Moving an old blog post to my new site with a few updates. Honored to be have been featured on Marriage.com several years ago with this article, “Tips to Reignite the Romantic Spark in Your Relationship.” See also below.
You’ve long ago inhaled the early dating phase of forgoing sleep for intimate conversation and unquenchable sexual desire.
You’ve committed yourselves to each other in some meaningful way, be it co-habitation, marriage, or child rearing.
You’ve seen each other sick with boogers and puke, held each other up at a funeral, and learned how to navigate the strange waters of your in-laws’ quirks.
You know what she prefers on her waffles and in her coffee.
You know his family home burned when he was 8 years old, so he’ll always have to check the oven one last time before leaving the house.
And yet somewhere along the way, you look over at the person sleeping soundly just inches from your face and realize he is a complete stranger … there’s a stranger in your bed!
Your identity has continued evolving without her participation. Or you’re not sure anymore how he really feels, what really happens during her days, or why the distance between you seems to be growing faster than your debt.
Relational stagnation is oh-so-common, and happens for predictable reasons:
- Busy-ness (ie: children, deadlines, dishes, LIFE) gets in the way –how could it not? In the beginning it was learning all about the other person(s) and the world(s) he inhabited up until this point without you. Later it became creating a world together. And then later, the days fill with managing that co-created world.
- We assume we know someone and so stop trying to get to know her. It’s easy to assume he still feels and thinks and fears and dreams the way he did 5, 10, 15, 50 years ago. But no one stays the same. We mature. Life grows us.
- It’s easy to expect our partners to “just know.” Way easier than taking the risk to share our inner feelings or ask for what we want and need.
Relational stagnation may be common, but it’s still a big problem:
- It leads to disconnection, discontent, boredom, conflict, and avoidance … it leads to the slow disintegration of your marriage over time. From here, people go on to do and experience all kinds of painful things – loneliness, affairs, and divorce to name a few.
- If you’re raising kids together, it robs them of a powerful example of what long term love can look like. Not to mention the security it brings a family when all the caregivers are clearly in love.
- If you’re raising kids together, it leads to the daunting task of negotiating “Empty Nest” with a stranger(s). Add retirement to this, and the newfound hours of strained time together has you wondering if you’ll end up facing this later life stage apart or alone.
- Most importantly, you are being robbed of the vitality and security a romantic relationship really can provide. We sometimes get caught between wanting the fairy tale on the one hand and settling for “this is just marriage” on the other. In reality, marriage is imperfect, but can still be deeply meaningful, passionate, and secure.
Don’t give up, there are ways to regenerate relational vitality!
- Get curious! Start to ask and really listen to your partner. Take an interest in his work, recent stresses, and new hopes. This doesn’t only have to take the form of conversation. You can also join her during one of her usually solo activities.
- Take risks and share more of yourself. It could be being honest about something that’s been nagging you for years, or a new part of yourself you’re just now putting into words. Ask directly for the comfort or connection you’ve longed for but stopped daring to expect.
- Make a pact to step outside the box together. Take a cue from your early dating life in terms of playfulness. Ride the rides together at the fair. Slow dance in the kitchen. Invest in season tickets or new lingerie. Surprise her with breakfast in bed.
- Prioritize quality time alone together no matter what. Set a regular date night. Put your phones away and enjoy a glass of wine together after the kids are in bed. Take vacations without other friends or family. Make time for pillow talk.
If these tips are met with your partner’s apathy or opposition, or if you can’t even imagine how to begin putting yourself out there in these ways, please don’t hesitate to seek couple therapy assistance with rebuilding intimacy.
Your marriage is one of your most valuable investment opportunities when it comes to life satisfaction. Don’t underestimate the power you really do have to re-ignite the spark when you open yourself to sharing and receiving each other’s unique inner-light.
Amanda Carver, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Atlanta, GA, where she works with couples and individuals. She is certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) with a passion for helping people love and feel loved.