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neglect

Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings. ~Anaïs Nin

We’re entering a busy time of year. But amid everything on your holiday season to-do list, don’t forget to give your marriage attention, too.

Neglect is an easy pattern for spouses to fall into — all the while assuming that things are OK in their marriage because they’re not outwardly fighting.

To some extent, it’s normal to give your relationship less attention over time as the two of you grow comfortable and secure with each other.

But your marriage will suffer if you starve it of time and attention for too long.

Perhaps it’s not very romantic, but we can compare marriage to other things that take ongoing maintenance, like caring for you car, your appearance or your garden. You can get away with putting off an oil change, a haircut or weeding for a while, but eventually that deferred maintenance takes its toll.

And there’s another similarity between marriage maintenance and the other routine maintenance tasks we perform. It doesn’t have to take long. We’re not talking a fancy dinner every week or romantic vacations every season.

In fact, it’s essential that your marriage maintenance fit into your lives. As busy as we all are, anything that seems like too much work is a hard sell.

So how do you make marriage maintenance an easy habit and avoid neglecting your relationship? Here are a few tips to help keep your love strong:

  • Take some time for just the two of you. Even a little bit helps.
  • Look for the positives. When things get hectic — as they often do this time of year — we tend to focus on what needs doing, not what was done right. Make a conscious effort to notice your husband’s contributions.
  • Examine your interactions. Your relationship happens in all your little daily moments together. Do they make you feel better about each other — or worse? Remember the common courtesies, like saying goodbye to each other when you leave in the morning.
  • Go beyond small talk. Even if the two of you don’t have much time for conversation, you can still take things a little deeper than “How was your day?” “Fine.” When you do have an opportunity to talk in more depth, you may want to try the 36 questions I wrote about in earlier blog. Research shows they build intimacy.
  • Don’t forget special occasions. Do you overlook the milestones you made a big deal out of back in the early days of your relationship?
  • Stop and check in. Do you know what’s important in your husband’s life right now? Life throws a lot at us sometimes, and when it does, you might fall back on assumptions about what’s going on with your partner. Remember to stop and ask each other how you’re doing, what your main concerns are and whether you’re both still moving toward your dreams and goals. Disconnects happen between partners. Maybe, for example, one of you feels that life hasn’t changed that much since you had a baby, but the other feels discombobulated. The important thing is to catch these disconnects early before the two of you drift too far apart.
  • Make it a regular part of your day. When marriage maintenance is just part of your routine, it feels less like “work.”

A little daily maintenance can make your marriage dramatically better. You can find many more ideas for strengthening your relationship even when you’re both busy and stressed in my book Strong Women, Strong Love.