Do you feel like your marriage has lost its spark? Here's how to keep the love alive

(Photo: Suada Isaki)

When a long marriage isn't as good as it could be, the temptation can be to bail or to sweep the issues under the carpet and settle for the status quo. But there is a third option, which is to work at improving the relationship. No one is too old to discover better ways of relating. I have seen couples that have been married 60 years transform their marriage.

How do you go about it? I want to focus on three things that might help.

1. Focus on changing yourself rather than your spouse. Most of us are probably far more aware of our husband's or wife's faults, mistakes and irritating habits, than we are of our own. But, we need to take the critical spotlight off our partner and concentrate on improving what isn't perfect in ourselves (which will no doubt be a lifetime's work).

Ask God for fresh insight as to how you could behave or react differently. This is especially important where you have fallen into bad habits in the way you respond to each other. It only takes one person to change the dynamic in a relationship. Change can start with you.

2. Seek to understand. Often when someone nags or distances themselves in a marriage it is because they don't feel they are being heard or understood.

Ask your partner what they would like to improve in your relationship. In a marriage especially a long one, we can assume we know our husband or wife, how they feel and what they like. But people change and if a relationship is to grow and mature, we need to keep learning about each other.

So, take time to listen to each other. Don't interrupt, don't try and fix problems, don't go off on a tangent, try not to get defensive if they you something you've done wrong...but really listen to them. Focus your attention on them, ask questions if you need to, and keep listening until you truly understand. And if it does turn out that you have done something wrong, be quick to say "sorry".

3. Keep the joy alive. Keep building on your bank of shared memories. Write a list of things you would both love to do, ways you could serve together and places you would like to visit. Then plan to make them happen.

Also, once a week plan to have a date night together, either in or out. If it is at home, create a romantic atmosphere and take turns cooking. If your partner likes surprises, plan something that they would love. (If you are not sure, ask a friend, child or relative for ideas).

Find out what makes your partner feel most loved and do it. If they want you to remember to take the rubbish out, do that. If they long for you to buy them a bunch of flowers or their favourite chocolate, buy some. If they would rather a foot massage, then invest in some oil and get rubbing.

Remember, what makes you feel loved and special, might not be what works for them. So, take the time to find out what they really like. If you want a clue – think of the things that they complain that you don't do.

Every day ask yourself how you can be a blessing to your spouse. This may sound rather one-sided but as they feel more loved and understood, they are much more likely to respond by loving you better in return.

Sarah Abell is the author of Inside Out – how to have authentic relationships with everyone in your life.You can follow her on Twitter at @nakedhedgehogs

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