Relationships always start with such a rush. Learning about someone and growing to love them is exciting and causes us to show our love and affection by all means possible. We go above and beyond without being asked. And even if a display of love is shown to us that does not "speak" to us, we still respond with love because we see the effort it took, right?
After years of being in a committed relationship, many couples make subtle changes to the way they treat the one they love, most often with less oomph than in the early days. We all know why that happens, and usually the awareness that it has happened is only apparent when things are tense.
"Most married couples experience a gradual but steady decline in marital quality after the first year of marriage, suggesting that the short ‘honeymoon period’ of passion is followed by a longer ‘post-honeymoon period’ of strife (Kurdek 1999). Tensions tend to culminate at the seventh year of marriage, and the result is an elevated risk of marital separation. Those couples who survive the seven-year itch adapt to each other and accept their partners as they are." -- Kulu, H. 2012.
Men are traditionally stereotyped as being emotionally illiterate, but anyone can be guilty of it-- especially when stress is high, sleep is minimal, and there is zero time for reflection and self-care.
Stephen and I have been married for 7 years; 8 this summer. We have had picturesque moments in our relationship, and hurtful ones too, just like any couple. But one thing we have learned to do is ask for what we need. There is a finesse we have both learned (the hard way) that I thought would be useful to share.
Asking for what you need in your marriage is not, "I need help!" but, "I feel loved when you wash the dishes because it takes an item off of my to-do list". Rather than, "You never buy me anything," but, "I feel loved when you bring me home a surprise because it lets me know you're thinking of me."
See how a simple reframe of what is bothering you can actually sound like you're opening up? It's a lot less nagging, and a lot more communicative. Do you know your love language? If you don't, take the quiz and find out! When you know what form of love speaks to your heart, then you will know what to ask for.
Though, what is perhaps even harder than this, is tempering the feeling, that pride, that they should know, and therefore you shouldn't need to ask. Have you been there? I have. I figured I didn't need to say what I wanted because it would appear...weak. Or demanding. I was putting all of my hope of feeling 100% loved in my marriage by hoping my husband could read my mind. When I write it out, it sounds ridiculous, maybe even like something the female lead would do in a romantic comedy. But it happened! And I know so many couples go through this. It's hard to lower your pride, be vulnerable (even to your spouse) and say, "hey, I miss when we used to do x,y, and z". Or, "I am struggling with x, and it makes me feel loved when you x".
The bottom line is that it never hurts to remind someone of what your favorite things are, what things you love to do as a couple, and what things make you feel supported, special, and close to your spouse. You're not weak for asking. The keys to a long-lasting relationship start with trust and communication (and humility).