Water and Sunshine for Your Love
How much quality time do you spend with your partner every day?
For most of us, it is less than thirty minutes a day. Some moms confess “None.” They don’t have time for one-on-one. The kids and the house suck up all their energy and time. How can they relax and talk when there are loads of work to do at home? When they finally have a moment to sit down and catch a breath, they spend it watching TV or on Facebook. They put their most important relationship at the bottom of the priority list, below grocery shopping, cat videos, and Game of Thrones.
You can’t sustain love without spending quality time together.
Think of love as a flower. With water and sunshine, it blooms in the most spectacular color. When in love, you were blooming. You wanted every minute of the day to be with each other. After the kids, you water the relationship less and less. Without sunshine, you let your appearance go. When problems arise, you blame each other, saying hurtful words over trivial things. The flower withers, and you become cohabiting neighbors. You stop feeling each other while sharing the same bed. One day, someone else who’s keen on water and sunshine will steal one of you away, leaving a broken family behind.
If you want a happy relationship, ask yourself how often you water the flower of your love? When was the last time you laughed with each other, doing the activities you used to enjoy together? If you find yellowing leaves, rekindle the love with intimacy and care. Remember the happiness circles we talked about in Chapter 1? A loving relationship is an essential part of your well-being. Don’t kill the precious flower.
Motivational speaker Tony Robbins writes about the five disciplines of love on his website. 10 In a nutshell, here’s his advice:
Stop focusing on yourself, focus on your partner’s love and needs.
Tell the truth. The more vulnerable you are, the more power you have.
Always think about the positive intent. Don’t play the blame game. Apologize when you’re wrong.
Praise your loved one specifically for what he has done for you.
Learn to forgive and forget. It’s better to be in love than to be right.
Can you learn from his advice?
When I first met Nora, she told me the only reason she stayed in the marriage was for her kids. She married her husband for love, but he quickly changed after the kids were born. He worked long hours. Even when he was home, he was uninterested in helping her with the chores. When she complained about having to do everything by herself, he told her it was because she always criticized him for not doing things the right way. She had tears in her eyes when she told me this: “I caught him watching porn while I was scrubbing the kitchen floor.” After the incident, she couldn’t sleep for days, wondering how their marriage had broken down so fast.
I asked if they ever talked about the incident, and she told me there was nothing left to talk about.
“It’s over between us,” she said.
“Do your kids love him?” I asked.
“They do,” she said with a sigh. “He buys them their favorite junk food and takes them to play outside.”
“So he cares about the kids,” I said.
“I told him not to buy the unhealthy stuff for them, but he just won’t listen.”
“Does he eat junk food himself?”
She nodded. “I give up on changing his diet. He’ll never change.”
“When you two were dating, did it bother you that he had an unhealthy eating habit?”
She shook her head. “He was adventurous, hilarious too, cracked me up all the time. It was so much fun being with him, I never cared about his diet.”
“But it bothers you now.”
“Well, I have to think about what is good for the kids. I’m responsible for their future.”
“Has he ever asked you to change?” I asked.
She blinked at the question. “What do you mean? I prepare homemade lunches for the kids. I help them with their homework every day. Never missed a single PTA meeting. I do everything I need to do.”
“How often do you talk to your husband?” I asked. “Not about the kids and the day-to-day things.”
She considered the question.
“When was the last time you asked him how he felt? What does he expect from you?”
She pursed her lips. “Well, he looks okay to me. I’m the one who’s suffering, not him.”
“If you don’t mind me asking,” I continued, “when was the last time you had sex with him?”
She stared at me. “I’m always so tired, you know?”
I told her to go home and schedule some intimate time with her husband. Once she felt comfortable enough to talk about the incident, she should be honest about her feelings of being betrayed. When she came back to see me in two weeks, she looked happier. I noticed she had a haircut that made her look younger. When I complimented her, she told me they had a long talk after sex. She realized she had been unintentionally driving him away with her complaints and criticism. He loved her but felt resentful when she picked on him all the time. He craved the passion they once shared, and the porn was a poor substitute for her lack of interest in intimacy. Six months later, when I saw her again, she told me happily that her husband has finally adapted to a healthier diet after abnormal cholesterol test results. She began to praise him for each little step he took toward that positive change. The last time I heard they’d started going to the gym together.
This is one example of how water and sunshine keep your love strong. The next time you encounter problems with your relationship, ask yourself if you have neglected your partner’s feelings and needs, and how you can apply the five disciplines of love to resolve the issues.
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