I have never been married! -Said a friend of mine while she has 3 kids with her official, publicly known husband.

I was confused about what was she talking about when she elaborated by explaining that she is the only one who has ever invested in their relationship. She used to give in everything for her family, while her husband nothing.-her words. As they are in a divorce process and each might have his own version of the events, the expression that hit and kept with me was: I have never been married.

What does it mean to be married? What is a partner and what is normal to expect from our partners and give to our partners? There are cultural, historical, religious, and personal nuances to what we think of a relationship but also there are a set of expectations and unspoken attitudes that are almost universal. And we are taking a moment to shed some light on the core values of one type of relationship, a marriage by free choice.

Generally, marriage is a social agreement that dictates the roles that spouses play in each other’s lives, inside the family, or outside in society. Typically these roles have to do with sharing responsibilities and labor between the partners, necessary for the couple and family to function.

Usually it is expected that men provide financial income to maintain the family, and women are the main caregivers who also need to fulfill the social and emotional needs of all family members.

But it doesn’t mean that you agree with this model. And by all means you need to discuss this with your partner:

If you both have different views on how your family is supposed to function and don’t discuss it, it can very soon be a source of conflict and transform your marriage into a very discomfort-able relationship.

Marriage is a compromise. So don’t assume he knows he has to be the financial provider and you will be the caregiver. This is not a compromise. This is an assumption. The time we live in offers such a wide variety of financial and emotional resources. You can be the caregiver but also work as a freelancer. Your partner can work full time but still, feed your baby with formula milk when he is back from work. This is why you both should be flexible but it is very important to discuss these things ahead and leave no room for misunderstandings.

Marriage is also a romantic relationship. Being married doesn’t mean that your wife owes you attention, care, love. Many couples seem to lose interest in romantic life after a certain period, but why? What did you use to do in order to keep him interested(before you were a couple)? How can you expect to have the same feelings, same stomach butterflies, same emotions when you have completely stopped doing what you used to do to ignite romance? Romance needs to be a normal and necessary part of our daily lives.

Remind yourselves to:

  • do small gestures that convey affection, adoration, thoughtfulness, and love
  • do actions with the sole purpose to enhance feelings of joy and connectedness
  • Participate in activities or events that add a touch of high life like dinner in a luxurious restaurant or going to the opera

Marriage is a major part of your life that should include bonding, fun, nostalgia, humor, intimacy, adventure, respect and appreciation, and here is a recipe for each:

  1. Bonding. It comes with years together but some activities that contribute are: cooking together and eating what you just cooked, find a common interest and plan a routine to do some activity related to it together, talk about good shared memories together, make sure not to sleep angry with each other, go out for a walk just the two of you in nature.
  2. Fun. Get outside your comfort zone and try sports or experiences the other likes but you haven’t tried. Date each other as if you were just getting to know one another. Pick his clothes for one full week, and let him pick your clothes yours for one full week too. Watch comedies together and get creative.
  3. Nostalgia. Recreate your first date, the clothes you were wearing the first time he saw you. Sit together and have a look at the oldest pictures of you together, and each as a child. Talk about your old animated series, your favorite things as you were growing up.
  4. Humor. There is no universal recipe for this, as every couple has their special dictionary of compliments and ‘funny insults’, also a personal way to prank their partner. For example, I once pranked my husband by printing a special edition of a magazine I used to write articles for. We used to print around 20 000 copies. I managed to print a special copy, with a small change in one of the pages, where I put a heart-shaped picture of my husband. His speechless reaction when he saw it, thinking, there were 20 000 copies of it, was priceless.
  5. Intimacy. Change your pattern of having sex. You always end up in bed? Try somewhere different, where your partner doesn’t expect it to happen. Remind yourselves of foreplay and its importance. Hold hands more. Focus on affectionate touching and make sex a priority. Make time for careful preparation.
  6. Adventure. Go on adventurous events like hiking, scuba diving, or events that usually scare you. Get out of your comfort zone. Break up your routine like for example doing the same thing for Christmas or vacations. Take up a new hobby.
  7. Respect. There is a ton of ways to show respect, but in the end, it all boils down to listening carefully and being kind. If you focus on these elements, you are going to do good at respect.
  8. Appreciation. Don’t take his or her responsibilities for granted. Is he bringing income every beginning of the month? Why not cook his favorite dish the next day? Does she clean and cook every day? How about noticing that and at least say: wow, the house looks so good today and you smell amazing… 😉