February 2021 is upon us, and I have fully embraced the love theme of Valentine’s Day by decorating my home in an unprecedented way. There are pink flowers, white ribbon, hearts, lights, candles, and traditional colour-themed candy.
Everything that speaks of whimsical romance and creating lifelong love and it makes me happy.
What makes me even happier is that in a few months, I will be celebrating TWENTY-EIGHT years of marriage to my first and only husband, Shawn.
Walking down the aisle almost three decades ago, we may have been voted least likely to succeed in marriage, but somehow we beat the odds. This season has me feeling grateful while contemplating our lives together and what secrets we might share about creating lifelong love.
8 Secrets to Creating Lifelong Love
1. Marry someone with similar values.
This point is an important preventative measure for all single individuals looking for lifelong love and it is the foundation for all my other secrets. Core values are EVERYTHING because, for good or bad, all your life decisions stem from this central place. Your core values determine how you treat other people, whether you will have children or not and how you are going to raise them. How you will make financial decisions, and who gets the final say when you can’t agree. What is your faith, and how are you going to express it?
When you are in the heat of infatuation, it is easy to skim right past deep, honest discussions about values especially if your passion is in the midst of betraying them. That person you are in love with is on their best behaviour and you on yours. It can be tough to think objectively, but if you want to experience LIFELONG love, you need to write down your core values and compare notes not just in words but in actions.
2. Never say die.
I am not saying there aren’t valid reasons to exit a marriage. There are. While some divorces result from physical abuse or adultery, many more are “irreconcilable differences.” Or may I dare say, different CORE VALUES that cause deep, unbridgeable divides?
I’m embarrassed to say that I have contemplated pulling the plug during some dark moments of my own marriage. My husband and I have both have spat out the words, “Well, maybe we should just get a divorce!” in moments of extreme conflict. Those words are so damaging to experiencing a rich, trusting relationship.
Even in a relationship where you share core values, the feminine / masculine relationship is fraught with difficulties in expressing them. Two completely different individuals who continue to grow and change or worse, don’t, throughout the years are harnessed together to face a litany of life experiences with some unexpected challenges.
You are a team. Teamwork is wonderful when there are synergy and unison, but it is an absolute nightmare if there isn’t. Lifelong love is all about fighting to keep both team members engaged and working together toward a common purpose—another reference to the core values mentioned in point number one.
3. When in conflict, purpose not to destroy in the heat of anger.
Early in our marriage, Shawn and I had a conflict that escalated out of control. I grabbed Shawn’s precious universal remote control and threw it to the floor with enough force to smash it. Immediately, I regretted my actions. What had I done? I had belongings of value, and Shawn could’ve retaliated by breaking any of those, but he didn’t. We didn’t have a lot of money to be replacing possessions that we recklessly broke while in passionate arguments. I decided at that moment that I would never choose destruction while in conflict.
Last year, as I watched citizens riot, tear down and destroy businesses and vehicles, I was saddened. When we are destructive, we demonstrate a lack of wisdom. Destruction doesn’t just impact the person we are targeting; it ALWAYS impacts us.
Do you remember the GOLDEN RULE? Do onto others as you would have them do onto you and its close companion, Love your neighbour as yourself.
These two principles are fundamental in lifelong love.
You may think, “but they did this to me, so I have a right to do this to them.” An “eye for an eye” thinking is not the same as the Golden rule. The Golden rule elevates the person who adheres to it. An “eye for an eye” mindset will only blind us all.
The refusal to destroy while burning with anger avoids a lot of unnecessary fallout when the fire of fury subsides. Destruction is like adding fuel, and the rage of conflict will die down quicker if you do not feed the flames.
4. Invest in your sexual relationship.
Remember, we are talking about lifelong LOVE, not lifelong FRIENDSHIP. The only difference between lovers and friends is intimacy. If you are not sharing times of intimacy, then you are friends, not lovers.
When you fell in love, sex was all about exploration, and you invested a lot of time and energy into it. It was all about romance that you spent a significant time preparing for, and you were entirely present for in mind and body. After some time, familiarity sets into your relationship. You can predict what the other person is going to say and do. You can predict how your sexual time will play out if you are even able to “close the deal,” so to speak. Skin goes unshaved, attention wanders, and expressions of love can get lazy. Long lapses of time can go by with no intimacy.
This drifting is a warning sign to take heed to.
While some adulterous betrayal happens in marriages where the betrayed party was caught entirely unaware with no visible diminishing of shared intimacy, I would argue that most adultery leaves visible, foreboding clues.
Less frequent intimacy is one of them. Less frequent intimacy combined with unresolved conflict and uncoordinated schedules is a screaming siren. Even if nothing is currently wrong, you are holding a ticking time bomb of opportunity.
Couples must fight for intimacy. Not just the physical act but the sense of being “on the same page,” “in unison,” or “connecting” that leads to closeness.
Intimacy changes as you age. When you are young, it is more about excitement, passion and pleasure.
As a couple who has enjoyed decades of sanctioned sex, I can say that ageing and hormone changes have changed the dynamic. There is still excitement, passion and pleasure, but do you know what I treasure more than anything? Trust and monogamy. I can be completely myself in a scarred, stretch-marked, ageing body with a man who has shared years of life experiences with me and we still “minister” to one another and find joy together.
The one-night stand lifestyle never appealed to me, but now, especially in this new age of COVID, I cannot fathom how individuals can share such intimate expressions of love casually with strangers. I know that sounds prudish, but only an ageing woman with years of monogamy can share this wisdom. Indeed, my husband’s loyalty and unwavering dedication to meeting my sexual needs is a priceless gift. I know he appreciates my purposing to be sexually available to him as well.
Let’s get back to the word, investing. It’s not enough to show up, although, during years of financial restriction and child-raising, that may be tempting. We tend to show our priorities in how we spend our money. Investing in your intimacy that leads to sexual fulfillment means precisely that.
- Attending marriage seminars
- Weekend getaways to create intimate time
- Reading relationship improvement books
- Buying and wearing lingerie
- Burning candles
- Playing music
- Generously applying massage oil
- Using luxurious bed sheets
Whatever you as a couple find to enhance your time together in the context of monogamy. (Monogamy means it is just you and your lover, no other parties virtual or otherwise)
One day you will grow old and put on a few pounds. You will have aches, pains and physical limitations. The lifestyle of turning and connecting to each other becomes something incredibly beautiful and rewarding beyond your youth’s passion.
5. Be humble enough to ask for and receive help.
I’m not writing this article as one who has all the answers or from some elevated maturity. I have one thing and one thing only: experience—like a war veteran. I look at our wedding photo and think, “Awe…we were so young and CLUELESS! We had all the confidence in the world and no idea what we were in for.”
Honestly, I’m kind of glad I didn’t know everything I was signing up for. Shawn certainly got more than he bargained for too. Ours has been a “refining” process. All marriages are.
We didn’t magically navigate through home renovations, child-rearing, job changes, financial struggles and life surprises on our own. We had help. First, we turned to church counselling and later, we paid for professional counselling. We didn’t need it all the time. There were just situations and cycles where we “got stuck,” and we needed help to move forward, or our relationship was going to take a turn in the wrong direction.
It wasn’t enough to ask for help. We needed to receive it too. We were assigned “homework” to do, and we completed it. That is important. It’s easy to reject sound advice that expects us to change, but we won’t grow if we do that.
Shawn and I owe much to those who took the time to listen to our struggles and point us in the right direction. I don’t think we would still be here without the help we received.
6. Grasp for mutual interests.
As two individuals grow and change over the years, it’s not necessarily in the same direction. Years ago, I worked as a fitness instructor, which required me to work Saturday mornings. Shawn wasn’t as enthusiastic about fitness, and he didn’t want to attend my classes. I saw he needed an outlet of his own, so I encouraged him to buy his first motorcycle and go out with the guys on Saturday when I was working.
Later though, I stopped working in the fitness industry and took a full-time weekday job, and suddenly, our time together was scarce. Now the Saturday morning together was precious, and I resented getting up and facing the day alone. Life changed.
I tried joining Shawn, but I’m not too fond of motorcycles or how the outings focus on meeting at Timmies and then stopping for brunch. It would be different if we were on bicycles expending calories. It was clear that I was not prepared to be Shawn’s biker chick and that my misery affected his happiness. I know that was a disappointment to him the same way his refusing to be a gym rat affected me.
We both enjoy riding our bikes, but when we entered a cycling event together, our different approaches caused yet another conflict. Shawn wanted to ride hard and fast to get the ordeal over quickly, but I’m more of a “little engine that could” kind of rider. I’m slow, plodding, and I don’t care how long it takes me. It didn’t take long for explosive conflict to develop. We both took the joy out of the other’s experience.
For a while there, we floundered. Was there anything we BOTH enjoyed mutually where one person didn’t feel like they were losing or sacrificing for the other? We tried backpacking together, and that was a one-time-only deal. Shawn hated it.
Well, we’ve made some adjustments over time. We go for short bike rides together. I occasionally go for a short motorcycle ride with Shawn. We have tv programs on Netflix that we only watch when we are together, no matter how badly I want to view ahead. We installed a jacuzzi, and I try to join Shawn whenever possible, which is harder than it sounds. The latest discovery was a mutual enjoyment of kayaking, which I never saw coming. We love getting out on the water and paddling in nature, and it has none of the irritation and drama that canoeing together created.
Couples have to find their way to find meaningful life enjoyment together, and it can be a lonely, painful process. If you are reading this and thinking that you never have that issue, your partner always wants to do what pleases you—you are either incredibly blessed or have a partner who is doing a lot of pleasing at a personal sacrifice. You might want to talk where the other person feels safe to share their feelings to make sure both of you are getting what you want.
7. Recognize love’s seasons.
Lifelong love means you get all the seasons. Spring is a mating season full of possibilities. Summer is hot and tedious but with pleasant evenings and lots of days at the pool or beach. Autumn is full of change and festivities. Winter is cold, bleak and seemingly endless.
You don’t get the moments of passion, refreshing, change and festivities without winter. Winter in a marriage is brutal and lonely. Winter is where you start thinking things like, “God wouldn’t want me to live my entire life unhappily” or “I didn’t sign up for this.” The millionth time your lover has done something that you’ve told them repeatedly that you hate that thing. It is when the narrative of your dysfunctions take on a life of its own, and you no longer feel like you have any option but to relive your cyclic torture like the movie Groundhog Day—never learning your lesson. Over and over and over till you think you are going to lose your mind. Marriage winter is hating your spouse and wanting to leave but staying and feeling like you are dead inside because you feel trapped. Winter is contemplating divorce, suicide or homicide for a brief moment as you grapple with the darkness of your soul as it is confronted with the desire to be “free” of the tyranny that this seemingly eternal partnership dictates.
You get the idea. There are names for this process. “Dying to Self” is an apt name for it. Winter is the season where couples either keep or break those vows they said so naively to each other at the alter, “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, till death do us part.” This season is the test of those vows.
The good news is that winter doesn’t last forever. Not if you share common values, never say die, uphold the Golden rule, invest in your intimacy, ask for help and grasp for mutual interests. The other good news is that Spring, Summer and Autumn recirculate again too. After enough winters, you begin to recognize them for what they are, and they get a little more bearable, a season that will pass. Lifelong love is simply an intimate relationship that has weathered many winters to enjoy the better season together. A love veteran of sorts.
I want to end this article with a tribute to my husband, Shawn, who has put up with some crazy stuff from me over the years. He drives me up the wall and back again with his issues, but when I woke up following a dental surgery last January to find out that I had been sedated for two weeks, he was there. I couldn’t move, speak, and I looked HORRIBLE. I had a tracheotomy, and the nurses had to do EVERYTHING for me. I was as helpless as an infant.
At first, I thought that I would never be independent again, and I was scared to go home. It was a horrible feeling. Devastating.
My lifelong love was there. While I was unconscious, he went to work every day, managed our son and our dog, tried to answer my digital correspondence on my behalf, supervise my medical care, and ensure that family was by my bedside if I woke up all while he kept our friends informed of my status.
When I woke, he continued everything, but now he tried to sit with and encourage me as much as possible. Shawn brought things I needed from home and listened to my distress at what was happening.
When I came home, he helped me shower and do the simplest tasks. He displayed his love in every possible way despite the raw brokenness of my body at the time.
I will never forget his loyalty and devotion. You cannot buy that kind of lifelong love, and you can’t accumulate it quickly. It is something you build together, taking the good with the bad.
This memory leads me to my last secret:
Appreciate the other person and what they have done for you. If all you can see is what they have taken, then you need to look harder.
This list is not conclusive, but it is a great start. If you are young, I hope you hear my words and remember them in your journey. If you are older and in love’s winter, then I hope you are encouraged.
If you are single or wondering if the institution of marriage is even relevant in today’s world, I hope you decide it is worth saving yourself for and investing in. Just understand that it’s a whole lot more than rose petals, candy and romance. Creating lifelong love is so much more than that.
Celebrate Every Day of 2021
Our goal to celebrate as many events as possible in 2021 is right on track! Even if it is only just a quick graphic post on all our social media platforms. If you don’t know what this is all about, you can read about how this interesting objective was introduced by reading January’s blog post, New Year Goals: Daring to Dream Again in 2021
Here is February’s calendar, and you can see that there are many things to observe and celebrate every day if we look for them. I challenge you to follow along and share each celebration post on social media with your friends!
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