How Do We Restore the Romance?
Dear Dr. Bill: My husband and I have been married for 10 years and I'm concerned that our relationship has gotten stuck in a rut. Long gone are the days of romantic dinners, love notes, and spontaneous dates. I don't mean to sound discouraged, but we don't even seem to have a lot of fun together anymore. Can you give me some ideas bout how to talk to my husband about this without sounding like I'm nagging him?
It sounds like you are more than a little frustrated with your marriage right now. The place to start is by asking your husband some questions. You'll want to do this in a caring, non-threatening way, and resist the temptation to tell him what you think is wrong with the relationship.
Now, I should point out that some men can feel a bit intimidated by a sit-down, face-to-face "let's talk about our issues" kind of discussion. If your husband is like that, you might suggest that the two of you engage in some kind of joint activity he enjoys, like going fishing or taking a day hike. Then when you're involved in the activity, ask him if he would mind if you talked about something that's been on your mind.
Without interrogating him, tell him you'd really like to know how he's been feeling about life lately, and how he views your marriage relationship. Chances are that you'll learn one of three things. He may reveal to you that he's concerned about something that has nothing to do with your marriage. Perhaps he's stressed about work, worried about his health, or has been feeling depressed. In other words, his unromantic behavior has little or nothing to do with you.
A second option may be that he is feeling fine and thinks your marriage is going great. In other words, he's pretty clueless and hasn't noticed anything wrong with the relationship. He loves you and feels warm feelings toward you, but simply doesn't express them.
The third option is that he'll tell you that he's been feeling unhappy in the relationship. He may open up with a whole laundry list of things that have been bothering him, including things that bug him about you. If that happens, do your best not to get defensive and just let him vent.
Once you get him talking, you should get a good idea of what's going on in the relationship. From there, it's critical that you express to him that you want to work together to get things back on track. In other words, getting your marriage back on track needs to be a "team effort," not you telling him what he needs to do to "fix" things.
A great resource to get you started is a book called When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. It is available at bookstores and online retailers.