Adding Value to Your Marriage Donít let the novelty of your marriage wear out over time. Use these tips to stay connected and ahead of the game. BY DENISE J. CHARLES
Doing things together as a couple creates new neural pathways, which deepen our level of satisfaction.
“ Our sense of success or accomplishment can be infectious, causing our spouse to see us in a whole new light.”
Studies in neuroscience have led to some interesting discoveries in human behavior. Essentially, it has been discovered that novelty is a key driver of happiness and that this creates new, neural pathways, which deepen our levels of satisfaction. I immediately thought about the implications of this discovery for a long-term relationship like marriage.
If novelty makes us happy, then how can we remain happy in a relationship where the effects of time will automatically impact the novelty factor? Does this mean that we are pressured to trick our brains by re-creating novelty in marriage or does marriage demand a different pathway for satisfaction? Where do we begin in terms of assessing relationship happiness or fulfillment?
Obviously, this is no black and white issue with trite, clear-cut answers. It, however, provides fresh impetus for us to re-examine the state of our relationships.
Taking a fresh look at our relationship can begin with clarifying our definition of what marriage means. This involves examining our own expectations about what will make or break the relationship and includes setting clear parameters and guidelines for issues like communication, couple-time, dishonesty, infidelity, abuse, neglect and other things, which can threaten the life of a marriage.
Discussing these issues up front, long before they even pose a threat, is a great way for a couple to become familiar with each otherís breaking points or tolerance levels. When the basis for our core commitment is settled, then working to improve what we already have is a bonus, which is not motivated by a fear that we might lose our spouse if we donít keep the tricks coming. Before we become obsessed about adding the new, we must ensure that our base-level commitment is tried, tested and true.
None of us can deny the rush of excitement, which we experience when we embark on something new. Life takes on a whole new zest and meaning when we find ourselves immersed in some form of novel experience. When we think of marriage, attempting to create this "high" is a vital and often necessary component in keeping our marriages alive and interesting. It is critical, however, that we temper this with a dose of reality.
Novelty is great and Iím not knocking it by any means, but we should see it as an "icing on the cake" scenario instead of the whole cake. Novelty is a great addition; almost a luxury that keeps things fresh, but it should not form the core of commitment. In other words, our marriage should not be based on whether or not there is enough novelty to keep it going. At the same time, novelty introduces added value to a marriage that is already firmly cemented by a loving commitment.
Adding value through novelty simply means kicking our relationship into high gear, with thoughtful experimentation and spontaneity. Finding out what our spouseís preferences are in the bedroom and catering to those, is a great way to demonstrate that we are placing our spouseís needs first. Admittedly, maintaining a surprise element in the sex department is no mean feat. It is, however, unique to each couple and how this plays out will be contingent on things like sexual experience, personality preferences, a willingness to experiment and knowledge about sex.
Novelty, however, need not apply purely to sex. It also means working to preserve a sense of freshness by trying new things together. This can includes traveling, or staying overnight in hotels, pursuing ballroom or Latin dance as a couple, doing a class or hobby together, or even volunteering with a church-group or charitable organization. Sharing new activities can bring a sense of personal satisfaction while also confirming our shared values. This can cause a couple to feel as though there is always a new mountain to climb or a fresh frontier to conquerótogether.
Even pursuing new interests on our own can add new dimensions to our character, which in turn does add value to our marriage. Living out those things we feel passionate about ensures that we are not overtly dependent on our partner for happiness or self-worth. Our sense of success or accomplishment can be infectious, causing our spouse to see us in a whole new light. This is sure to kick the sense of boredom or staleness out of our relationship as we work together to make our individual and couple-lives more meaningful.