30 Days Back to Love
A happily married woman told me recently that she has a secret way of recapturing the feeling of being in love that she had as a young bride. When she and her husband go out to dinner, she'll watch how other people — a waitress, a friend they're out with that night, an acquaintance who stops by their table — are responding to his good humor and good looks. If someone laughs at his jokes or listens intently to a story he's telling or (even better) flirts with him, she tries to absorb those feelings and make them her own.
"It's as if they're reminding me of things I lose sight of in the day-to-day," she said. "Maybe he's doing the same thing with the people around me." She chuckled. "I hope so. Does that sound strange?"
It didn't sound strange at all. We may continue to recognize wonderful traits in our partners, but after five, 10, 20, or more years of marriage, we see them too close-up for those things to take our breath away anymore. It's like the difference between swimming in the sea every day during the summer and being moved by the ocean's magic and power from a perch on land during a winter getaway.
I've joked before (really, only half-joked) that couples should avoid flossing their teeth together if they want to feel passionate in bed. What we speak less of is the emotional monotony marriages so often fall victim to. Date night may start you on the road to reviving some romantic feelings for your spouse, but it's rarely enough to complete the journey. If going out on Saturday night takes you and your husband two steps forward, deciding who cleans up after dinner Monday night, seeing that pile of laundry covering the bed on Wednesday, and feeling burned out from work by Thursday can easily erase your gains.
If you really want to feel closer to your husband again (and vice versa), you need to invest in a strategy that reawakens some of the feelings that drew you together to begin with. In my years of counseling, I've seen many husbands and wives regain in only a month an emotional connection that took a decade or two to lose.
To bring your partner on board, start by telling him the idea behind 30 Days. "What if," you might ask, "there were a tune-up for strong marriages like ours? It's supposed to take only a few minutes each week. Would you try it with me?"
Tell him you've read this article, and invite him to read it, too. Let him know you could always start the journey and decide to stop short (though I hope you won't).
Here's a week-by-week plan for how to do it.
Take the scenic route
You can be married a lifetime and not let parts of yourself be known. During this first week, the goal will be to move out of the familiar emotional landscape and gain some new perspective on each other — and the relationship you share.
Step 1. Name one thing that you would never change about each other — and one thing that bugs you
Why identify something positive and something negative? Because finding your way back to love begins with reassuring each other about what's good in the marriage, while getting to work on just one roadblock that's creating distance between you.
If you find it hard to be completely honest about what isn't working perfectly between the two of you, feel free to blame me directly for the "complaint" part of the discussion. Tell your husband, "The article says this is all about figuring out what really makes us tick as a couple. We're supposed to just think about what we tell each other, not respond to it. And no grudges later."
Flip a coin to choose who goes first, and keep the tone light, even playful, if you can — supportive, not accusing. Remind your husband he'll get his chance, too, and that you're planning to listen and not to get defensive.
love: friendship, dating, sex & marriage
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