Keeping the spark alive

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After the cake is eaten, the rings exchanged and the apartment set up, the hard part is over. You’re married. You made it. Right?

According to Stephen Duncan, a professor of family life, apparently not.

“Stop believing in myths,” Duncan said. “They make your expectations too high, and not just too high, but unrealistic.”

Sometimes marriage can seem like the ultimate finish line. In reality, it is simply the beginning of a new journey in life, a road that requires as much work and care as the I-15 to remain smooth.

[easyembed field=”Photogallery”]If couples want the rewards of marital bliss, they need to actively invest in the relationship, Duncan said.

Michelle Keddington,24, a hairdresser in Orem, has learned the benefits of such investments during the first three years of her marriage.

“It’s about the little things,” she said. “Just serving each other and doing the little things makes a big difference.”

One thing she appreciates is when her husband, Jordan, 24, a finance major from Centerville, cleans the house while she is at work on Saturdays.

“It’s kind of weird actually, but that’s probably ironically one of the happiest times of my week,” Jordan said. “I don’t know why. It’s not like I love to clean … but I actually enjoy it.”

Small acts of service are just one way to show daily love and affection for one’s spouse, something Duncan said is crucial to maintaining a relationship. Couples cannot think courtship ends at the altar.

“Marriage … needs ongoing maintenance, particularly in these areas of love and friendship and tenderness, if you’re going to expect it to last,” he said.

Couples need to continue building their love and friendship by continuing to go on dates, talking and having positive experiences. Celebrations for birthdays and anniversaries are particularly good times to remind your spouse that they are special.

The Duncans, who celebrate their 30th anniversary next year, plan to travel to England to mark the milestone. But, Duncan said, celebrations don’t always have to be extravagant.

For their 20th anniversary, they simply went to Salt Lake City, where they had married, and revisited the scenes of those special memories.

“Whatever you do, wherever you are, you can always make it special,” he said.

Even on a tight budget, the Keddingtons said they have found ways to invest in making memories.

“I don’t think making memories always requires money, but sometimes it does,” Jordan said. “We save for all those things that are important in our lives, but our relationships are probably most important, especially with your spouse.”

Duncan said another important fact to remember in marriage is that your spouse and marriage will never be perfect.

“No relationship is perfect; if we think they are, then someone’s lied to you,” he said. “When you find a fault in your spouse, you need to do what they do in California: they don’t dwell on faults.”

Jordan said he has learned from his own marriage that sometimes you have to embrace those personal differences.

“Love each other’s craziness,” Jordan said. “The craziest things Michelle does are the things that make me love her the most. It’s those differences that make me love her and make me laugh. It makes it fun.”

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