Ryan Eland is a husband and a father. He is the owner of www.infantcpr.com and is a regular blogger at www.thedadletters.com. We asked him to reflect on how to keep love alive in the midst of marriage, kids and a hectic life. Here is his list. Follow him on twitter.
1. Develop Boundaries
Boundaries? That sounds about as exciting as “1995 Toyota Corolla.” Ok, wake up and listen.
For love to survive you need to strengthen your internal boundaries. Here is why. You will fight and in some of those fights, you will get nasty. In a blind rage, you will blurt out those “off limits” topics. Sometimes your partner will do the same to you and this is where boundaries come in.
You can choose what you let sink in. In other words, you don’t need to let another person steamroll your truth. Instead of getting swept up into the firestorm you can say something like:
“I can see that you are really angry right now. I am deeply sorry for my part in this. Perhaps we should step away for a while, cool down and come back. I want you to know that I hear what you are saying and understand you. I have my own perspective as well and would love an opportunity to share it with you when we are both in a better place.”
My friends, those words are magic. They will lead you away from bitterness – the ultimate killer of love. You will never be able to calmly speak truth in the midst of a fight unless you are able to stay centered on your own reality.
2. Love Yourself
There are two types of people in this world: those who have made big mistakes and those who haven’t admitted to their big mistakes. Nobody beats up on you quite like you do.
If you struggle to love yourself, you will struggle to love others. Instead of your love being life giving, it will be vampiric. You will extend a manipulative form of affection in order to receive love in return.
This is death. When committed, you will go through periods of time where the other person can’t give much back. In these seasons, will you starve or will you thrive? Is your love based in something deeper within you or is it based on the affirmations, attention and praise of those around you?
Understand your value. Learn to like you – not in the duck-lipped-mirror-ab-selfie kind of way but in the calm, centered and deeply connected kind of way.
3. Fight Back to Back
Remember “The 300?” That was the movie with 95% glistening man-abs and 5% oversized bald man with black contacts. Anyway, legend has it that the Spartan Warrior would train with a single partner for his entire life. When fighting, the training partners place their backs to each other and melt the enemy with their ab glow.
Ok, the point is that when things got dicey, they protected each other.
It’s seductively easy to turn face-to-face. He used the wrong towel. She always buys the wrong beer. He hates the way you say ‘pillow.’ You get the idea. Eventually, all those little things pile up and you begin to forget the real enemy. You begin to see your partner as the real enemy. Silly ideas like “he isn’t my soul mate,” and “she just doesn’t get me” will creep into your waking thoughts. Eventually, you will want a way out. Career, alcohol abuse, affairs and a myriad other things begin to look attractive.
Protect each other. Don’t let little things turn you face-to-face.
4. Take the Life preserver
Pretend you are alone and adrift in the ice-cold Bering Sea and all you have is your knife. A ship comes along and throws you a life preserver. Now, pretend you take your knife out and promptly stab the life preserver and sever the rope.
Well, that’s exactly what happens in many fights. Often, one person will throw a life preserver. This may come in a form of a little joke, or a slight concession. Whatever the form, that person is asking for a resolution – a way out.
Smart people grasp on for dear life. Do you value your relationship more than winning?
5. Make the Decision
The best way to keep love alive is to simply do it. That’s all.
I get it, this is not the stuff of Hugh Grant and Jennifer Anniston. But, this is reality.
Ladies, love him through it all. Love him when he is insecure and forgets your birthday. Love him when he doesn’t make enough money. Love him when he takes a risk and fails.
Gentlemen, love her first thing in the morning before makeup. Love her when she just feels like cuddling. Love her when she is sick and overwhelmed.
See, your love is something you give from within, not something that another person magically pulls out of you.
Stop falling into and out of love like it’s an accident.
Rather, set your eyes straight, plant your feet and boldly walk into love. Walk with strength and purpose. Don’t waver.
My friends, that’s how you keep love alive.