Read any Jane Austen or other Regency-era novel and marriage was certainly a business affair, more than an affair of the heart. Those who did marry for love over advantage were often scoffed at or scorned by their contemporaries and potentially disowned and disinherited from their families. It was acceptable and frankly expected that women in particular would marry for money or face spinster-dom and societal ruin.
However, we are now enjoying a new society where increasing equal rights (with work still to do) enables us to marry a life-partner, not purely a financial-partner. This doesn’t necessarily mean marriage is any easier – marriage is hard work, but the rewards can be immeasurable (and thankfully, not just financial)!
So, having worked at the coal face for just short of a decade both as a lawyer and spouse, being a survivor of divorce myself and in the spirit of Marriage Week, I thought I’d suggest five goals to try incorporate into the havoc of day-to-day life to help builder a stronger marriage (and family relationship) over the next five years:-
1. Set aside some quality family time every weekThis can seem impossible with children running to-and-fro, work schedules and household management, but it doesn’t have to be. You can simply say that on x night everyone is home for dinner (it can be a take-away) and all screens must be off for that half hour (no phones, television or tablets) or instead of dinner, a family board game – yes, they still make them!
2. Support your spouse in a new endeavourWe all do it; every New Year we make some hair-brained resolution that we maybe stick to for a month – not that. I am talking about growing together by allowing yourself or your spouse to change and grow independently of the relationship.
If, for example, your spouse has always wanted to learn how to make sushi and you’d rather die than eat raw fish, you can still be their cheerleader. Help source a local class for them, do an extra school run to give them the time to pursue their interest, and maybe, just maybe, try the California roll that they are way too proud of!
3. Do it together regularlyAnd no, I am not talking about sex (though that’s important, too). I am talking about a hobby or interest to share – bike riding, music/gigs, supporting a football or rugby team, country walks, etc. It doesn’t have to be cheesy or romantic, just fun and engaging for both of you.
4. Make time for romance
And again, no, I’m not just talking about sex. In this instance, sex can be part of it, but what I am really talking about is intimacy. Hold hands. Cuddle up on the sofa together. Surprise each other with little, thoughtful gifts. Remember when you were first dating – you’ll get the idea.
5. Communicate without judgmentThis one can be really difficult, but it is probably the most important of the five goals. It can be very easy to take what your spouse is saying and put it into your own context or agenda (I am guilty of this, too, I can assure you).
Unfortunately, when this happens, we tend to stop listening and start judging or making assumptions, usually negative. Over time, this can lead to a break down in communication, that if it regularly or routinely occurs, can cause otherwise small problems to become insurmountable.
When you need to, don’t be afraid to get help
Please note that I am in no way a relationship or marriage guru and would never claim to be such, so the above are simply taken from observations in my own life, both personal and professional.
I would never argue that marriage is right for everyone and there are certainly marriages out there that are in serious difficulties where the above would offer very little succour, and professional help through Relate or other counselling services should be sought.
No one should ever feel compelled or forced to stay in a marriage (or any other relationship).
However, if you are one of the millions of spouses out there simply looking for a few ideas to help rekindle your relationship and strengthen your marriage, I hope I this is of some use to you and happy Marriage Week!