“Joe, really, getting lost in a big city can be fun. Remember, honey, stuff like this keeps our marriage alive and exciting!”
Even though Joe agreed to let me try an experiment in our marriage two years ago, he still rolls his eyes and tries his best to avoid getting tense when we are in the midst of one of the challenges.
I have read several articles in magazines, and had conversations with people who know a lot about our bodies and how our brains work. Not to mention what the Bible says about the importance of embracing life and living it to the fullest, and being thankful for the time God has given us on this earth.
Many of the articles I read suggested that as people age, they tend to get in a rut and therefore, stop stretching and using their minds to avoid being challenged. They don’t want to learn new ways. “No thanks. The way I’ve done it all these years have worked. I don’t care what new-fangled thing is ‘in’…why try to fix somethin’ that aint broken?”
I was starting to do the same. From technology, to traveling…I was starting to get in a rut. I could see myself settling in and “nesting”, as I aged. But, one day a couple of years ago, something hit me.
I started to notice that the older couples who had avoided getting divorced, and were the healthiest, happiest, and with no signs of dementia, were also busy doing life. They weren’t in a rut. In fact, they were keeping up with the trends, constantly learning something new, and using the part of their brain that stops being used when we get into a rut.
So, I asked Joe if he would be willing to do join me in an experiment that I believed would not only keep us young in our old years, but keep our marriage from getting boring. Thankfully, he agreed.
Here are 4 things that we started doing two years ago:
1. Get outside of our comfort zone at least 4 times a year.
Do you and your spouse ever get out of town, even for just a day? We schedule small get-a-ways regularly that force us to figure out challenges such as, parking, location of events, food choices, and of course, hotels. Thankfully, Joe loves the get-a-ways, and spur-of-the moment planning. When a couple experience new sites and activities together, they are less likely to think about divorce each time they have a disagreement. With the divorce rate as high as it is, anything to help a marriage be stronger is worth the try.
2. Update our surroundings while making new memories a few times a year.
One thing we both enjoy is changing a color or the décor of our home and business. So, in keeping with our experiment, we started creating special memories around certain purchases. Going to thrift stores, yard sales, or specialty stores as a couple, and choosing just the right item is oftentimes more challenging, but in the end creates the best memories.
3. Tackle new projects, and/or learn new things.
Technology challenges are exciting to me. Not so much for Joe. So, while I’m taking a class or learning something online, Joe is outdoors building something and creating “Joe’s Yard Art”. He always has a project, and it keeps him excited about life. His most recent project was a Pirate Ship in our back yard. One reason that we believe couples separate and divorce is because each one stops doing the things he or she did prior to marriage. Through boredom and the normal struggles in life, the couple ends up arguing over trivial matters with no way to release the tension. (Making a Self-Nurture List is one of the first tools in our workbook, Marriage 911, and book, Yes, Your Marriage Can Be Saved.)
4. Dream together
We’ve used this example several times in our writing and seminars, but it’s probably the most important thing we still do. We never tell each other that something is impossible until we discuss it at length or explore a real possibility of doing it. For instance, one day Joe said, “I wonder what it would be like to live on a sail boat.” Instead of responding in horror (my first instinct), I took a breath, and said, “Let’s find out”. We drove to Morrow Bay, CA, asked a lot of questions, looked at boats and came home the next day knowing that there was no way we could afford it. But, we came to that decision together and had a great time in Morrow Bay.
Recently I told Joe that I wanted to get some hanging beads for our salon and we needed to go to San Francisco, to get them “All the way to the City, just to get the beads? Oh, that parking and driving….”
The parking was crazy, and we got lost more times than I can count. But, on the way home we both agreed that that spur-of-the-moment trip to get beads turned out to be one of the most fun times in our marriage.