Updated: Nov 21, 2019
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There’s nothing more romantic than a marriage proposal, and a wedding day! The entire elaborate gesture seems to culminate in the reading aloud of handwritten vows, and finally, the kiss!!
On my own wedding day, our photographer captured the moment of my love and I running off together just after our marriage ceremony was complete. In one of the Disney movies or RomComs that I grew up with, this would be freeze frame, cue nostalgic music and credits. In real life, we did go on to have the absolute best night of our lives, and then a couple months floating blissfully in the magical bubble of the honeymoon phase. Then life just kept going, with its relentless mundanity. Day by day, year by year. Then came our first kid, a major move, career growing pains, financial stress, ebbs and flows in our chemistry. Sometimes, all we can manage is a half-assed attempt to keep those wedding day promises alive. Mostly, our bond, and our appreciation for each other continues to deepen over time. But it doesn’t just happen on its own.
Not surprisingly, it turns out that marriage is more of a journey than a destination. It’s not one grand choice that you make to be together. It’s thousands of small choices. Choosing again each day to actively love the other person. Sometimes this looks like simply choosing not to walk out the door. Sometimes it’s exactly like the tender and lofty words that you spoke aloud at the altar. In the name of love, I’ve curated some gems of wisdom for successfully living your marriage vows, IRL, as long as you both shall live. These come from personal experience, as well as renowned relationship professionals.
KEEP YOUR VOWS HANDY
In the Jewish tradition there’s something called the Ketubah. Back in the day it was just a legal document. Over time it has evolved, along with marriage itself, to be a beautiful piece of art that displays a couple’s vows. In many Jewish households, including my own, the Ketubah hangs on the wall as a celebrated reminder that our marriage is the spiritual foundation of the household. I love our Ketubah, and like all pieces of art, it is something I could easily become used to, and notice less and less over time. So I make a habit of remembering to stop and read it from time to time. My husband and I also read it aloud to each other at least once a year on our anniversary. Our Ketubah also contains some of our shared life dreams. This keeps us on track and brings meaning to the center of our relationship.
LEARN THE HABITS OF SUCCESS
A team of brilliant psychologists, led by a husband and wife team have pioneered decades of longitudinal research with real couples to discover the key ingredients to a successful marriage. Successful meaning staying together over time, and being both happy and satisfied in relationship overall. The Gottman Method is an elegantly organized framework to help couples proactively stay married, and avoid common pitfalls that they might likely fall into if left to their own devices. I can’t recommend this resource highly enough! The Gottman Institute website is full of information, and many ways to integrate the keys to a successful marriage into your own relationship. The most accessible and affordable option is to get a workbook. Then go spend a weekend alone with your sweetie and dive into the material.
PRACTICE ROMANTIC GESTURES
It’s the little things! Learn each other’s love languages and make a habit of communicating your love through tiny gestures. Here’s a quick list of the ‘5 Love Languages’ and sample ideas.
Words of Affirmation ~ hide notes in your lover’s bag or somewhere they’ll find them.
Physical Touch ~ hold hands, snuggle.
Quality Time ~ go on dates.
Acts of Service ~ make your bu their morning beverage of choice and bring it to them.
Gifts ~ bring home flowers.
NURTURE YOUR SEX LIFE
Having a satisfying sex life with your partner is important. Emotional intimacy, physical closeness, and personal wellbeing are all greatly supported through love making. Over enough time, even the most steamy chemistry finds a habitual pattern and gets predictable. After 5, 7, 10+ years most couples no longer spend hours in bed learning each other’s bodies. When you notice things getting bland or infrequent, try inviting your lover to an erotic play date. It’s no fun to walk up to your partner and say, “ya know, things are getting a little boring and auto pilot in bed. Can you please step it up a notch?” It’s very fun to flirtatiously say, “Let’s spend a night away and have an erotic play date!” Bring homemade aphrodisiacs , toys, lingerie.. Take your time and find out something new about yourself, your partner, and the capacities of your chemistry.
Being physical is fantastic for overall health as well as libido. Being physical with your partner is fun and bonding. It’s also definitely quality time. Work out, play sports, hike, dance together!
LEAN INTO COMMUNITY
No relationship is an island! Friends and community are essential for a balanced life, and for a balanced primary relationship. Community provides support and accountability, as well as an opportunity to express different aspects of our personalities. Seek out high quality friendships and make time for the ones you have.
KEEP AN OPEN MIND
It’s true in life that the only constant is change. So as much as it’s important to do our best to live up to ideals, it’s equally important to stay present. To see your spouse with fresh eyes sometimes, and to really listen. In marriage everything becomes about we. This is a beautiful thing about marriage, but it can be stifling at times. Allow space for yourself, and your partner, to change. The ability to welcome change with an open mind, and an open heart, creates more possibility to grow and change together.