Last Saturday night, I danced with my husband at the school fundraiser. A fellow partygoer shimmied over and said: "He's a good dancer. You've got a keeper!"
"It's why I married him," I replied.
That statement made me think about what it takes to keep a marriage fresh, fun and on track. I did marry my husband not only because he could dance, but because he would dance. And I like to dance. Seventeen years later, he's still a very enthusiastic partner, even though our dance opportunities are not as frequent as they used to be. But give us credit—we're still dancing!
What are the other aspects of our relationship that still work despite the years? And where could we make a little more effort when it comes to keeping our marriage on track? You know I love a list! So, here's my 5-Point Marriage Checkup:
Stay Engaged Emotionally It's easy to let the chaos of dueling schedules, raising children or staying afloat financially take over the conversation of daily life. Logistics are a must. But don't forget to connect back to the "why" of life. You married each other because you cared, so keep caring. Be positive. Stay supportive. Listen to your partner—and that means not talking. Continue to give each other a forum for hopes and dreams.
Stay Engaged Physically Practice yoga, play golf, compete in couples triathlons (if you must), but keep on moving— preferably together. Have you ever seen an older couple doing their fitness walking and holding hands? They look happy, don't they? A little weird, but very happy. My theory? Connecting physically in any activity keeps the sexual spark fired up. Woo-hoo!
Develop Mutual Interests If you're like me, you've had moments of terror when you look across the dinner table and wonder if you'll have anything left to say to your partner during the empty nest years. Don't wait until the kids are gone to reconnect on an intellectual level. You may be left with nothing but TV reruns! Start now by developing a passion for movies, plays, music, travel, church or community service. Commit to outside interests that stimulate conversation meaningful to you both.
Develop Separate Interests Mutual interests are key, but "get your own thing" is one piece of advice I hear from couples in it for the long haul. Everybody needs space and separation. Making time for the activities you really love, but your spouse may not, is critical for your own growth. And, that time apart is what makes the time together that much more rewarding.
Don't Stop Believing Marriage is a leap of faith. It's a crazy idea when you break it down on paper: two people bound for a lifetime, for better or worse. But at some point between the initial flush of love and the reality of the day-to-day, you become one. Remember that when you start to sweat the small stuff. Be kind. Be patient. Believe.
How do you keep your marriage strong? Comment below.
Lian Dolan is a mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, writer and talk show host. She writes and talks about her adventures in modern motherhood for her website,ChaosChronicles.com, and her weekly podcast, The Chaos Chronicles.