Dr. Paul on 5 ways to ensure your marriage blooms and grows

Showing up for our loved ones in the ways that are important is the secret for a loving union.

When I was a kid, I loved Valentine’s Day. In school, everyone made cards for friends and classmates. And, of course, I didn’t complain about all of the chocolate and heart-shaped candy. It was a fun day.

This year, did you approach Valentine’s Day like so many of us unfortunately do: mechanically, without much forethought or enthusiasm? Did it feel contrived and artificial?

We can make Valentine’s Day — every day, really — special by cherishing our true loves, never taking them for granted, and expressing our love in words and deeds.

I’m fortunate. I’ve been married to the love of my life for 42 years. We raised two children, spoil three grandchildren, and support each other through sickness and hardship. We’ve been doing it over four decades. We’ve fought, laughed and cried. We had chemistry when we met 46 years ago, and we still do. But it took work and perseverance. We learned how to be better for each other over the years.

When adults get married, they have romance, hope and passion. They don’t realize that sustaining a long-term relationship takes effort. At first, our marital garden is filled with flowers and beautiful plants. But as our lives unfold, we can take each for granted. Our marital plot can slowly wither. In order for it to continue to shine, it takes time, energy and acts of kindness.

So what are some ways to ensure your marriage flourishes?

Take a few moments to consider what is special about your loved one. Sit down and make a list of what you appreciate about your loved one. What makes her unique? What do you love about him? What does she mean to you?

Ask yourself: How can I be a better partner? There is always room to improve, even if you are great husband or wife. Make a commitment to yourself to be better. Work on this in secret — no need to let him know what you are doing! If you are successful, she will notice the change.

Make your own card. On special days like anniversaries, design and write your own card for your loved one, sharing with him what makes him important to you. Write about the small and big things. Be specific.

Speak from your heart. When you give her your handwritten card, after she reads it, take her hand, look her in the eye, and tell her how much she means to you. Remember to express your appreciation to your partner regularly. No one likes to be taken for granted.

Plan a special date. It could be a weekend away, a trip, or just a quiet evening together without the kids. Pick something you know your partner will appreciate. Make “date night” a regular event.

It’s all about showing up. Our relationships must be at the forefront of our lives — showing up for our loved ones in the ways that are important. This is truly the secret sauce for a loving union.

Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/family-talk-blog.

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