Life has a way of chipping away at our marriages: jobs and job related travel, in-laws, church activities, activities with the kids, conflict and misunderstandings. Most of us run at the speed of light, wake up one day and realize, "Huh. I don’t feel very close to my spouse anymore." The truth is that it happens to the best of us.
Here are a few simple methods I have learned throughout the years to revive romance in a stale marriage.
Go out at least once a week. It doesn't have to be an expensive date – just something simple.
A brown bag dinner in the park, a walk around the lake, a cup of cappuccino at a coffee shop or simply putting the kids to bed early and just talking will often do the trick. Or, revisit the things that you did when you were dating, like going to a movie, the theatre or a nice relaxing dinner for two.
After being "pulled apart" by all the pressures of modern life, it is imperative to reconnect each week. If you don't, you won't feel close.
Here's the irony: If you make yourself more attractive, your spouse will often become more attractive to you. Quite often, changes that you make in your appearance can precipitate changes in your spouse just as positive actions often breed positive reactions.
Determine what it is that makes you feel attracted to someone. What attracted you to your partner in the first place? What are the things that you find attractive that you would like to see in your spouse? What gets your attention?
Do so in non-threatening, judgmental ways.
For example, you could say, "Honey, let's make some changes. We are both in a rut. We've changed over the years and lost some of the spark in our marriage. Let's change how we treat each other. Let's call each other during the day at work. Let's change how we look. Let's walk together each evening."
Avoid using "you" statements. Use "I feel" or "I need" instead.
Try writing a letter as an alternative to face to face communication, especially if you feel they will react negatively.
Attraction doesn't just occur in a marriage. It is something that must be worked at. Often the process of bringing attraction back begins with education and basic communication. Read books and research articles on the Web that discuss reviving romance and attraction.
Doing goods things doesn't necessarily require spending a lot of money. Simple things, like picking up your dirty underwear, giving a free back rub, preparing dinner, writing an appreciative note, hand picking flowers or taking on a chore that your partner normally does, build intimacy and closeness in your marriage like nothing else.
Attraction often follows on the heels of serving each other like you did in the early years of your relationship. Often it's the little things that count – not the big ones.
Successful couples are savvy. They read books, attend seminars, browse Web articles and observe other successful couples. However, successful couples will tell you that they also learn by experience – trial and error.
Here are ten principles of success I have learned from working with and observing hundreds of couples:
One night during our engagement, my fiancé, Bob, and I went out for dinner with his parents. His dad unlocked the passenger-side door of the car for his mom without opening it then walked around to the driver's side. Bob’s mom noticed this and sarcastically pronounced, "Well, I guess the honeymoon’s over!"
Bob and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes. We didn't understand why they expected so much of each other and why they were rude when things didn’t go their way. I promised myself I would never be that way.
A year later, after we married, I was in our kitchen trying to prepare some breakfast before work when Bob walked in from the bathroom.
"You always forget," he said, irritated. I looked up to see him holding his electric toothbrush. "You always forget to plug this back in after you blow-dry your hair."
"Sorry," I said quickly, wanting to get out of there before a confrontation took place.
"How am I supposed to brush my teeth now?" he asked. I thought about a million things I could say. Instead, I ignored him and picked up my purse.
"I just wish you would try to remember that this is important to me," he added.
"Well," I shot back defensively, "I wish you would remember to put your white clothes in the first hamper and the colored clothes in the second hamper, but that doesn't happen."
"Great, here we go again with what I don't do right,” he said. "Why don't you just tell me what you expect me to do?"
"I don't expect a lot," I started, knowing I shouldn't open this can of worms but irritated by his inconsistencies. "Just some basics, like remembering more often to tell me you love me, being a little more romantic, throwing away these soda cans you leave lying around and helping me with the dishes and the trash."
"Oh, is that all?" He shook his head and went into the bedroom. I rolled my eyes, walked out the front door and slammed it behind me.
I drove to work in tears, wondering if I had made a mistake getting married. While we were still engaged, many people told us to enjoy the beginning because "after that, the honeymoon's over." Maybe they were right, I contemplated.
I rubbed my forehead and thought back to the week before our wedding. I was at work, and a woman congratulated me on my engagement. "I've been married for 12 years," she said, emphasizing 12.
I remember waiting for her to say the same thing about the honeymoon ending. Instead, she said. "And after all this time, we're still on our honeymoon. You don't ever have to let it end." I had never forgotten those words or the glimmer in her eyes. How I wished I could go back to that conversation and simply ask her how. How in the world do you not let it end?
I got home that night and didn't say much to Bob. We sat in the living room, watching TV and eating dinner. I was tired of the unspoken tension.
"I'm going to bed," I said, getting up. "Are you coming?"
"No. I'm going to stay up and watch TV," he said.
Figures, I thought. I got into bed and wanted to cry. But before I could, Bob walked in. He tucked the covers around me and kissed me on the forehead.
"I love you," he said.
I closed my eyes and felt a flood of emotions. It felt so good to be loved. But most of all, I was humbled by his humility.
"Hey, Babe," I said as he began to walk out of the room.
He stopped. "Yes?"
"I promise to plug in your toothbrush tomorrow morning."
He chuckled and nodded.
Over the following years, many such moments would keep the honeymoon "on." Moments when we acknowledged that what's not important to one may mean the world to the other, moments when we learned to let go of the expectations that don't really matter. Sure, marriage is never perfect, but as we try to love the other without expecting anything in return, the joys of the honeymoon stay with us still.
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.