1. How do you keep the romantic spark alive?
CT: An intentional way that we do this is spending time together doing something that we both love to do, whether it’s simple things or big planning things (for us: hiking, backpack or climbing trip, going for a walk, tea time at night after kiddo is in bed, sometimes a dinner out and a movie.)
Another thing we make a priority is sharing life together, some examples are reading the same books and discussing them, or making a priority to be in relationships with some of the same people we interact with for work or recreation, and if possible, to be doing the same kind of work together.
A simple, kind of silly thing, is that we have this little plastic frog that somehow became a little “I Love You” symbol that we leave for each other in places (like shoe, pillow, water bottle, backpack) where it will be found at an unexpected time. It usually always brings a smile, and sometimes a shout (like when I left it in his water bottle and he didn’t see it until it jumped into his face). Little notes are great too.
One last little thing… I take moments to let my spouse know I am still very much attracted to him 🙂 (I’m pretty sure that this is a positive thing!)
MD: Romantic spark? As in, how do we keep intimacy alive? I think first and foremost, we have sought to live simple lives, lives with margin time. When we have had space to share the big and small dynamics of life, when we have had energy to laugh and cry, to adventure and respond to nudges, romance just happens between us. We have had six months of our 13+ married years where I think we have tried to do to much, tried to be too many things to too many people, and were away from each other most of the day and life became marked by fatigue, by moving towards “have-to” rather than “get-to”, and seeking comfort – that duller of senses and numb-er of passion – with our extra time. It was the toughest 6 months for me. Thankfully we were able to choose out of that rhythm.
2. What are your rules for fighting fair?
CT: I don’t know that we’ve ever specifically said, “these are the rules”, but some consistent things we have are: Not walking away or going to bed angry/upset, but to talk it all out. To be honest, and to not back away from whatever conflict or disharmony is building between us. To do it even through the tears. Sometimes we have to give each other grace to go for a walk, or get some space, before talking again. Another thing we try to do is make sure our daughter is not in the room, or try to have hard conversations around her. It is just more frustrating for everyone.
MD: We don’t have an articulated set of rules, but we have become sensitive to the importance of timing. We don’t go to bed angry or in tension, while at the same time trying a great deal not to have difficult conversations at the end of the day when we are tired, but every rule has an exception. We also give each other space during each day to be alone, or try to. This helps diffuse intense situations and gather perspective if needed.
3. What do you enjoy most about each other in your day to day life?
CT: I enjoy seeing each other for lunches, or other windows of time, since we live close to where one of us works. I enjoy seeing my spouse play with our daughter, the way they interact together, and have fun. I enjoy that we share a lot of the household, every day things like chores and responsibilities so it’s not all on one person’s shoulders, and then we can just talk in the evening and catch up and tell one another about our day and/or what we learned. And I enjoy the way we try to make space for one another to get alone time every day, whether for a walk or to work out/exercise, or read.
MD: The laughter, the love that I see in her eyes, finding ways to share, serving others, playing with our daughter, naked Tuesdays, and now running away from the cougar … but she is faster than me.
4. If you ever felt like quitting, how come you didn’t?
CT: I’ve never felt like I was in a place where I wanted to walk away and never come back. During the hard times I remember all our good times, the ways we make each other laugh, the ways we’ve supported one another through all kinds of things. I inevitably I seek ways to make those happen, laughing together and enjoying life if it is a particularly stressful time and we aren’t doing that enough.
MD: I haven’t felt like quitting. Part of this is upbringing. My parents formed and at times forced me to not have quitting be an option. My biggest challenge in college was dropping a class after I began it. Time-wise it needed to be done, but I beat myself up quite a bit for “quitting” it. This has informed my relationship with Crouching Tiger.
I think also that this hasn’t happened yet on my side in our marriage because we take self-care very seriously. We each have a solitude day once a month and take daily time for walks. We don’t have much, we don’t make much, but we have woven a great deal of shared memories and strength into our relationship.
I think a part of this is our unique journey of beginning anew. Every 2 – 3 years we have moved cities for either more education or a new job. I have never had the thought, “Is it always going to be this way” because it never has been like that for us yet. If we make it to the fall (6 months from now) in our current living space, we will have lived here longer than any other place in the history of our marriage (2 years walking into the same front door is our record before moving). We hold things loosely and always have new things to talk about. Staying in one place for longer periods of times does bring great dynamics of life, but also a longing for something new. We have always been slightly gypsy longing for stability. We have yet to long for something new because it has always been just around the corner. Just a different journey.
5. What is the most important advice you would give to a young couple?
CT: Talk through EVERYTHING and spend time together doing things you both enjoy, and be willing to learn from one another.
MD: The most important advice to a young couple really depends. There is no “most important” advice that blankets all couples. Each relationship is so unique, with different stories and tensions. Give attention to what makes you two unique, what makes your love strong. Seek then what the shadow side of that strength might be, your blind spot. Just knowing that will help soften many of the challenges that will come.