By Pierra Calasanz-Labrador for Yahoo! Southeast Asia
You vowed to love each other for better or for worse, till death do you part…but how do you keep these promises from sounding like a death sentence when the honeymoon is over?
Happily married couples often share that the secret to their longevity is treating their spouse as their lover as well as their best friend. For a professional perspective on making relationships go the distance, we chatted with Pilar Tolentino, Executive Director of Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM).
Be pro-active about your issues
Gone are the days when couples counseling meant you were headed for splitsville. Instead of being confused by conflicting unsolicited advice, many modern couples seek professional or spiritual guidance from a neutral third party. Tolentino shares: "There are different reasons couples come to counseling: the need for clarification on certain issues like parenting, roles and expectations; because of a current crisis like accidents, death, or financials; or to find healing like in cases of infidelity. A common factor is to seek assistance in understanding, accepting, and healing a current situation that is causing pain or confusion in the relationship."
The element of surprise
Every so often, do something unexpected to keep the passion alive. Says Tolentino, "Simple thoughtful acts—like surprise visit to his/her office for a lunch date, love-notes, weekend getaways, cooking special meals, giving gifts even when there's no occasion, a soothing massage—can add flavor to daily routines as a couple."
Put your partner before your pride
Instead of playing the blame game, put yourself in your spouse's shoes and see the situation from his point of view. Review your 1 Corinthians 13. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."
Cool off before saying something hurtful
Newlyweds are always advised to "never let the sun set on an argument," but when you're boiling mad, someone's definitely sleeping on the couch. Tolentino shares, "It's probably not literally 'sleeping angry,' but do not let an argument go unresolved. Dialogue when each of you has cooled down. If an agreement is not yet possible at that point, at least acknowledge and respect the spouse's feelings. Seek assistance, like counseling, if this will help." Sometimes, it's the seemingly innocuous little arguments that can snowball into one big disaster. Tolentino says: "Breakdown of marriages usually happens when 'minor' conflicts are not addressed. These 'minor' problems can build up negative emotions."
Don't assume your partner is a mind-reader
Many people don't know how to express their feelings, or worse, expect that their partner should know what they want. "It is important that openness and communication is encouraged in the relationship. Set aside time for just the two of you at least once a week. Give your spouse your full attention; listen without judgment. Remember that communication is two-way."
Show your appreciation daily
A marriage's silent enemy is being taken for granted. Don't wait till bitterness sets in before you try to "bring back that loving feeling." Everyday, pay your spouse a sincere compliment, show your gratitude, and express your affection. "Remember the things you value about your marriage and the good traits of your spouse. This will help reaffirm your commitment and strengthen you in facing the challenges that may come your way. Make an effort to make your spouse feel important, appreciated, and loved. Love has to be expressed."
Grow (old) together
Getting married doesn't mean giving up your individuality. When you're in a relationship that allows for personal growth, you each bring something to the relationship. Tolentino puts it this way: "One main element in a happy marriage are two happy individuals. Each one must give importance to the well-being of the other. Each one must be supported, respected, affirmed, appreciated and loved." However, don't forget to enjoy shared activities as well, so that you grow together.
The advice Tolentino dishes most often is this: "Remember that you are partners. Appreciate each one's contribution in strengthening the relationship, respect each other as equal, look out for the well-being of the other as you would for yourself." Bottomline: with love, affection, laughter, faith, limitless patience and mutual respect, your relationship can deepen after the honeymoon and you can look forward to living happily EVEN after.
Contact CEFAM at phone +63 2 4264289 — 92, email <email@example.com> or <www.cefam.ph>.