"Partners can strengthen their relationship by becoming more interdependent with one another," says Dr. Cottle. "Find new hobbies to share together, travel together, read the same book and discuss it, go to church or other community groups together. When children come, they will benefit when their parents have established a strong marital relationship."
Dr. Scott Haltzman, psychiatrist and marriage counselor, agrees that this can be a time for an intimate renewal of the married relationship. "In order to keep intimacy, you must celebrate the things that you have," he says. "Pamper yourself with the luxury of a weekend spa, take advantage of your physical energy to go on a hike together, or play a one-on-one game of hoops. Talk about dreams that don't include children—career goals, educational goals, for instance."
Dr. Haltzman also recommends that a couple should remember that sex isn't just for reproduction. "You were attracted to each other, body and soul, from way back before you tied the knot," says Dr. Haltzman. "Don't lose track of how wonderful it feels to be in each other's arms. This is a good time to also explore other ways of gaining sexual satisfaction outside of intercourse. Sensual touch, massages, or sex games don't necessarily have to lead to the bedroom, but they may be a great way of building intimacy."
5 Tips for a Healthy Marriage
Dr. Haltzman offers the following tips for using this time as a way to strengthen and reinforce your marital intimacy:
- When you discuss things, make your top priority trying to understand your partner's point of view, not making sure your partner understands yours.
- Marriage is not 50/50. Each of you should be putting 100 percent of your energies into giving, not giving partway and then waiting around to get what you think you deserve.
- Communication doesn't equal talk. Remember that people communicate in many ways, from their looks to their actions or inactions. Be aware that just because your partner may not be having a heart-to-heart, deep conversation with you, he or she may still be trying to communicate very powerfully with you.
- Sex is a part of establishing closeness in a marriage. It's not merely some add-on to marriage when other things are going smoothly. Couples should recognize that having a healthy marriage includes regularly engaging in conversations and regularly engaging in sex. Both are powerful tools in keeping a couple close.
- Fight fair. Couples who are happily married don't fight less than couples who divorce—they fight better. Knowing how to start a discussion gently, and then being sure to work to heal things when you're not pumped up with adrenaline, can help a couple find greater happiness in their union.