I met the love of my life at 17, while both of us were working at Burger King. She hated me at first — thought I was an arrogant know-it-all. Over the course of a few months, we formed a friendship. After that, we started dating. After we’d dated for a month, I asked her to marry me. We were married five months after meeting. And we’ve now been married for sixteen years.
We have had good times, but no marriage is good all the time — we even separated for six months at one point. Relationship stress always occurs for a variety of reasons, but I eventually identified one major source of ours: I didn’t follow through on my commitments.
It’s not enough to tell someone you love them. The things you do speak volumes. That is how you communicate with your partner how you feel about them. These are eleven of the most powerful ways I know to show my wife how much I love her.
1. I choose to love every day, despite how I feel
There have been plenty of times that I haven’t felt like being a loving partner — but I do it anyway. I kiss her in the morning. I over-communicate with her. I flirt with her all day via text. When you realize that love is a decision, you can overcome the feelings that sometimes make you want to throw in the towel.
2. I put looking in the same category as touching
I realized that looking was the gateway to wanting more. I make the decision to love by not looking at other women the way I look at my wife. Attractive people are everywhere. You will naturally look, but there’s a difference between noticing and looking with lust. The only lustful looks I give are to my wife.
3. I don’t feed my mind unrealistic perspectives on sex and romance
I won’t rant about porn. But, unhealthy depictions of love — such as in some forms of porn, and even a lot of popular mainstream films — can distort your perspective and confuse you. Don’t feed your mind with ideas that could hurt your love. Realize that entertainment is just that. Don’t expect your relationship to mirror it.
4. I don’t let my ego make my decisions
I overreact too often, and it’s cost me. My wife has had friendships with men. I’ve let my ego respond with the expectation that I should be the only man in her life. I had to learn that our marriage was about more than me. Making decisions from a place of pride is always destructive.
5. I listen
This week, my aunt died. My wife was close to my aunt and talked about the funeral in Wisconsin (we live on Maui). I could hear what she needed, so I booked tickets to Wisconsin without asking.
6. I allow myself to be vulnerable
My natural tendency is to want to keep things to myself — especially if I’m struggling. I had to learn to open up to heal our relationship, and myself. I now get honest about how I feel — no matter how scary it feels — and my wife listens and comforts me. She helps me process the emotions.
7. I stay healthy
I was overweight for most of the time my wife and I have been together. It affected my confidence. There is nothing sexier than a confident person. More importantly, if you want to live a long life together, you have to prioritize your health.
8. We share our dreams and chase them together
I delivered bread for 12 years and hated it. In 2011, I told my wife I wanted to chase my dream of being a writer, she has supported me through making the dream a reality. Chasing your dreams and spurring your partner on to chase theirs is an incredible way to bond.
9. I never lose the excitement of the honeymoon phase
The honeymoon phase is a fraction of your relationship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t recreate that excitement through adventure and communication. My wife and I set aside time to go on dates and explore something new together.
10. I respect that space can help the relationship grow
Absence, in the right circumstances, can make the heart grow fonder. My wife and I realize that we still need a little time away to be individuals. It can be quiet time, hanging out with friends, or even a multi-day business trip. A little time apart doesn’t need to end your relationship. In fact, it can strengthen it.
11. I remember the little things
I did a lot to woo my wife — things like holding the car door and pulling out her seat. I still do those things now. Just because you’ve been together for a while doesn’t mean you should stop making an effort.
Don’t just make promises. Live them. Show that you love your partner by waking up each day determined to live out your love. Making a little effort, consistently, makes the difference between a healthy relationship and a doomed one.