedding photos, videos, wedding memorabilia and even postcards given by well-wishers; these have a very real way of taking us back to the unique excitement of our wedding day and challenges us to recommit to the vows we made.
* Express your love repeatedly. Do a formal or informal vows renewal, which may or may not be linked to your anniversary. While formal commitment ceremonies may involve a religious service of some sort (some couples actually do go back to where they were married) an informal renewal can take place in the privacy of your garden, living room or bedroom and can be done with or without the presence of clergy, family or friends. Itís really about cementing your commitment to each other and can even be personalized with your own unique vows.
* Record your memories. Create a journal or scrapbook together that traces the significant highs and lows of your journey, and which should even begin from the time you met. Savor ticket stubs, travel cards, photos, and anything that can be used to "create a memory" of your relationship. Include notes and jottings to express your thought and ideas about the different events you have shared.
* Chronicle the growth of your family. The entrance of children to your marriage is usually a significant defining moment, which brings with it loads of changes and adjustments. These definitely challenge your couple mettle and your sanity. Use the reference points of births, graduations, recitals and childhood/adolescent "firsts" to remind you of the value and benefits of building a family with your partner.
* Set goals together. Make your married life intentional by refusing to allow it to drive on automatic pilot. Set specific, attainable, relationship goals which can include things as simple as regular time spent together, and planned holidays to more elaborate goals like owning a new home, or planning for retirement together.
* Feel free to express love. Practice vocalizing and demonstrating how you feel about your spouse, especially in the face of challenges. One of the hallmarks of your early relationship was likely the constant affirmation of love and desire. Making a deliberate attempt to remain amorous with your words and actions takes you back as a couple, while also moving you forward. This will mean paying special attention to being affectionate and sexual with your spouse regularly. Practicing this should remind you of why you fell in love in the first place and promises to make the future ideal of your relationship a present reality.