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June 2016: Back to Basics

If you have ever played a competitive sport, you’re probably familiar with this scenario: you’ve played well, you’ve had some success, you seem to be getting better and better, and then… suddenly you hit a plateau where you don’t see any progress. Or worse, you start slipping back – your game is off, your timing isn’t working anymore, you can’t even seem to do what was simple and easy just a little while ago. You’re wondering what to do to get back on track, and you swear you’ll do whatever it takes.

What does a good coach typically recommend in those moments? Chances are, he or she will tell you to “get back to the basics.” Get back to physical conditioning and the core skills. Stop trying to finesse and strategize and concentrate on the basic movements – run, hit, throw, or whatever. When you do that, you will often find that the abilities you thought you were losing start to come back. But it takes time. And you very often realize that you really had gotten away from those basics, and that you will have to remember in the future to keep working on them all the time.

Marriage sometimes works like that. In the first few years, it seems “breezy-easy” to love your spouse, to talk about anything, to enjoy life together. Then the kids start coming, or the job gets tougher, and you just don’t seem to have as much time together. Conversation starts to revert to an exchange of information and logistical planning – who’s taking Jamie to soccer, when is the PTA meeting and who is going to go, what are we going to do about the broken toilet, and how are we going to take care of Grammy when Grandpa goes into the hospital next month?

Soon, what started out as a happily-ever-after romantic comedy is devolving into a documentary about diapers, dog food and dentist appointments. “How did it ever come to this?” you ask yourself. Well, the short answer is, “life happens.” The stuff of daily life, with its sense of constant urgency, tends to hijack our time and attention, leaving our relationship with our spouse out in the cold. Maybe it’s time to get back to basics.

What are the basics of love and marriage? There are a lot of things we could mention, but here are three that stand out in my mind:

  • It may seem impossible in your hectic schedule, but you need to carve out some kind of regular time for you and your spouse to spend together, doing something you both enjoy. It could be a “date night” once a week, or just an hour each evening after the kids go to bed. But make sure it is “protected” time: in other words, don’t use that time to talk about things that need to be done, or to rehash old issues. Reminisce, dream, focus on each other and compliment each other. Rekindle the flame that once burned so brightly.
  • Remember the time when you couldn’t keep your hands off each other? One of the things I have noticed about couples who are having difficulty in their marriage is that they seem to have lost the affection they once had. Regular love-making is an important part of a healthy marriage, but a common complaint is that “he/she only touches me when he/she wants sex.” That’s unhealthy. Remember to give each other a hug, a kiss, and a sincere “I love you” (what we call a “Hugkissily©”) multiple times each day. When you pass in the hall, reach out and touch. Sit together on the couch, rather than on opposite sides of the room. Remember to smile and look into your spouse’s eyes. Show affection and appreciation.
  • A friend of mine used to say, “talk when it’s fun – really talk when it’s not fun.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that. It’s important to have light, fun conversations with your spouse (see “Time,” above). But it’s also important to be able to have serious discussions in a manner that allows you to safely and effectively handle the inevitable conflicts that arise between husband and wife. Two things will help: speak gently and listen intently. Get help if you need it to learn this essential skill. (Contact us at Compass Marriage & Relationship Services.)

Time, touch and talk. Three basics that need to be part of your daily routine if you want to continue to have a “winning season” in your marriage. Get back on track – and enjoy!

Contributed by: Larry Compter, Executive Director
Above image courtesy of nenetus at

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