What happens to a relationship after the honeymoon is over? After the kids arrive? After you know each other so well that you can’t think of anything to say to each other – expect maybe what’s for dinner, what’s happening with the kids or what are we doing this weekend?
Do marriages need to become drab and uninteresting? Is this it? Are you foolish for wanting more? For expecting some excitement, passion, maybe even romance? Or, should you just be grateful that you get along fairly well, count your blessings and stop complaining.
No, you’re not being foolish for wanting more. But you’re not going to get it by just complaining. And you’re certainly not going to get it by blaming your spouse for the dullness in your life. So, what can you do to add more spice to your married life?
Here are some ideas:
1. Stay Interesting
Do you remember what you and your spouse were like when you first met? You must have been interested in each other to be drawn together. Now, you only come alive when you’re around other people. And ditto for your spouse. Make it your mission to become a more interesting person. How do you do that? Bring new ideas, new experiences, new adventures into your life. Share them with your spouse like you’re an excited kid. Then, watch the sparks re-ignite.
2. Develop Common Interests
Some couples feel that though they love each other, they don’t have much in common anymore – except, of course, for the kids. Their interests have diverged. What used to be a slender space between the two of you has now become The Great Divide. If that’s true for you, what should you do? Here are two approaches. Either develop new interests that you both might enjoy. Or, be open to appreciating (or at least learning about) activities that your spouse enjoys. Change your, “oh that’s not for me,” to “Tell me what you find so fascinating about football.” “What’s appealing to you about jazz?” Don’t close the door on developing mutual interests before you’ve even explored them.
3. Notice how your spouse is changing – in a good way.
Often the people we know the best, we pay attention to the least. This sounds counterintuitive, yet it’s true. Once we start to see our spouse as predictable, we end up seeing what we expect to see. So, if she’s shy and he’s the talker in the family, it may take him a long time to notice that she’s much more at ease these days when she’s with friends and even when meeting new people. And, of course, if he hasn’t noticed her growth, he hasn’t applauded her change. Is it any wonder then that many couples get more positive kudos from friends and co-workers than from their own spouses? Reverse this tendency.
4. Do something special and unexpected for your spouse
It’s so easy for us to get into routines with the people we know best. This is good news and bad news. Routines allow life to be easier, freeing up our energy to do other things. But if routine becomes, well, too routine, it’s time to spice it up a bit. Do something unexpected for your spouse. It could be a loving back rub, an out-the-blue compliment, an unexpected gift, an evening of romance. And don’t make what you do for your spouse a have-to. That’s dull and onerous. Think of it as a want-to that piques your creativity and excitement.
5. Avoid making yourself too much “at home”
“What?” retorted John. “Home is where I should be able to just let loose and be me. Don’t tell me I have to be “on” when I’m home.” No, you don’t have to be “on.” You can certainly let your hair down at home. But, if letting your hair down translates into I can do what I damn well please in my own home – meaning fart, burp, be online all night, drop your stuff wherever you feel like it, engross yourself all night in TV, omit “thanks” and “please” from your vocabulary, don’t be surprised if you’re turning your spouse off. So, be yourself at home. But to preserve the vitality of your relationship, know that we all have “multiple selves.” Be your “better” self when you’re with your spouse. Save your sloppy, slimy and skanky self for when you’re home alone.
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior.
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