Secrets to a Lasting Relationship on Valentines Day
When I got married at twenty-two years old, I didn't know much about relationships. All I knew was that I was deeply and madly in love with my high school sweetheart, whom I dated throughout college, and married upon my graduation.
Seven Valentines later, we had our first child, my father-in-law gave us sage and timeless advice. He said, "make your family parent-centric, not child-centric." Although I understood it intellectually, I didn't know how important and vital it was to put it into practice for a healthy and lasting marriage. Many years later, his wise words resonated with me louder than ever, when our kids were in high school. On this Valentine's Day, I would like to share my life experience and lessons learned on how important it is to keep a family a "parent or couple-centric."
[when] we had our first child, my father-in-law gave us sage and timeless advice. He said, "make your family parent-centric, not child-centric."
Let's back up to when I first came to America as a refugee at thirteen, I steeped myself in assimilation, learning the new traditions, culture, holidays and consumerism. I trusted my new adopted country wholeheartedly, unquestioned. After all, America is the land of opportunity and one of the best places to live on earth. I met my then boyfriend in high school at fifteen, going together at sixteen, and married at twenty-two. By all accounts, I achieved the American dreams, a college graduate, married, blissfully happy, and giddy in love.
It wasn't always the case, especially the first few years in this country, I got swept up into the socially constructed holidays, I now refer to them as the Hallmark Cards holidays. Of course one of the biggest ones is Valentine's Day when we feel the pressure to buy cards, candies, flowers, jewelry, perfumes, teddy bears, helium balloons, and chocolate for our loved ones. Being a new refugee in America, and being young and easily impressionable, I tied my self-worth to Valentine's gifts and felt so unloved when I didn't get any chocolates or cards.
Being a new refugee in America, and being young and easily impressionable, I tied my self-worth to Valentine's gifts and felt so unloved when I didn't get any chocolates or cards.
Fast forward, we were now working parents with two teenagers in high school. We tag team to care for our kids, my husband with making breakfasts and taking the kids to school in the mornings, and I shuttled them home or activities in the afternoons. I monitored their homework progress, made dinners, got next day's lunches and clothes ready for work. It went like that for years since the kids were in junior high, and my husband and I were exhausted. We went on like robots and clockwork, tending to the details of the kids' welfare. We forgot each other as romantic life partners. We rarely went on dates. We were too tired to have nightly talks to catch up. We gradually let the kids took center stage. We became what not to be, the forewarned children-centric family.
We forgot each other as romantic life partners. We rarely went on dates. We were too tired to have nightly talks to catch up. We gradually let the kids took center stage. We became what not to be, the forewarned children-centric family.
I grew too comfortable and complacent with my relationship with my husband. I complained, criticized, interrupted, blamed him when anything went wrong, not respectful of his need for personal time off. I felt like I was doing more than my share of work and became resentful. I felt like I still had to do everything at home, even after my 6:30 am to 3:00 pm job, or it simply wouldn't get done.
When he helped me with laundry, he didn't fold them my way. When he cooked and put dinners on the table, the kids and I wouldn't always already be there, one of his pet peeves because he felt like the food was getting cold. When he came home from work, he immediately put on daddy's and husband's hat, and I wasn't willing to give him "hall passes" for the boys weekends.
My husband suggested that I sometimes took off for myself, but I insisted that there was too much work at home. We used to camp and hike, but then the kids got busy with school and activities that they couldn't do these outings as frequently anymore. I forgot what it was like to indulge myself in the things that used to bring me happiness like drawing, writing, reading, and the outdoors.
Gradually, we grew apart, and one day, we lived agonizing separate lives for two years and four months, but I won't belabor the details. It wasn't a joke. It wasn't fiction. It was real life. During that time starting in 2008, I was laid off twice, once from a company I've worked for five years, and the following company for one year. It was one after another. I got tired of rejections, tears, and self-pity that I went back to school to get a GIS certificate to strengthen my skill sets and rebuild my life. I earned my thirty-six unit certificate in one year, and it was one of the best things I've ever done because I learned the values of self-love, self-care, self-worth, and self-respect. It was all about rebuilding and relearning how to be personally responsible and accountable for my happiness.
I had a lot of time to think about what I missed about my husband. I loved him still. I never stopped loving him. I missed not having him coming home from work, waking up together, having dinner, having his companionship, having him at home with the children and me. As much as I tried, there was nothing I could do put my family back together and whole again.
My father-in-law's advice came to me during those years when I was alone, almost taunting me, for not heeding his advice. He passed on for years now, and his voice still was fresh in my mind. It was too late now. I poured my heart and soul into giving our kids every ounce of myself that I had nothing left for my husband or me.
Now I had to work on self-love, self-esteem, and what were the things that kept me grounded and fulfilled without needing someone else to do that for me. I wasn't happy because I let myself go, playing second fiddle to the children and their needs. I refused to do things for myself, to take care of my personal happiness, and deferred everything to my kids, and this was unhealthy. I realized this too late of putting my marriage second to my children, and now, without my marriage intact, my children didn't have a family intact either as a result.
As a conclusion, respect, listen, talk, be generous, have compassion and show your partner that you care about him, like when you two were dating. Refrain from interrupting, whining, nagging, criticizing, and blaming him when things went wrong.
Minimalist Relationship Tip: Having material goods to fill any personal or relationship void would only set us back from our financial goals, and no amount of physical gifts on Valentine's Day can fix your relationship, and keep it intact if there are holes in the communications. Instead, invest in babysitting, and spend time as a couple to stay close to your partner, and make it your highest priority to touch base daily to keep the connection loving.
Love endures. I never stopped loving my husband, and we worked it out. After two years and four months, we reunited under the same roof, and our love for each other grew stronger than ever before. We learned while we were apart that we made great partners, and our life was much better together than apart. It's been seven years since our reunion, and empty nesting is our second honeymoon where we are blissfully happy and giddy in love again. It was once a loving relationship, and it continues to be again. This time, we are older and wiser, not taking each other for granted, because we know the costs of neglecting self-love, self-care, setting a boundary, and showing love and affection for each other.