Last Sunday, my dearest darling Ian and me celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary, dear friends – and we’re still as much in love as the day we first met! Plus, we’re now an inseparable item in every way, we can guess each other’s thoughts, we work together like clockwork both in our indexing business and housework, and we share so many interests – both the ones we had before and the ones we taught each other.
It’s been said many times that marriage requires a lot of patience, selflessness, sacrifice and so on; I think that’s nonsense if you don’t mind me saying so. When two people match, they don’t have to ‘sacrifice’ anything for each other, it just comes naturally, and there’s nothing more beautiful in the world than making the one you love happy. Anyway, whatever you give in a relationship will be given back to you in some shape or form, there’s no need to count the favours you’ve done or the times you’ve put your own interests to one side!
There are, however, certain things that make and keep a marriage happy, and the more you do them the happier you both will be. I’m sure you’ll have thought of some of them, and be doing them yourselves already, dear friends, but it’s always good to remember something you may not have done in a while, so here are my little recipes for matrimonial bliss…
One of the most important things of all is to keep your relationship loving and romantic; there is nothing in the world like the feeling of loving and being loved, so treasure and cherish it, and express it regularly. Saying ‘I love you’ is never wrong, and hearing it is always wonderful. Little things like Valentine’s Day cards, a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates with a red paper heart attached will brighten up your partner’s day endlessly!
Also, putting on some romantic music always puts magic into the air; listening to the lyrics of love songs like “You’re in My Heart, You’re in My Soul” or “I Just Called to Say I Love You” will make you two feel like on your first date again.
A romantic dinner, no matter whether at home or in a restaurant, with candlelight and wine, always works miracles as well. And don’t neglect your looks, prettify yourself for your loverboy/girl on a regular basis to show them you want to look good just for them!
Sex is undoubtedly a part of love, and should be part of a long-term relationship as well, of course; unfortunately, it is often neglected as the years go by, the kids grow older, the job is stressful, and because we just get lazy. Yet, we have to keep up this erotic spark even if we don’t have sex every other day; and there are lots of ways of doing so.
Get yourself some sexy underwear; it’s not necessarily expensive but usually very effective – when your other half will see you in your brand-new baby doll or thongs for the first time, it’ll sweep them off their feet! And don’t mind the size, either, most of us get bigger as we age; I’m wearing 3XL myself these days…
Also, be bold and show yourself to your partner naked from time to time – you may be more critical of your own body as it is now (as in contrast to when you got married, when your wedding dress or suit was 3 or 4 sizes smaller than what you wear now) than your partner, and a bit of cheeky flashing may well make him/her feel quite hot…
And don’t hesitate to enter a sex shop or look at online sex shops for all those interesting sex toys together; they’re sure to get your sex life going again with a lot of fun!
What is immensely important for a relationship as well is talking; it’s vital that you and your spouse always share your thoughts and feelings, both about important things and about the little things in life that interest you or move you. Never hide anything from your partner; secrets will come back to haunt you and might destroy everything. But also, don’t hide any problem or worry you’ve got, because it’s so much easier to deal with it together, and it’ll strengthen your bond, too.
The other side of talking is, of course, listening, so make sure to always listen to your partner, without interrupting him/her all the time, and if you feel he/she finds something important and/or worrying, discuss the matter in detail to make sure you’ll resolve any problems that make the love of your life feel bad.
Also, there will inevitably be some things you won’t agree on; it’s impossible to ALWAYS have the same opinion on everything. Whether it’s politics, bringing up the children, or just plain a difference in taste in music or literature or art or whatever, always discuss things in a civilised manner, and respect your partner’s opinion. If you can’t agree at all on something, you can always postpone the talk and in the meantime think about it again.
Cook and eat together
I think cooking and eating are two very important and enjoyable things in life; my darling Ian and me have a lot of fun doing both! Of course, cooking isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, so don’t force your other half to do so if they don’t want to; you can cook him/her a special meal instead to treat their taste buds.
You should, however, make sure you’re able to eat as many meals together as possible – from breakfast or brunch to lunch or dinner to late night supper. You can eat in front of the TV set if you like, just as long as you’re together, but it’s cosier and more intimate at the dinner table where you can talk and laugh together and gaze into each other’s eyes while you’re enjoying your meal.
Share hobbies and interests
Most relationships start out with a shared love for a certain hobby or interest – it’s rather difficult to really bond when one loves classical music and the other one heavy metal, or one likes staying at home watching TV while the other one goes mountain climbing and sky diving every weekend… So, based on the common interests you’ve already got, develop them further, or even take up new hobbies together. Ian and me got to know each other on the film site IMDb, and we’ve watched hundreds of movies together since we first met – and we’ve learned a lot from each other’s original tastes: he’s introduced me to the world of Scorsese and Tarantino, and I’ve got him into obscure 1930s and 1940s horror movies!
There are so many leisure time activities you can share – go to the cinema, the football stadium, the fitness studio, go walking or cycling, play squash or darts or ten pin bowling, visit a museum or art gallery; the list is endless! I’m sure you’ll find something you can both get enthused about…
Plan things together
It’s always nice to be able to look forward to something, so planning a holiday or a weekend trip or a picknick at the beach is not only necessary but also great fun, especially when you do it together. It’s exciting to work out the route for your next summer holiday, find and book the hotels, seek out the sights you want to see and the restaurants you want to try out – almost as good as actually going!
But it’s not only the one ‘big one’; every time you go somewhere there’s a lot of things to think of, even if it’s just the contents of your picknick hamper or your little travelling bag for your city break. And, of course, there are lots of things to plan at home as well, like choosing a new rug for the living room or a new set of bedsheets – shopping together, whether in an actual shop or online, is great fun!
Let him/her do their own thing, too
Fact is, you can’t do EVERYTHING together. There will be things that one of you is more enthused about than the other one, and that’s why it’s good to sometimes do your own thing – and let your partner do their thing as well, of course.
I recently started doing a Welsh course, something I’d been wanting to do for years, but Ian didn’t really want to join me there; so I’m off every Tuesday morning now with my schoolbag while he stays at home. On the other hand, he’s joined a writers’ group that does fabulous things together, everything from short stories to poems, but it’s not really my thing, so I in turn stay home when he goes there – and everybody’s happy!
Generally, leave a bit of freedom to your partner sometimes; let him/her go to the café or the pub to meet friends or just to read a newspaper, let them go on a walk on their own or read a book in the bedroom in peace and quiet – absence makes the heart grow fonder, anyway!
Don’t let stress affect your relationship
The job, the children, problems with family and friends, money worries – unfortunately, there are more than enough things in everyday life to make us feel anxious, angry, worried or disappointed. Thing is, those things should never affect our relationship with the one we love – but stress tends to make us jumpy and nervy and bad-tempered, and we often take it out on the one person we shouldn’t: our partner.
When you feel stressed, it’s best to talk about it with your partner before any possible argument; it’s important that he/she knows why you’re in a bad mood and not as romantic and obliging as usual, and he/she will be able to comfort and reassure you and maybe even find a solution to the problem.
But if the argument has already started, try to keep it in boundaries as much as possible before you both say things you’ll regret; try a bit of humour to calm the waves, and afterwards apologise for your bad temper. And if he/she really seems injured or sad, for heaven’s sake go out and buy him/her a box of chocolate or a teddy bear or draw him/her a lovely romantic picture with a big ‘SORRY’ written underneath; pride has never been the right thing to mend a relationship!
Don’t be an egoist
As I’ve said before, in my opinion the ego is a much overrated thing these days. Love yourself, motivate yourself, be yourself, and so on – it’s all about me, me, me. So, to many people a relationship or marriage seems to be a constant restriction, a yoke that makes you deny yourself and yield to your partner and sacrifice your freedom – while in reality, it’s so much better to grow and develop together with the one you love, to give and take and teach each other new things, and to completely trust and rely on each other!
Don’t keep a record of how many times you deferred to your partner’s preferences concerning the TV programme last week, or the dinner choice – if you absolutely want to watch different programmes sometimes, get a second TV set, and if (like me) you don’t like fish, let your partner have their fish and cook something different for yourself, simple as that!
You can also take turns if you can’t agree, say, on your holiday destination: next year you’ll both go to your dream destination by the sea, and the year after you’ll join him/her in their dream cottage in the mountains. The same goes for sports activities, restaurant or cinema or theatre visits, and pretty much everything else; you’ll never feel left out if you get your fair share of the choices.
Laugh a lot together
Finally, another very important thing in life that you should share as much of as possible with your other half – laughter. It’s the best medicine, they say, and it plays such a big role in life and in living together; it makes you feel happy, it can cheer you up when you’re sad or worried, it can overcome differences and arguments, and it bonds you so much with the one you love.
If, like my darling Ian and me, you’re of the cheerful sort anyway, you’ll always find something to laugh about, whether it’s yourself or (with a bit of tact, of course) your partner, or a funny movie scene or book paragraph, or the overall state of the union (just think of the mess the British Tory government is in…); but even if you’re generally serious you should try and discover your funny side, and maybe help your other half find theirs too.
There are loads of sitcoms, comedy films and funny panel shows on TV every day; start watching some of them regularly, that will get you into the mood for continuing the jokes afterwards. Board or card games or quizzes can be a great source of fun as well – just don’t take them too seriously, they’re only games, not competitions! I almost always lose in quiz games against my clever husband; so much more’s the enjoyment when sometimes I know an answer (usually about Disney cartoons or 1970s pop songs or some other trivia) that he doesn’t!
Generally, see the bright side of life together, and the light side; there are enough serious things to cope with every day, anyway, and if you cope with them together with your partner you’ll manage. Remember that last scene in my favourite movie, “Modern Times”, when Charlie Chaplin and his girl are homeless and unemployed again, walking down the road into an uncertain future? At some point, she breaks down and starts crying, but Charlie inspires and assures her: “Buck up – never say die. We’ll get along!”
Remember that, dear friends, and nothing in the world can break your bond with the one you love.
What are your special recipes for keeping your relationship happy, dear friends? I’m looking forward to your ideas – I bet there’s a million more ways that I haven’t even mentioned yet!