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From Spouses to Lovers *again* (just in time for Valentine's!)
By Stephanie Olsen

Being taken for granted happens in any long-term relationship, friendship or marriage. With the busy schedules and outside concerns faced by married couples, compounded by children, it's easy to let little things slide -- the first to go usually being together-time and intimate niceties.

There are simple ways of rediscovering the person you married, getting back to the days when a conversation was more than a grocery list, a shouting match or a wall of silence.

Be Polite

When you are engaged in hostilities with your mate, the gloves come off pretty fast. At times, youíre probably nicer to your egotistical boss or co-worker than you are to the father of your children. Try using the same level of socially accepted veneer at home and see what happens.

Engage in some small talk; something funny that happened at work; an interesting article you read in the newspaper; a proud moment in the day of your child. Not every conversation with your partner has to be significant or pertain to underlying relationship issues, but it is important to have some peaceful verbal exchanges.

And itís just as important not to think rude thoughts: when you automatically refer to your better-half as that "so-and-so", even silently, you are being very counter-productive (although probably honest). Pretend your thoughts are amplified and heard by all.

Smiles are Contagious

If your (umpteenth) request about garbage removal (or bathing the kids or fixing the leaky faucet or whatever) is being ignored, do not allow yourself to be enveloped in the standard scenario of escalating arguments, demands, and blame. Heave a huge grin onto your face, grab the recalcitrantís hand and white-lie heartily: "Here, Iíll help ya! Iím all gung-ho!" Once heís on his feet and youíve pushed him into position, it seems that gravity takes over and the job gets done.

I admit to once leaving the 20 (or so) full bags of stinking garbage in such a way that they blocked access to our front door. My husband couldnít help but roar with laughter at the sight and my "hint" was taken.

Injecting humor into annoying (or worse) situations can be a wonderful de-fuser; I even sometimes have the presence of mind to pretend not to hear my husband make an uncalled-for remark, plastering a vacant smile on my face and saying: "Pardon me?" You donít have to haul off each and every time, you know!

I am in no way advocating a rug-mat approach here, by the way. Your first aim is to make life, as it is, more pleasant for yourself - if that means not reacting to every single goad, and giving your husband a second chance to behave himself, why not? Once you are able to communicate in a meaningful manner with each other, you can deal with individual issues (perhaps one being hurtful offhand sarcasm).


When youíre mad, you donít hug much. Being physically intimate is not at the top of the pleasant list, unless itís a stress-relieving workout with the punching bag.

However, touching is an important aspect when re-establishing trust and communication in a relationship and you can start small. Like mussing his hair with your oven mitt; or getting the kids involved for a "letís cheer up dad" group hug; or sitting on his newspaper and tickling the scowl off his face until he begs for mercy.

As you feel comfortable, you can drop kisses on his hand (an exaggerated thank-you for doing some chore); you can rub his neck as you pass the computer; you can ask for a foot massage when youíre both on the couch.

Thatís it??

Yup - simple, but itís enough to re-connect. Youíve got to take it from there, you know. Deal with the personal matters. But when youíve got a polite, funny and hands-on guy to deal with, the whole ball of wax takes on a different hue, níest-ce pas?

Stephanie Olsen, published writer, homeschooling mother of two and ESL teacher currently residing in Europe, is also owner of the expatriate site Family Life Abroad: the expatriate place, http://www.familylifeabroad.com, where you will find informative articles by experienced expatriates on all aspects of living abroad.

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