On our wedding day, several people told us they’d never seen a happier couple – we were simply beaming, so thrilled to be starting our married life together. It truly was the happiest day of our lives. Two short months later, we were happy to find out we were expecting…but also kind of terrified. Everything seemed to be happening very fast, without time to adjust to all the changes. The happy yet daunting news quickly turned into sickness, high-risk pregnancy, loss of my job, and the stress of moving under these circumstances. Then my husband was laid off and was also suffering from medical issues. A lot to deal with. Throw in a second pregnancy, retraining for a second career, two traumatic births, plus our second baby suffering severe brain damage…and instead of the Happy Couple, you’ve got two highly stressed, traumatized, overly tired special needs parents living together, barely making it through each day.
“So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” ~Matthew 19:6
Four years of marriage and two kids later, we are trying to rediscover that happy couple that we desperately want and need to be again. We are well aware of the statistics for couples with severely disabled children, but we want to beat those odds – divorce is not even an option! We love each other; we just need to find each other again, reconnect, better manage our stress, and begin to enjoy each other once more. Our marriage needs to make it back up to the top of the priority list. I came across this article in Psychology Today, and it provided some concrete things we could start doing today, to hopefully transform our marriage relationship one habit at a time. My husband and I chose habits #1, #6, and #8 last week to start building into our daily routine, and we have already experienced a huge improvement!
10 Habits of Happy Couples (By Mark Goulston)
1. Go to bed at the same time
“Remember the beginning of your relationship, when you couldn’t wait to go to bed with each other to make love? Happy couples resist the temptation to go to bed at different times. They go to bed at the same time, even if one partner wakes up later to do things while their partner sleeps. And when their skins touch it still causes each of them to tingle and unless one or both are completely exhausted to feel sexually excited.”
This has been amazing! Mind you, I might not have started this blog if I hadn’t been
cranky inspired enough to write If I go to bed first…, because we never went to bed at the same time. Nevertheless, going to bed at the same time has helped us to stop living such separate lives, as well as helped to quell any resentments about ONE of us having to stay up alone to make sure everything gets done.
2. Cultivate common interests
“After the passion settles down, it’s common to realize that you have few interests in common. But don’t minimize the importance of activities you can do together that you both enjoy. If common interests are not present, happy couples develop them. At the same time, be sure to cultivate interests of your own; this will make you more interesting to your mate and prevent you from appearing too dependent.”
3. Walk hand in hand or side by side
“Rather than one partner lagging or dragging behind the other, happy couples walk comfortably hand in hand or side by side. They know it’s more important to be with their partner than to see the sights along the way.”
4. Make trust and forgiveness your default mode
“If and when they have a disagreement or argument, and if they can’t resolve it, happy couples default to trusting and forgiving rather than distrusting and begrudging.”
5. Focus more on what your partner does right than what he or she does wrong
“If you look for things your partner does wrong, you can always find something. If you look for what he or she does right, you can always find something, too. It all depends on what you want to look for. Happy couples accentuate the positive.”
6. Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work
Our skin has a memory of “good touch” (loved), “bad touch” (abused) and “no touch” (neglected). Couples who say hello with a hug keep their skin bathed in the “good touch,” which can inoculate your spirit against anonymity in the world.
This one forces us out of our own “daytime work” bubble as soon as our worlds coincide once again, giving us a chance to reconnect and proceed together going forward. I also love the idea of filling up on “good touch”; I have a background of “bad touch” and “no touch”, so I have to be intentional about this at times.
7. Say “I love you” and “Have a good day” every morning
“This is a great way to buy some patience and tolerance as each partner sets out each day to battle traffic jams, long lines and other annoyances.”
8. Say “Good night” every night, regardless of how you feel
“This tells your partner that, regardless of how upset you are with him or her, you still want to be in the relationship. It says that what you and your partner have is bigger than any single upsetting incident.”
For us, this goes along with habit #1 of going to bed at the same time; if one of us needs to stay up longer (e.g. with the baby, or to pump for her), we make sure to still say goodnight properly. It originally seemed like it would just delay everything, but my husband now asks if there’s anything he can do before turning in. Teamwork! I think we both feel more respected and considerate of one another’s feelings. After an upsetting incident, saying goodnight every night, no matter what, exemplifies the Bible verse to never go to bed angry (Ephesians 4:26).
9. Do a “weather” check during the day
“Call your partner at home or at work to see how his or her day is going. This is a great way to adjust expectations so that you’re more in sync when you connect after work. For instance, if your partner is having an awful day, it might be unreasonable to expect him or her to be enthusiastic about something good that happened to you.”
10. Be proud to be seen with your partner
“Happy couples are pleased to be seen together and are often in some kind of affectionate contact — hand on hand or hand on shoulder or knee or back of neck. They are not showing off but rather just saying that they belong with each other. “
“Happy couples have different habits than unhappy couples. A habit is a discrete behavior that you do automatically and that takes little effort to maintain. It takes 21 days of daily repetition of a new a behavior to become a habit. So select one of the behaviors in the list above to do for 21 days and voila, it will become a habit…and make you happier as a couple. And if you fall off the wagon, don’t despair, just apologize to your partner, ask their forgiveness and recommit yourself to getting back in the habit.”
I would also add “praying together” to the list, since someone once said “the couple that prays together, stays together.” 😉 We do believe that God can change our hearts, and that He can do anything! I believe He led me to this article at exactly the right time. Just beginning to instil some of these habits has brought our relationship back into focus; we feel more like a couple again instead of busy roommates. That’s huge! We can now be found on occasion to be chatting or laughing together, praying together more often, and generally paying more attention to each other…amidst the kids, the medical issues, and the chaos that is our life these days. As it should be. May we keep improving, our relationship growing stronger and more beautiful as the days go by. It hasn’t been 21 days yet, so hopefully we haven’t been too ambitious by not starting with only one habit. We are looking forward to a time when each one of these items has become a well-established habit for us. Will keep you posted!
Which habit would you choose to try first with your partner? I’d love to hear any results!