Rekindle the Romance in Your Marriage

Rekindle the Romance in Your Marriage

Christmas is done, the new year is upon us, and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. My husband and I have been married for over 6 years now and take a very laid back approach to the day. Marriage comes with its own set of trials and tribulations and we’ve certainly had our fair share since we said “I do.” A mortgage payment, several job changes, graduate school, and three children all in 6 years is enough to exhaust anyone. The truth is that a healthy marriage requires effort and at a certain point, figuring out how to rekindle the romance becomes crucial.

Daily life is stressful and has a tendency to blur out memories of the person you initially fell in love with. I remember a time when I couldn’t wait to get a text or call from my husband. Flash forward to last week when feelings of intense annoyance bubbled to the surface after he called and asked me to stop at the gas station after work. The nerve! He might as well have asked for my left kidney. I would have rather given him an organ than stop anywhere after a long day at work.

And yet, there was a time when I had butterflies at the mere thought of him. A time before the accumulating daily stress of work and managing a household. That brief moment in time when we could do no wrong in the eyes of the other.

After 6 years of marriage, is it possible to get back to that place?

My belief is that love grows and evolves over time. You’re not the same person you were when you first met and fell in love. Your relationship has been strained and tested in 1,000 different ways and yet, your love remains. You’ve seen your spouse both at their best and at their worst. Through it all, you continue going to sleep and waking up next to them each day. Although it’s easy to lose sight of the beginning, those early days laid the foundation for where you are now.

Take advantage of the birthdays, anniversaries (even the cheesy Hallmark holidays!) to remember where you came from and where you are now. Strengthen the bond with your spouse and deepen the love you share for each other. It is in this spirit I give you ways to rekindle the romance with your spouse.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Conversation is Key

In my house, there are a bazillion barriers to having an actual adult conversation. Kids, sports, and a general sense of chaos unfortunately tend to distract from meaningful communication. Conversation where each person is totally invested in what the other person is saying. The type of conversation where you are looking each other in the eye.

Exactly the opposite of the conversation where you are simultaneously watching television and breaking up fights between kids.

In thinking back to the early days of our relationship, it is the 100% focused attention during conversation that I miss most.

I’m going to put this out there and you can decide whether or not you agree. Electronics and a constant sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) are at least partially to blame for the pathetic state of our conversational skills. Thanks to technology, we’re constantly plugged in to what’s happening online.

Gone are the days when it took 10+ minutes to boot up the ol’ Mac and wait for the internet dial-in to check Facebook or respond to email. I believe that if we still had to sit and listen to the modem dialing in each time we wouldn’t care as much about the online world. But alas, technology has sophisticated EVERYTHING and we’re now only a fingerprint and swipe away from the latest sports stat or profile update. We are at the beck and call of that tiny device we can’t imagine living our lives without.

So … what can we do to get back to 100% focused conversation?

Commit to setting aside time either on a daily or a weekly basis to spend in conversation with your spouse. Turn your phone off and keep the laptop shut. Spend some time truly focusing on what your spouse is saying. Get into their world. Channel yourself back to that time when your spouse was the most fascinating person in your world.

And if you find yourself struggling to focus, check out this book which changed my entire outlook on distraction. It’s a game-changer!

Focus on the Positive

After the excitement of the wedding and honeymoon wears off, real life can begin to take its toll. Regardless of whether you lived together before marriage, chances are good that your spouse will have aggravating habits. Maybe they constantly leave every light in the house on when they walk out the door in the morning. Or perhaps they leave their clothes on the floor, inches from the laundry basket. Maybe you’ve even found yourself hitched to the ultimate sports fan, watcher of every sport EVER.

Whatever it is … your spouse will get on your nerves at some point.

It’s so easy to give in to the negativity and fixate on their most irritating quirks. But focusing on the negative does nothing beyond driving a mental wedge between you. Negative thoughts when left unchecked can quickly spiral out of control. What starts out as a minor irritation can morph into darker and more destructive thoughts. Similar to a cloudy day, negative clouds begin to obscure the sunny aspects of your marriage.

Instead of dwelling on your spouse’s annoying habits, look for the positive in the situation. Any challenge can inspire personal growth when handled with a positive mindset. Use your energy to instead actively seek out the positive. In many cases, the flip side of the irritating trait may have been what attracted you to the person in the first place. Maybe their complete lack of awareness regarding home energy usage comes from a laid back personality. And maybe this personality perfectly complements your incredibly intense type A personality.

If you’re really challenged to find the positive, it’s time to step away from all the daily stress. Planning a weekend get-away or even a date night 100% without responsibility can do wonders to rekindle the romance! With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, you have a perfect excuse to plan a romantic getaway!

Give of Yourself

Marriage is full of ruts. Our brains love routine and settling down into daily life with someone else is full of them! Despite sharing a life with someone, there can be a tendency to get absorbed into your own world. This is especially true if there hasn’t been intention toward creating deeper intimacy through conversation, time together, and other activities (you fill in the blanks here!).

It’s easy to forget about the needs and desires of your spouse amidst the daily demands placed upon your time and energy.

Everyone feels love in slightly different ways. We may think that we are showing our spouse love by cooking their favorite meal or showering them with gifts. In actuality, they may simply need to hear those three little words.

What can you do to rekindle the romance through giving of yourself?

Read this book. Have a conversation with your spouse. Figure out how each of you feels the expression of love and be intentional with acting it out. It doesn’t need to be anything extravagant because even something small done with love can be powerful.

Another way this can be acted out is by simply asking your spouse how you can help them today. After hearing their response, go do that thing. Their answer may or may not surprise you but either way, you are filling their cup.

And if you need help getting out of your routine, check out this post for tips on ideas easily adapted for couples.

Fill Your Own Cup

Up until a few years ago, I was terrible at filling my own cup. I went through all the motions of home life and work but always felt something was missing. Anxiety and depression were constant companions. It was tough to give much of anything to anyone because of my constant internal struggle.

And then one day, I got mono. Getting mono in and of itself was not especially noteworthy. Mono is fairly common and most people get it at some point in their lives. The eye-opening part for me is that although mono is typically accompanied by bone-crushing fatigue, this symptom didn’t prompt my urgent care visit.

I was living in a such a state of constant fatigue that getting mono wasn’t even a blip on my radar. Did I really want this to be the state of my life?

The short answer is no.

And so I began to take a tough look at my daily habits. I had no sleep pattern, my diet was all over the place, and I was exercising excessively. My schedule was too full to pursue anything I was passionate about and my job was sucking any remaining life out of me.

It’s no wonder I was constantly fatigued, anxious, and depressed!

It’s true in marriage as it is in life itself that you must fill your cup first. You absolutely have to apply the oxygen mask before you help anyone else with theirs. If you don’t, there will be nothing to give. This is especially true if you also have children because there are even more demands placed upon your time and energy.

Although it may seem somewhat counterintuitive, you can’t rekindle the romance until you pay attention to your own self-care.

Curious about how I turned my sleep situation around? Check out How to Get Better Sleep Tonight.

Get Into Their World

Is there anything better than sharing an activity you love with someone? Whether it’s running, a concert, or cooking, the joy is always greater when the memory is shared. This is especially true when the person you’re sharing with is your spouse. And doubly so if you involve yourself in something they’re crazy about.

I have to confess that this is an area I’m not great at.

My husband is a sports fanatic. He knows every obscure sports stat there is to know about basketball, football, golf, and baseball. Whether it’s spring, summer, fall, or winter, he has some type of sport that he obsessively follows.

One of our running jokes is that despite his passion for all things sports, he couldn’t have married someone less interested in sports. The minute a game comes on, my brain checks out. I never played sports growing up and have zero interest in now watching others do so. I’ve actually walked out of multiple live sporting events having no clue who won.

But my husband has made it clear that he would love nothing more than for me to express some enthusiasm for his favorite teams. For him, the way to rekindle the romance is for me to cheer on the Timberwolves. It makes him incredibly happy when I sit down and watch with him. Even more so because he knows that I’m doing it for him.

There is an element of self-sacrifice when involving oneself in a spouse’s interest. It makes the act infinitely more meaningful and speaks volumes about your love.

Find the Humor

Life is no fun when taken too seriously. Marriage, work, kids, and running a household are stressful! Even in the best of circumstances, you will have days when you just want to sit down and cry. There can be a tendency to take the negative out on those around you instead of finding other ways to defuse.

Assuming your self-care is where it needs to be, laughter is a great way to boost your mood. As with most things, laughter is always better together!

So whether it’s a funny movie, recounting the humorous event which unfolded today at work, or a meme which had you laughing for days, share a laugh! You’ll never regret time spent laughing, joking, and having fun with your spouse. Look for ways to incorporate laughing and joy into your marriage to rekindle the romance.

It’s Your Turn to Rekindle the Romance

I hope this post has inspired you to look for ways to rekindle the romance with your spouse! Marriage is a marathon filled with hills and valleys. Always remember that your spouse is your partner; they’re on your team. Sometimes all it takes to rekindle the romance is shaking things up and getting out of your comfort zone. At other times, laughter is simply the best medicine. Whatever your marriage needs, take advantage of this upcoming Valentine’s Day to rekindle the romance!

Don’t forget to drop a comment below about how you plan to rekindle the romance with your spouse!

Piano Practice Tips to Improve Your Playing

Piano Practice Tips to Improve Your Playing

As I write this, we are about to turn the calendar over to a brand new year. This time of year always inspires me to think back on the great times and the lessons learned. It’s also time to look ahead to the new year and identify simple, specific goals to make even greater strides. One area which is always prominent in my goal setting is that of improving my pianistic skills. It is in this spirit that I give you my best piano practice tips to improve your own playing!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Break Up Your Piano Practice

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks then starting on the first one.”

Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s timeless wisdom captures the very common block which often prevents us from moving forward in our pursuits. I am definitely guilty of building tasks up to an impossibly complex level in my head. After awhile, the task begins to seem completely unattainable and not even worth the effort.

But if you break the task up into smaller pieces, it suddenly becomes much more attainable.

This is true whether you are attempting to learn a new piece, improve your technique, or memorize a Beethoven Sonata. Unless you break these goals up, you will remain stuck.

Luckily, music is quite amenable to being broken into smaller, more manageable sections. This first piano practice tip may seem somewhat simplistic but it has propelled my playing further than any other. Taking one measure (or even one note) at a time allows you to block out everything else. It enables you to forget about the fast run in measure 43. Or the trills in 106. You can instead simply focus on tackling measure one.

Taking a piece mindfully measure by measure cements fingerings, dynamics, and rhythms into your brain. It does so much more permanently than 500 mindless repetitions ever will. Give yourself permission to really learn the music by honing in one measure at a time.

Play What You Love

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to remain silent.”

Victor Hugo

I love listening to the film score channel on Pandora when I write. There’s nothing that inspires me to add a touch of dramatic flare to my writing more than the Indiana Jones theme song or the ever heroic Pirates of the Carribbean soundtrack.

A couple of years ago while writing and listening, I became mesmorized by a hauntingly beautiful piece for solo piano that I had never heard before. I was immediately surprised to learn it was a solo arrangement of a piece from the movie “Anastasia.” Although I have always preferred to learn pieces within the standard piano repertoire, this particular piece spoke to me. Despite its exclusion from the criteria I typically place on the pieces I work so hard to learn, I absolutely had to get this piece under my fingers!

Which brings me to my next piano practice tip. What’s the point of exerting hours of effort into learning a piece if you don’t absolutely love it?

Look for pieces which are fun, speak to you on a deeper level, or inspire you to practice. Selecting pieces based solely on technical difficulty or because you think it’s “what you should be playing” is a road to burnout. Instead, find those pieces you can’t wait to get back and work on. At its very core, music is the expression of emotion. If you keep this idea central, you will undoubtedly succeed.

Improve Through Listening

“When you play, never mind who listens to you.”

Robert Schumann

Have you ever had one of those moments when something you say to another person is completely misunderstood? Perhaps you meant to express a different thought. Or maybe you conveyed exactly what you meant however the other person took it the wrong way. Either way, there was a disconnect.

Similar to a conversational disconnect is that which can occur when you play without truly listening to the music you’re creating. And yet, simultaneous playing and objective listening is nearly impossible. Artful expression of emotion through the piano demands your complete attention and not the type of mental chatter which occurs with objective analysis. And yet, there can be no improvement if you are unable to objectively assess your playing.

My next piano practice tip to advance your playing is to record yourself.

Incorporate Recording Into Your Piano Practice

Consistently recording yourself has so many benefits beyond simply obtaining the ability to objectively listen to yourself. One of the biggest is that you can track your progress over time. I find it incredibly inspiring to be able to listen to something recorded a year ago and hear improvement in my playing.

Recording yourself also gives solid evidence of your playing. I have often found that I tend to get in my own head about my playing and am too critical. When I play back the recording, I can immediately find positive and redeeming qualities in the music. For example, the note I missed in measure 17 is insignificant in comparison to the emotion expressed in the passage. Recording is useful if for no other reason than to provide objective feedback. It combats the criticisms our minds are sometimes too quick to throw back at us!

I have experimented with a few different recording modalities but this one is by far my favorite! This microphone plugs right into your computer and requires no complicated set-up. Simply plug it in and start playing! The sound quality is absolutely amazing and the price is very reasonable. Maximize recording quality by plugging headphones into the microphone itself. After figuring out this tip I couldn’t be happier with the quality!

You can listen to one of my recordings using this microphone here.

Piano Practice Resources

“You may encounter many defeats but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

Maya Angelou

For a long time, I felt stuck in my playing. I was not practicing on a regular basis. I also did not feel I was making progress on the pieces I was practicing. My attitude toward piano took a negative turn. I began to believe I wasn’t making progress because I simply wasn’t talented enough. And to top it off, anxiety overwhelmed me each and every time I played in public. All in all, the joy that I had previously found in playing piano was gone.

And then one day I realized that staying stuck was my choice. I could choose to remain in this headspace of negativity. Or I could find resources to help me move past where I felt stuck.

I chose the latter.

And do you know what? There are some amazing resources out there! Resources to help with anything from motivation in the advancement of your playing to improvement of piano technique. There are resources to help you practice more effectively and resources to help with creating your own music-based business. The number of resources waiting for you is absolutely astounding!

From podcasts to blogs to membership sites, there are so many resources out there! Here are the two which I have found most helpful:

The Inner Game of Music gives a different approach to tackling performance anxiety. Adapted from a book originally written for athletes, its timeless wisdom is simple yet highly effective. This book has given me an entirely different perspective on how to approach any performance situation. If you’re struggling with anxiety in your piano playing, I highly recommend this incredibly helpful resource!

Break Through Anxiety

And speaking of anxiety … this next piano practice resource is not music-related per se but nonetheless highly relevant. Headspace is an app which guides you through the practice of meditation. After realizing that anxiety was somewhat prevalent in my life and unfortunately not strictly limited to my piano playing, I began searching for solutions. Meditation was a modality which kept popping up throughout my research.

Although meditation has been practiced around the world for centuries to improve the mind-body connection, it is only recently that research has started to support its efficacy. Multiple studies have supported its ability to ease anxiety, depression, and even symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Meditation is also generally considered safe for most people and unlike medications, doesn’t come with pages and pages of side effects.

I have been using the Headspace app for a couple of months now and saw an immediate decrease in anxiety levels. For the first time in ages, I felt like I was able to push anxious thoughts aside and find a place of calm in my mind. It has helped me have a more positive outlook and enabled me to think beyond the anxiety of the moment. I wholeheartedly recommend this app whether you are looking to tame stage fright nerves or the stubbornly anxious thoughts of everyday life.

As much as I love and have seen a difference from this app, please do not hesitate to see your primary care provider if you are struggling with anxiety and depression. There is help out there!

Motivation and Piano Practice

“Your talent determines what you can do. It is your motivation that determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.

Lou Holtz

For the longest time, I felt that a lack of motivation was holding me back in the practice room. I never felt like practicing and therefore equated this with a lack of motivation.

I once believed that motivation was required to start or make progress toward a particular goal. In my mind, motivation was a strong feeling which translated into action. Similar to the key which starts a car engine, I believed that motivation was required to pursue a goal.

In actuality, motivation is more an action than a feeling. Motivation comes from doing and if you wait until you feel like doing something, it will almost never happen. It’s very much a snowball effect in that the more you do, the more you feel like doing. But you need to take a step forward first.

My Secret for Improved Consistency

The modacity app has been pivotal in motivating me to take steps toward consistent piano practice. Designed by a musician, the app has incredible features which promote excellent practice habits. The app allows you to create practice playlists and input all the pieces you’re currently working on. When it’s time to practice, simply select the piece. A timer then automatically starts for you, adding up your total practice time. You can also put the amount of time you want to work on a particular piece in and it will alert you when your time is up. This is a great feature if you tend to lose track of time while practicing.

Modacity also has a built-in tuner and metronome. The metronome has the capability to capture subdivisions of the beat as well, a great feature when working on tricky rhythms. My all-time favorite feature however is that it keeps track of how many days in a row you’ve practiced. It also tells you how many hours of practice you’ve put in. I absolutely love seeing the hours and days add up! I also find huge motivation in being able to check off another piano practice session!

It’s Your Turn

The higher pursuit of any art requires incredible attention to detail and piano is no exception. Mastering the piano requires creativity and problem-solving. The daily challenge of figuring out something entirely new in the journey toward becoming a better pianist is what truly appeals to me.

Although there is always something to improve upon, it’s also important to stop and celebrate your successes along the way! Sometimes we get so focused on improving that we forget to look for the small wins. Wins such as mastering a tricky passage or learning to play with a greater sense of relaxation. Logging another day of practice is a win in and of itself as it means you’re saying “yes” to your goals.

Now get out there and try out a few of these piano practice tips for yourself! Don’t forget to leave a comment below about what you’re working on and which tip has been most helpful!