Huffington Post strikes again, this time in Facebook survey results compiled by staff writer Yagana Shah, who tallied responses from a FB survey that asked married couples what they believe helps them maintain lively, enriching marriages. Ms. Shah’s interests include, presumably among other things, “health news, bucket lists, and the British royal family.” Not sure where this particular article fits within all that, but there are some suggestions in here that are worth your time. If these are old news, it means you spend too much time on Facebook. My guess is that if you read this blog regularly you’re already doing a number of them. If not, it’s never too late.
1. Travel together. I remember vividly when we were first married and Nancy was flexing her New Jerseyism she told me she thought we ought to take separate vacations. This was back in the day when “open marriage” was a very hip concept and married couples were exploring all sorts of ways to do the same things they did when they were single. (She also told me she like the idea of deer hunting, which shocks me to this day.) But couples active on Facebook say traveling together is one of the joys of marriage, and both Nancy and I agree.
Though we do occasionally take separate vacations (she went to Africa with two of our kids and their husbands back in 2013, and I went to Malaysia on a junket last fall) we generally travel together. If you believe that the only difference between you today and you a year from now is the books you read, the people you meet and the places you go, traveling together is a third of the whole trip. We have pretty indelible memories of our trips to Ireland, Alaska and Spain, and look forward to more such jaunts in the years to come. Day trips and weekend getaways have much the same restorative effect, though you may need to take some pictures to capture those memories.
2. Laugh together. I make a conscious effort to give Nancy a good laugh or two every day, as I believe this is one thing that keeps her looking young and, well, beautiful. She has an active sense of humor too, although I’m not sure why I look so beat up and worn out. For most couples, the funniest jokes are the inside jokes that only the two of them get. Our parents had expressions we repeat on a regular basis that make us smile and help us remember them, and they’ve become part of the fabric in our marriage as well as our relationships with our kids. If your marriage is in good shape it is probably easier to look back over the years and recall the funny episodes than it is the not-so-funny ones.
3. Keep dating. This is somewhat trickier than it sounds, based on whether you’re a husband or a wife. Most husbands, I suspect, equate date night with sex, while fewer wives make the same connection. One book I read suggested that couples pursue several varieties of date nights: a) sex dates, b) outings that don’t include sex, and c) the Swiss army knife of dates, a fun outing that includes sex.
The important point here is that getting married doesn’t/cannot signal the end of dating. Nor is it necessary that a date be expensive; a bowl of popcorn and a movie after the kids are in bed counts. For whatever reason, guys are still, I suspect, expected to do the heavy lifting when it comes to arranging non-lame dates, so guys, turn off the TV and gather some fun ideas. Play your cards right and you may end up enjoying a Swiss army knife.
4. Work toward a goal together. Not as easy as dialing up dinner and a movie, but the possibilities are virtually endless. Growing your faith together by taking up a ministry at your church, taking on a project like landscaping the backyard, finding common items on your bucket lists and checking them off together, these things can contribute to a sense of common purpose, especially during the empty nest years.
Certainly, parents with young children have some built-in common goals, i.e., get them kids raised and out of the house. Once they’re gone, though, couples have the freedom, if not the responsibility, to find some common activities that provide a healthy sense of pursuing shared objectives. HINT: Our experience shows that taking up tennis, paddling canoes and wallpapering a small room together can have negative outcomes.
5. Hold hands. Always. Although neither of us are prone to much in the way of PDAs, this is a healthy practice, as it provides a physical connection in a world in which they are increasingly hard to come by. There’s no way a healthy emotional/spiritual relationship cannot be enhanced by increased physical contact.
Recall when you were 13 and held someone’s hand for the first time, the jolt of electricity that traveled through you. 25 years later, the physical jolt may be long gone, but the value of the touch itself remains. This is especially true for spouses whose “receiving” love language is physical touch. So, when you’re out together, hold hands. Keep in mind that if some teenager sneers and tells you to “get a room,” you can, without having to tell him to “get a girlfriend.”
The common thread in all of this, I suppose, is that each of these five activities releases endorphins, to a greater or lesser degree. For married couples in committed relationships, endorphins are rocket fuel–you can’t get too much of them. If you have additional ideas for releasing endorphins, please comment and share.
God bless you.