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Building a Positive Relationship With Your Spouse

You've both got jobs to do, a household to run, and maybe even children to raise. So the time you spend alone together is limited. How can busy spouses, especially those dealing with a military lifestyle, build a sound, lasting relationship in such a high-speed, ever changing world? A loving relationship needs careful attention and constant nurturing. But it's easy to lose sight of that when you're racing through the day, trying to meet so many other demands.

Here are some suggestions to help you cultivate quality and endurance in your marriage, so that it will go the distance.

The heart of the matter

What makes you a great couple? It may begin with knowing yourselves and not trying to change each other. Loving, long-term partnerships aren't born. They grow from a rich feeding on acceptance, commitment, ritual, and empathy. Here are some strategies to help you strengthen your connection:

- Adjust your expectations. Accept yourself and your spouse as you are now. It's natural to want the "honeymoon phase" to last forever. But it doesn't. Over time, both you and your spouse will change, and the relationship itself will change as your lives become more complicated. For instance, after you start a family, you are transferred to a new installation, or experience your first extended separation due to deployment. You may find that you've lost some of the spontaneity that you once enjoyed, or perhaps your emotional needs have shifted because work takes more of your energy. If you accept that relationships evolve, you won't be disappointed when the honeymoon phase ends and life as a couple begins.

- Date each other. Spend time alone together to re-ignite the intimacy and romance in your relationship. It will help you remember what brought you together in the first place. It's important to "make" the time to be alone together, because you are unlikely, especially with the unique demands of a military lifestyle, just to "find" it. Once a week or once a month, schedule the kind of date you had when you were single or before you began your family. Agree not to discuss the children, the in-laws, or finances. Dress up and go out to dinner, see a movie, or spend a "quality" evening at home with the phone turned off. Take turns planning the activities you'll do together. If you want to sustain your passion and rapport, romance must be an ongoing part of your relationship - not something that's limited to birthdays and anniversaries.

- Become friends. It's not enough to love your spouse, and it's never too late to become true companions. For long-term happiness, couples need to genuinely like each other - to be both lovers and friends. Friendship develops from shared values and mutual empathy. Spend more time having fun. Get involved in a "joint venture" that interests you both - gardening, making home improvements, or volunteering at church. Or take up a new hobby together, like dancing, jogging, or coaching your child's softball team.

- Create rituals. They're the cement that helps hold a relationship together. The rituals you create together become familiar shared pleasures you can look forward to when you're dealing with challenges at work or in the other parts of your lives. Rituals take many forms: a goodbye kiss before work, breakfast in bed with the crossword puzzle on weekends, or an annual holiday shopping trip together. Develop your own rituals for daily life and holidays. Then practice them. They will enrich your lives by providing stability - you'll have acts of beauty, joy, and tenderness whenever you're together.

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