© 2012 Kebba Buckley Button, M.S., O.M. World Rights Reserved.
February is the month of romantic love. We celebrate romantic love in many ways, with cards, candy, flowers, décor, and dinners. People crave connection, and romantic love is perhaps the strongest sort of connection. Singles seek connection with potential partners. Couples, whether married or living together, often celebrate their connection on Valentine’s Day. Hopefully, those couples are planning to celebrate their relationships, how wonderful they are, and how long those relationships have lasted already. Even more powerful is when each partner celebrates the other, who that person is, and what delight that partner brings to the marriage. There is no need to wait until Valentine’s Day to celebrate.
However long a relationship has been, how can a couple keep their relationship enjoyable and engaging for a long time? Marriage Therapist and author Todd Creagor, MCSW, has the answers. In his book, The Long, Hot Marriage, Creagor says the overall goal is to create a durable connection that heals and makes each whole. He says partners need to relate creatively, experiment, and generally expect and cultivate a level of change, to keep the relationship fresh, emotionally and sexually.
Creagor says for most couples, communication problems come from 3 dynamics: the urge to prove oneself right, the need to vent, and defending oneself. Most people dislike conflict and steer away from the inevitable disagreements, especially if condescension or raised voices are involved. Avoiding pain creates distance between partners. Therefore, ineffectively handling these dynamics can kill a relationship. In his book, Creagor outlines considerations and strategies for keeping the conversation constructive between spouses. In general, he says, choosing connection over control is a winning strategy for everyone. Before you speak or act, ask yourself, “is this going to give me more or less of what I really want?”
Strengths Creagor suggests we all cultivate are our own health and well-being and the ability to hang in there while we are experiencing discomfort. The better we feel overall, the more perceptive and relaxed we can be, and the better we handle any stress that comes along in the relationship. So it is important to eat an energizing diet and be fit. This will also help our sexual relationships, so why not start working your personal health program now? Creagor says we can and should develop our “emotional muscles”, including our “listening muscles”. When conflict arises, we can practice holding our ground, calming ourselves while remembering to listen to our partner and let him/her know we are listening. And remember, keeping score is for sports, not relationships!
So how can couples keep the romance alive and the sexual dimension hot? First, whenever you talk with your partner, ask yourself if you can be a positive influence on him/her. Then, Creagor recommends each partner try one new romantic gesture each week, especially if the idea of romantic behavior is new to you. A few examples might be: Write a love poem. Ask your partner what would be a romantic thing s/he would like, and do it. Plan a date that consists of some quiet time together, such as a gondola ride, a walk on the beach, a horseback ride, bicycling, or a drive in the country. Prepare a favorite romantic dinner and have it waiting when s/he comes home, with rose petals (ask any florist) strewn everywhere.
Whatever you have heard about women’s and men’s natures, the generalizations may not be true of your wife/husband. You’ll need to observe whether s/he is more interested in cuddling and foreplay or in quick and steamy sex. Prompt conversation about preferences, and be ready to stretch your comfort zone to try new things in the bedroom. Realize your partner is always growing, too, and his/her preferences and interests may change over time. All the more reason to stay flexible about a bit of experimentation.
Are you in a marriage or long-term relationship? Do you want it to be as deep and fabulous as it can be? Then follow these pointers, read the book for more, and your relationship can truly be The Long, Hot Marriage.
— Comments welcome–
Reach the writer at Kebba@kebba.com