If I asked you whether your relationship is your top priority, what would you say?
If you said yes . . . did you mean it?
When was the last time you and your spouse had some alone time and talked about your feelings?
Really connected. Discussed your hopes or your dreams. Or even just had more than a few minutes together – and I don’t mean the time you spend sleeping!
If you’re not feeling the most connected to your spouse, you’re not alone. It happens in every relationship at times. But if the feeling has been there for a while, it might mean you both need to do a little work to make sure your relationship is a priority.
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It’s Easy To Get Off-Track
It’s easy to let your relationship slide a little bit in the business of everyday life. Especially when stepfamily life gets complicated. Between dealing with high-conflict exes, kids who might not be wild about you, or just feeling like your life is chaos, it can frequently feel like we’re just trying to get through the day in one piece.
But when one of you perceives that the other isn’t making an effort, then you both might be tempted to stop trying – and that’s where your relationship can start to deteriorate.
For example, if you feel your partner would rather be on the golf course than with you, that can affect your self-esteem. And if your spouse thinks you’d rather be at work than with them they will likely start to resent your career.
It’s also easy to take each other for granted during these times. And it can be even harder when you’re in a blended family. You may not have had time to adjust to being a couple like traditional marriages do.
You’re growing into the marriage and the family at the same time you’re parenting. Whether it’s self-esteem, resentment, taking each other for granted, or having growing pains, these issues can fester and bubble up to the surface in ways that certainly don’t help your relationship.
Your Relationship Needs To Be A Top Priority
I’m going to say something here that you may or may not want to hear. Your relationship with your partner needs to be a priority over every other relationship. And yes, I am including your stepkids there.
Because here’s the thing. If you don’t have a solid marriage or relationship, there is no family. If you aren’t working as a team, you’ll have a harder time dealing with all that stepfamily life can throw your way.
And let’s face it, that can be a lot. Being in a blended family is no walk in the park. In fact, almost 70 percent of second marriages fail. So you need all the tools you can get to make sure that’s not you. And the biggest tool is making sure your relationship comes first.
So how do you make your relationship a priority? For starters, you both have to agree that you want it to be a priority. Then you both have to agree to work together to make a shift.
And it is work. These are steps that won’t happen on their own. But when you achieve a happier marriage, it’s worth it.
Ten steps you can take right now to make your relationship a priority:
1. Spend quality time together.
The key is to be intentional about spending time together. Focus on having a little bit of time each day, just you two. If your life is nuts with kids’ schedules, work, and activities, you may need to add this time to your schedule. Even if it’s just a few minutes before bed, make it happen. If you can schedule date nights, even better. Whatever form it takes, just do it.
2. Say thank you.
Look for things in your life and about your partner to be grateful for. If you focus only on all the areas your spouse falls short, it won’t help your mindset of putting your relationship back on the front burner. We all fall short sometimes.
Instead, reframe your thinking. Focus on aspects about your spouse you are grateful for. Are they considerate about bringing in the mail every day or keeping the car clean? Or do they compliment you regularly? Whatever it might be, focus on your partner’s positive qualities.
And thank them when they do something nice. If your spouse does the dishes, thank them. Try to say thank you. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and isn’t that
3. Assume good intent.
Always work under the assumption that you love each other and want nothing but the best for each other. Everybody sticks their foot in their mouth at some point or another. If you or your spouse says something offensive or hurtful to the other, if you have that underlying knowledge that your partner wants the best for you, it will be easier to resist assuming they were being hurtful on purpose.
4. Understand each other’s “love language” and try to speak it.
If you aren’t familiar with the Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, the premise is that everyone experiences love differently, through one of five “love languages.” And once you and your partner understand how each other experiences love, you’ll be able to communicate more effectively in ways that you each fully understand.
I’m guessing when you first met each other, there was some flirting. But once you settle into life together, it’s easy to let the humdrum routines take over and lose that playfulness.
But it’s also easy to pick it back up. Give your spouse a sassy comeback, maybe even a slightly inappropriate wink. Pat their behind playfully every once in a while when you’re walking past them in the kitchen. Something to let them know you’re still interested in them in that way, if you know what I mean.
6. Say “I love you” every day.
This is pretty self-explanatory. And let me remind you: You are not roommates. You are life partners. Lovers. Parents. And you have a passion for each other – even if you haven’t accessed it in a while.
Saying “I love you” is just a small daily reminder to each other that while you are teammates, you are also so much more. You’re each other’s person and you’re in it together unconditionally.
7. Be affectionate.
Do you hold hands when you go places, or even when you’re just watching TV on the couch? If not, try it. Walk up and give your partner an unexpected hug. Or brush some loose strands of hair off their face. Showing affection is just another way to convey love. And to keep those feelings at the forefront.
8. Communicate well.
Find ways to be more open and honest with each other. In ways that don’t hurt feelings, of course. Tell your partner what your needs are.
And check in with each other regularly. This can be done formally through having a designated “weekly meeting” or informally. I love the idea of a regular weekly time, maybe on Sundays, where you go through the logistics of the upcoming week, but also check in on how each of you is feeling.
9. Share a hobby.
Do you and your spouse have something you enjoy doing together? It could be finding new places to hike or gardening. It could be reading or discussing books or television shows. Putting together a puzzle.
Whatever it may be, find ways to enjoy a hobby together regularly.
10. Cherish each other. (Even when you don’t feel like it.)
I know, it may sound a little cheesy, but stick with me. Even when you’re not feeling it, you should both find ways to show you value each other.
Say something nice to each other every day. Even if you’re frustrated. It can be as simple as, “you look nice today” or a more sentimental, “ I’m glad we’re together.”
However you decide to work to get on track, making your relationship a priority will solidify your foundation and make sure you work as a team to tackle any blended family challenges that might come your way.