It can be easy to get lost in the day-to-day survival mode of raising a family and forget how it all started.
Here are 9 ways to remember why you fell in love, got married, and had kids in the first place.
1. Make a List
Your husband didn't take out the trash when you asked him -- and it's the third time this week. You hinted about your upcoming anniversary and he still dropped the ball. Why doesn't he pay more attention?
Your wife started crying -- again -- and you just don't get it. It's never that big of a deal! She always starts crying over the dumbest things. And let's not even talk about the nagging over the trash.
We've all been irritated with our spouse at some point. And when something happens that brings back that irritation it's easy to remember all the past reasons you've ever been irritated at them. You've got an ongoing list in your head.
If you don't put a stop to this cycle it's easy to set yourself on a path to divorce. Put an end to it by making a new list -- one of gratitude.
Next time you start feeling irritated or angry at your spouse, stop and make a list (in your mind or on paper) of all the things you love about them and are grateful for -- the color of their eyes or the way they wash the dishes or play with the kids. It might be hard to do this at first but look for something, anything.
I know of one woman who had been so angry at her spouse for so long that all she could come up with was, "He's good at breathing." If that's where you have to start then do it!
Make a gratitude list to replace your list of irritations and grievances, and then look for reasons to make that list grow.
2. Get a Vision
Most couples don't have a better marriage because they don't have a vision of what a 'better marriage' looks like -- instead, it's a vague, nebulous sort of thing somewhere out in the ether.
Get clear! Write it down! What does your ideal marriage look like? What does it feel like? What do you do together? What do you say together? How do other people see your marriage, especially your children?
Until you know exactly what you want it's impossible to create it. If you continue to complain about how bad things are you'll just keep getting more of the same. Get clarity on what you want in your marriage and then go to work to create it.
3. (Re)Discover Shared Interests
Friends do things together. They aren't clones with the exact same brain, but they do have some shared interests. You and your spouse had them once. It's time to do some digging to discover what they are.
Do you both love good food? Hiking? Art? Breathing (yes, it's a thing to be interested in)? Do you love Thai culture or studying language or literature or 16th-century poetry? Maybe you're both into anime or rare dog breeds.
Maybe you want to build libraries in Africa or hike to the base camp of Mt. Everest. Or perhaps you're passionate about education and want to build a new type of school for your grandchildren or teach your kids how to sail.
It doesn't matter what they are, it just matters that you remember you do share interests -- and a vision of a legacy you want to create.
Then the important thing is to take action to renew those interests and build that legacy... together.
4. Do Things Together & Build a Legacy
Remember those shared passions from #3 above that you re-discovered you both enjoy? Spend time doing them -- together -- starting on a weekly basis. Visit that Turskish restaurant you've been wanting to try. Go for a hike in the woods. Take a bath or get a massage.
Then schedule bigger activities on your calendar. Take a day trip, just the two of you. Do an overnighter once a quarter. Take 10-days to getaway as husband and wife and remember how (and why) this whole crazy family life adventure started in the first place.
But this is not just about having fun. Remember you also want to build a legacy. Schedule time on the calendar to plan -- and take -- that trip to Africa and to raise funds to build your library. Schedule time to take sailing lessons so you can spend a month on a boat with your family teaching them how to sail.
Think it's too expensive to do these things on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, not to mention finding a babysitter (and paying for sailing lessons or libraries)? Try getting a divorce (and then figuring out child custody) and living in misery. That's not cheap either. It's a thousand times better to invest in your marriage, legacy, and life now than to pay later for NOT investing in it.
5. Eliminate False Beliefs
Every person on the planet believes things that are not 100% true.
"Not me!" you think.
But it's inevitable. 'False beliefs' are a part of the human experience. We pick up beliefs while growing up -- from parents, teachers, or peers -- and we hold on to them. Not because we're ignorant schmucks, but because we've never had a reason to question, evaluate, and re-identify every aspect of our existing belief system.
'Aha' moments help you realize something you believe is not accurate and you start to see the world in a new way -- like when you first realize the clouds don't "block out the sun", they just block your view of the sun. Or that you don't have to follow a traditional career path, just because that's what you're 'supposed to do' or that it's more 'safe and secure'.
The best marriages are those made up of individuals who question their beliefs to identify the ones which are false. Why do I believe it's the man's job to take out the trash or to hang the Christmas lights? Why do I believe my spouse is supposed to say or do certain things? Where do those beliefs come from?
Our limiting beliefs can become a rulebook in our head that keeps us from being happy until my spouse follows the rules and meets my expectations (which they are likely not even aware of.)
We can find more peace and happiness in our marriage when we identify and eliminate the unnecessary rules and limiting beliefs that contribute to unhappiness.
6. Make Yourself Happy
It is NOT your spouse's job to make you happy. That is YOUR job. You alone are responsible for your own happiness. So stop blaming your unhappiness on your spouse.
When you begin to be a happier person then you'll start to have a happier marriage. Happiness is an inside job. Stop looking to outside circumstances and behavior from others to determine your personal happiness. That's victimism.
Stop being a victim. Start being the hero of your own life story.
7. Learn to Understand The Opposite Sex
Men and women are different. Learn about and understand these differences. Read books about it. Take classes.
Once you realize that she's not crying over the stupid little thing that just happened, but about the week-or-month-long little things that have built up and are finally 'spilling over' then you'll have a lot more empathy for your wife's tears.
Once you understand that your husband does not get hints, then you'll stop hinting and start asking clearly and directly. And once you understand that sex is a highly emotional experience for a man and a way to emotionally connect with you on the deepest level possible then you'll stop withholding it over petty grievances or preferences -- you're just driving a wedge between you.
Understanding brings compassion, and compassion builds a great marriage.
8. Bring Back the Passion
Remember how he used to look at you? Remember how she always wanted to be near you and to hold on to your arm?
Remember your first kiss? Remember the first time?
Remember how you used to get dressed up and put on your makeup and deodorant and shave your legs and armpits? Remember how you used to do your hair and trim your beard? Remember when you didn't wear sweats. All. Day. Long?
No wondered you were attracted to each other, and that you're not anymore.
Remember when you used to love each other. I'm using love as a verb here. An action word. You love someone when you do loving things for them. It's what you did when you were dating -- you'd hold the door and hold hands and looking lovingly into each others' eyes. That is love in action.
Bring back the love in action (and the deodorant and shaving) and you'll bring back the passion.
9. Consistently Work on Your Marriage
If you're not consistently working on your marriage then you're (automatically and unconsciously) working on your divorce.
If you plant an apple tree but never water, fertilize, or prune it, you can't expect to produce a great harvest of apples. That's because there are laws of nature that must be followed. If it's not growing, thriving, and producing then it's atrophying and dying. Or misshapen and useless.
Your marriage is no different. You can coast to a great marriage. You can't accidentally have an amazing wedding or build a dream house. It takes planning and preparation and hard work, or by default, you end up with 'crap'.