Did you just roll your eyes at the title? Or, better yet, did you just Google-search me to see who the heck am I that I can be so arrogant as to not only state that my husband wouldn’t cheat on me, but to put it in print? I mean how could I be so sure? Truly, a good question. The answer, besides the fact that he is indeed a good egg, is that I have done a lot of work to keep my marriage hot and love strong, and you can too. And, as I do know that eggs, good or bad, crack, I keep doing the work.
It’s true, Will Craig, my husband of seventeen years and I have something really great going on, but it wasn’t always so great. We’ve been together twenty-two years, but who’s counting? Okay, I am. But, if you know me at all, it’s way more because I’m a stickler about things and not because I’m actually counting the years. We both admire our parents’ marriages and don’t discount how important that is. If your parents never taught you or modeled how to stay in love, you are at a disadvantage. You’ll have to learn from scratch, after you’ve already passed the most optimal stage at which to learn, your youth. But don’t worry, because you can find new role models. Keeping a marriage hot and solid is something you can learn even if it doesn’t “come naturally.”
Speaking of coming naturally (and yes the pun opportunities will continue), part of the reason people get so frustrated with keeping romance alive is because they’ve been conditioned by movies and common culture to believe that if you are with the “right” person, all the romance and spark should come as a matter of course and last forever.
I want to teach you a different love story. Sure, love, romance and hot sex usually come easily when we’re young or when the relationship is young. After that, it takes some work. I mean, if you are simply sitting back waiting to feel butterflies again, umpteen years into the relationship, without realizing YOU are in charge of their very flitter, take a seat, you’re in for a long and irksome wait.
This realization, that it takes something to keep love alive and hot shouldn’t be viewed as an injustice or a burden, but rather an opportunity to grow yourself up and take charge of your life. This perspective works in a lot of different areas, not just love.
So, if you’ve now accepted that it’s actually your job to keep love and intimacy alive (for your own happiness and to keep your partner from cheating) and that it’s a privilege and a fun game to do so, let me give you some suggestions. There are some major reasons my husband won’t cheat on me. First of all, he won’t because, well, he values fidelity and honesty. But, that’s a boring answer that doesn’t enlighten the work aspect of relationships. Plus, I want to think it’s something I have to do with, so here’s my next cut at it:
1) He has the power to please me sexually and otherwise.
It’s really important that your partner can please you and knows it. I know that seems simple and obvious, but many of you withhold your pleasure on purpose as a way to control people. We learned this at a very young age when we’d throw a tantrum to try and get candy or more time in the pool or attention from our parents. The idea is to withhold your happiness until you get what you want. Instead you get a messy, teary power struggle and you blame the other person.
For years, I used the tactic of withholding my own pleasure from my husband, and not just in the sexual arena, but in every arena (see stickler). He couldn’t drive right, do chores right, have conversations right or “loosen me up” in bed. How convenient that my satisfaction was all his problem and his failure. But, isn’t sex a team sport?
Growing up means making your happiness and pleasure YOUR problem and challenge to solve. @HGLifeCoaching (Click to Tweet!)
As soon as I figured that out, life got soooo much better for me and for my husband. I am now generally pleased with my life and what’s in it, because I have designed it that way. And I know that it is my job to like what my husband does. So, either I get to liking it or find a great and graceful way to tweak it.
Turns out what he told me is true, I do catch more bees with honey. You should try it too. Pretend it’s nobody else’s job to please you, only yours, and then pretend you are NOT ALLOWED to be displeased. How would you train people? What would you ask for? Whom would you thank and for what? What different choices would you make?
2) We make regular time for each other and treat it as sacred.
We have a bedtime and we honor it every night, to the minute. We both acknowledge how important regular face time is. During this time, we have a ritual with questions we ask each other that are designed to cause intimacy and reveal all parts of ourselves. I have to tell him what I am proud of in our marriage, how I succeeded that day, whom I connected with, where I played the victim and what I love about him. He has to tell me everything he doesn’t want to say, whom he connected with, what bad traits came up that day, his successes and what he loves about me. We also re-assess our wedding vows and re-write them every year on our anniversary, and then we give ourselves grades on how we are doing at keeping them each week during our nightly ritual. This year, I promised to listen more deeply than ever and to have my best year yet, and he promised to make eye contact and manage his time beautifully. See? We invent new and fun conversations about life, and our love, that are just ours, and that is what keeps us connected. (And you can, too).
3) It’s safe to talk about sexuality in our house.
Sexually, he is allowed to like what he likes and so there is no sneaking. Even if I don’t want to do everything he likes (and vice versa) there is no shaming about any of it. Those topics are sacred and protected. If that is not the case in your partnership, please take a good hard look at why not. What are you afraid of? What is your partner afraid of? What wounds are unhealed? I had to do plenty of work on myself to understand that I am not the same as my partner, and I don’t have to be, and none of it is personal (unless it is).
4) I make him my hero.
I am now in the business of finding what I love about my partner (because I chose him!) rather than what doesn’t work. I like to catch him being my hero. Whatever quality you want to see more of in your partner, start seeing it! I recommend you write down all the times you “catch” what you want to see. Most (if not all) of us have been in another sport altogether, evidencing what sucks about our partner. Cut it out, okay? Stop cheering for the wrong team and get on your’s.
5) We are involved in each other’s lives.
Seems obvious, right? Do you know what your partner does with his/her time? Are you talking about it? I’d notice if Will was not home or where I expect him to be. We are intimately involved in each other’s lives and we like that. You do not have to have the same preferences or spend all your time together, but please think something is fishy if there are weird gaps in communication or understanding what your partner’s life is like. Please do not persist in denial.
6) I have sex with him/her.
As long as we are on the obvious part of the list, here is the final, most important way to keep a hot marriage going; keep it hot! It’s amazing to me how true the cliché of the sex fading with time has become. Once again, cut it out!! Take a stand and lie back down in bed with that person you loved enough that you committed to him or her. Just get back on the bike and ride, it really does come back to you. Do NOT wait to be in the mood. And, psst, you just so happen to be in charge of your own mood. But, nice try.
Well, I’ve given you more than enough, but I haven’t nearly said it all. If you want a thorough perspective on how to stay in love with your partner, come to our 1-hour tele-talk, Three Secrets of Happy Marriages, and learn what you can do to keep love and intimacy alive in your relationship.
Laurie Gerber is a Senior Coach and Co-President of Handel Group® Life Coaching. For over 15 years, Laurie has led international events and private coaching courses. She has appeared on MTV’s True Life, A&E’s The Marriage Test, Dr. Phil and TODAY.
Image courtesy of PicJumbo.