“Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.” -Corrie ten Boom
Romantic Beginnings Romantic Beginnings
Getting married is one of the most important steps in our lives. Whether our beginnings were blindly romantic or cautious and uncertain, all of us allowed hope to override any doubt when we said, “Yes” or “I do.” We were able to do so because of our tender experiences with one another. Take a few minutes to think back and remember what your love was like in the beginning. Elder Joe J. Christensen reminded us that “Memory is the one Garden of Eden out of which one need never be cast.’ Good memories are real blessings.” (Ensign, Nov 1989, 42)
Remembering is an important step even if you are still a newlywed. It’s amazing how quickly you can forget the very early stages of your romance during your courtship and even the first few weeks of your marriage. For those who have been married longer, take the time to look back and do some romantic reminiscing. Remember the joy of that moment when you realized how deep your love was and how much you wanted to be together in spite of all the odds.
New love is vibrantly passionate love. In the beginning, the love a couple shares feels like nothing could ever harm it. During that stage of your life you may have observed other married couples who were struggling and wondered, “Why can’t they see how they’re messing up their marriage? We won’t let that happen to us. We’ll be different.” And you firmly believed it. You made strong commitments to each other and you intended to keep them. You vowed to keep them! Then life’s tasks come in and overshadow those early intentions and your marriage journey becomes complicated. One day you realize that you, too, have begun having the kind of relationship problems that plague so many marriages. And you may be wondering, How did this happen to us?
Some Couples Need Help We Need Help
When clients Ted and Jill (not their real names) came into my office they carried a rather stern look and their faces had an ashen hue. They entered, rapidly moved to the couch, and sat rigidly, making sure they had some space between them. After going through the getting acquainted phase, I asked them, each in turn, what brought them to my office. Each had his or her list of complaints and offenses, along with a laundry list of what the other person needed to do.
As I listened to their complaints, I wondered how these two people got together. So I asked them how they met. Then I asked Ted what motivated him to ask Jill out on their first date. He sneaked a quick glance at Jill and said, “I saw her, thought she was cute, and decided to ask her out.” I then asked Jill the reason she said yes to his invitation and she, too, sneaked a quick look at Ted and said, “He was handsome and looked like fun.”
Then I asked Ted, “What caused you to ask her to marry you?” That question brought a longer glance and a little giggle from both of them. He began to relax a little and replied, “We had a lot of fun together and I fell in love with her and I thought she would be a great mother for our children.” Jill’s answer to “What caused you to accept his proposal?” was much the same. As she spoke she reached out and gently touched Ted’s leg and he nervously shifted and slid a little closer to Jill. As they remembered their beginnings they relaxed and their natural color returned to their faces.
Ted and Jill’s response is common. The answers to the questions vary, of course. “A friend introduced us and I thought she would be fun.” “I saw her walk down the street of our little town and I couldn’t get her off my mind.” Sometimes the wife was the first to ask for a date and the couple will laugh about that. Desirable attributes that attracted them to each other vary, and when couples start to remember their beginnings, they begin to relax and the whole atmosphere changes.
After Ted and Jill reviewed their beginnings, I asked them what they do for fun.
The glance they gave to each other told the story even before they replied in unison, “Nothing!” Then Jill spoke up and said, “We used to have fun before we got married.
We went dancing, out to eat, and would sit for hours just talking to each other. I don’t know what happened. I guess we just ran out of time for each other.”
Sometimes change happens so gradually that we are lulled into complacency and almost don’t wake up until it’s too late. What were the things that affected Ted and Jill’s connectedness? Schooling, jobs, his wanting to stay involved in sports and be with his buddies, money worries, pregnancy and birth of their children, job changes, civic involvement, her shopping with friends, preschool, washing clothes, cleaning house, fixing meals, buying a new home and fixing it up, PTA, church callings . . . and the list went on and seemed to grow almost daily. “It just seems we run out of time for us,” mused Jill. “It’s so easy to take each other for granted.”
Change will not just come. We first must recognize that something is not working and then be willing to change that something. This reminds me of a saying attributed to that “great philosopher” Anonymous: “If you do what you have always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. Is that enough?” That’s a good statement to think about regarding your marriage.
In order to make a change, you need to first find a place to begin. In an interview with Newsweek, Dr. John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, reported,”[One] quick way to test whether a couple still has a chance is to ask what initially attracted them to each other. If they can recall those magic first moments (and smile when they talk about them), all is not lost. We can still fan the embers.” (Newsweek, April 19, 1999, 57) I have used this strategy in my practice for years and here’s how you can begin the process:
Walk Down Memory Lane
Step 1: Walk Down Memory Lane.
Set the stage for your walk down memory lane. You can do something as simple as going for a walk in the park, taking a ride in the country, or having a nice quiet dinner at home or at a lovely restaurant. The point is to be anywhere where you can be alone stress-free and without a phone (turn it off if you’re at home). If you have children, arrange for them to be well taken care of so you won’t have to worry about them. It won’t work if they are upstairs in bed or in another room, with others in the house. Remember this is a time for just the two of you. You can enhance these conversations if you have the love songs that were popular when you were dating, softly playing in the background on a CD player as you drive along. If you have one particular song that was your song, play it. Milk those memories and let them flow.
This time together is for you to discuss things that will build and strengthen your marriage.
Talk about good things-look at the positive side of your mate. Take this time to find out things you may have never known or taken the time to discover. The following are some suggestions and ideas of things to talk about. You could copy this list so you can more easily refer to it that night.
Questions to Help You Remember
1. Where did you first see each other? And how did you get introduced?
2. When you first met, what attracted you to your spouse?
3. What do you remember most about that first meeting?
4. What caused you to ask for the first date?
5. What feelings did you have when you first kissed?
6. What were the most endearing acts or words that made you realize that this relationship was intended to be a lasting one?
7. What physical features do you love the most about your spouse?
8. What characteristic brings you the greatest feeling of security or comfort from your spouse?
9. What characteristic has your spouse brought from his or her childhood home to your family for which you are grateful?
Name at least one area in which your knowledge or expertise has been increased by your association with your spouse.
11. Share with your spouse a time when you felt especially close to her or him.
12. What were your most fun and memorable dates during courtship?
13. What activities would you enjoy doing now for a fun date?
14. If you could have a day alone together how would you want to spend it?
15. What could you do to make your next anniversary celebration fun and memorable?
You can find a great deal of pleasure in revisiting the feelings you had in your courtship and early married life. Sharing your memories of each other with each other can be very romantic. If you allow yourself to be open and free with your memories, without correcting or criticizing each other, it can be a lot of fun. Chad and Shirleen, a couple who attended one of our marriage retreats, said they got so involved in this process that when they reached question number thirteen on the list they wrote down enough fun ideas to last for their next twenty dates.
Another couple, Morry and Jessica, said they were surprised at what happened as they did this assignment. Jessica said, “We haven’t had that much fun talking with each other for a very long time.” By letting yourselves get involved in sharing and remembering, you can rekindle, as the song says, “that old feeling called love.”
Any couple can rekindle the loving relationship they had in the beginning by taking the steps that make it happen.
[Excerpts from “Love That Lasts: 14 secrets to a more joyful, passionate, and fulfilling marriage” by the Lundbergs. Gary Lundberg is a marriage and family therapist, his wife, Joy, is a song writer and author; they present marriage retreats, firesides and seminars and write books on creating happy relationship, see https://www.garyjoylundberg.com.]