Marriages can be strange. You slog through the daily grind, but at least you’ve got your partner. You think that everything’s fine, but then one day you wake up and realize that you don’t feel close to your spouse anymore.
This is a common event in any marriage. Sometimes it’s because of normal life transitions. Sometimes it’s something drastic, like the death of a parent, or a traumatic accident. Or maybe the excitement you once felt has just gradually disappeared until you’re just… bored.
Is that such a bad thing? Isn’t it normal as you grow older for romance to fade? Isn’t it enough just to be committed and to remain faithful? Do you really need to try to rekindle the fire?
Why You Need to Keep the Romance Alive
It’s easy to think of romance is just an emotion, one that isn’t necessary compared with your mutual commitment to marriage. But romance is more than that. There’s a reason why you vow not just to love but also to cherish.
When you stop having sex or intentionally dating your spouse, your neglect tells your spouse that they aren’t special to you anymore. It tells them that you no longer care about your relationship or your marriage. It’s not uncommon for this neglect to manifest itself through lower self-esteem in your spouse. By stopping the romance, you communicate that you no longer value them enough to give them the special attention you once gave them.
In order to work together as a couple, you need to depend on one another. But if it feels like you aren’t valuing each other, you will start to depend on yourself rather than each other. When that happens, you raise the question of whether or not the marriage is working or necessary anymore. The lack of romance will increasingly cause both of you to wonder if this marriage is even worth the effort.
However, research shows that rekindling commitment to romance can reinvigorate your marriage. Actively keeping the romance in your marriage alive strengthens your spouse’s confidence in you. It builds their confidence in you as a partner in life and in marriage, someone they can rely on.
So yes. You need to make the effort to show your spouse that they are special and loved by you. You can’t allow your marriage to grow cold and stagnant.
But what do you do when romance has faded? How do you rekindle the flame of your first love?
What Erodes Romance?
Everyone’s situation is unique and personal to themselves. Because of this, there are countless reasons why your marriage might erode. And often, they are personal to you.
Sometimes external demands can dominate your focus, pulling your attention away from your spouse. A difficult phase in your child’s development, new responsibilities at work, a chronic illness, or other stressors can upset the balance of your marriage.
Other times, you just forget to be curious about your spouse. You become overly familiar, and stop asking questions because you feel like you already know everything about them. You might start becoming purely pragmatic, treating your marriage like a business arrangement, taking sensuality and sexuality out of the picture.
Each of these reasons will wear away at your marriage, often in conjunction with each other. But there is one that you need to take special care to defend against.
Beware of Boredom Especially
Newlyweds have a hard time imagining that marriage could be boring. Because you didn’t know each other well at the time, everything is new, shiny, exciting. It’s hard to be bored when every day, every minute spent together produces another revelation about your significant other.
But once this period of accelerated discovery fades, boredom can creep in if you do not take precautions. That initial excitement comes from rapidly growing closer together, which is easy when you really don’t know anything about the other. And while it is natural for this period to fade, allowing boredom to build reduces your overall marital satisfaction.
It’s interesting to note that marriage satisfaction was unaffected by tension within the marriage. Typically you might think that conflict is a sign of a failing marriage, but that provides couples with scenarios that force them to grow closer and rely on one another more.
This actually promotes marital satisfaction over the long term. So if you want to keep your romance and marriage alive, you need to look at specific strategies and tactics generate excitement and to avoid boredom in your relationship.
How to Help Your Marriage Thrive
If you want to break out of the boredom and start to rekindle that romance, we’ve got some detailed exercises for you and your spouse to work on together. Head to our Patreon, where you can get access to this and other helpful guides and activities to improve your marriage.
Keeping The Romance Alive
One important part of the process is connecting with other married couples and experts for advice. While sometimes it seems like no one would understand the issue you’re going through, there is a lot of anecdotal and research-based marital knowledge to learn from.
For example, Nan Silver (renowned clinical psychologist) and John Gottman (marriage researcher) wrote a great book entitled “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”. Their work in marriage research contains a few parts that specifically address romance.
Enhance Your Love Maps
Happy couples are very familiar with what is happening in their spouse’s world. But this familiarity shouldn’t stop you from investigating further. This is an important point to drive home – humans are far too complex for you to know everything about your spouse.
Think of everything in your brain that you can use to describe your spouse. That is your love map. It’s crucial to understand that this map is incomplete, leaving a lot of room for discovery. You can explore your spouse’s past, looking into their memories and experiences of childhood. You can explore their present. What is stressing them right now? What do they feel about it? And even the future: what are their hopes and dreams?
As you regularly continue to explore and build that love map, you can help keep the romance alive. Whenever you sit together for a meal or just to relax, take some time to learn more about them.
Work on Fondness & Admiration
Fondness and admiration are two essential elements in satisfying long term relationships. We have a helpful exercise in this week’s bonus content for our patrons called “I appreciate” that steps you through some ways to nurture the fondness and admiration between you.
Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away
The daily grind makes it difficult to make time for your spouse. So naturally, over time, it becomes easier just to overlook small things in your relationship. To combat this, actively remind yourself to seek out your spouse when you need support, and to make yourself available when your spouse needs you.
By making time for them, you let your spouse know they are more valuable to you than daily life. Even if you can’t give them the attention they need right at this moment, make sure to tell them that you hear them and will make time for them later in the day. Don’t let outside demands take away attention from your partner.
Send them an encouraging text or a voicemail to brighten their day. Pick up some flowers or a meaningful present for when you next see one another. There will always be another calendar appointment or email to deal with. By setting that aside, even momentarily, you remind your spouse that they matter.
Create Shared Meaning
Marriage is about building a life together. It’s not just about routines and duty; it’s about meaning. Within that relationship, there needs to be a unique culture filled with significant rituals, roles, and purposes. Your marriage is its own little world, just the two of you.
There are many small things you can do to help build and define your marriage. Research shows that each of these actions can help rekindle the passion and romance in your relationship with your spouse:
1. Show Daily Appreciation
Ask yourself, “What is something I can do to celebrate my partner today?” Take those thoughts and ideas and act on them. Find ways to acknowledge the importance and role your spouse plays in your life.
2. Surprise Your Partner
Make every day special by leaving little Easter eggs for your spouse to find. Small things, like a note on the fridge, in their wallet, in the car. Or give them a loving or sexy voicemail on the phone. These small acts and discoveries will help reignite passion between the two of you.
3. Make Time Together
As you grow more comfortable together, it can feel less urgent to set aside time for each other in your marriage. Intentionally find ways to spend time together. They can be little moments like talking together, holding hands, cooking, or watching a movie. But always look for ways to create these special moments together.
4. Mix It Up
When you do something new together, your brain releases oxytocin, one of the neurotransmitters associated with the feeling of love we have when a relationship is fresh. By having new experiences together, you can experience some of the electricity you had before.
5. Do Chores
This may not rank high among the ideas you have to rekindle romance, but there are studies that show that people feel loved and cared for when their spouse helps around the house. Doing the dishes can be sexy.
6. Remember What Sparked Love
Sometimes familiarity causes us to forget what we once had. Revisiting the past can help both of you appreciate how far you’ve come as a couple. A great way to do this is to physically go back to where you met and reliving your first date.
7. Be Intimate
Display vulnerability to your spouse, which is crucial for allowing them to get closer to you. Remember to use touch to tether your consciousness to one another. Intimacy is all about connection and openness, so foster healthy and consistent communication to provide regular intimacy in your marriage.
There are many strategies and tactics to keep the romance alive in your marriage. But the key is to do them. Always look for ways to inject excitement and passion in your relationship.
Chapman, Bruce, and Cahit Guven. “Revisiting the Relationship Between Marriage and Wellbeing: Does Marriage Quality Matter?” Journal of Happiness Studies 17, no. 2 (April 2016): 533–51. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-014-9607-3.
Goldsmith, Barton. Emotional Fitness for Couples: 10 Minutes a Day to a Better Relationship. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2005.
Gottman, John Mordechai, and Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Second edition. New York: Harmony Books, 2015.
Greenthal, Sharon. “What I Finally Figured Out After 25 Years of Marriage.” Huffpost, 2015. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/marriage-advice_b_6155022.
Marazziti, Donatella, Bernardo Dell’Osso, Stefano Baroni, Francesco Mungai, Mario Catena, Paola Rucci, Francesco Albanese, et al. “A Relationship between Oxytocin and Anxiety of Romantic Attachment.” Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health 2, no. 1 (2006): 28. https://doi.org/10.1186/1745-0179-2-28.
Tartakovsky, M. “15 Ideas for Keeping Romance Alive Year Around.” Psych Central, July 2018. https://psychcentral.com/blog/15-ideas-for-keeping-romance-alive-year-round/.Tsapelas, Irene, Arthur Aron, and Terri Orbuch. “Marital Boredom Now Predicts Less Satisfaction 9 Years Later.” Psychological Science 20, no. 5 (May 2009): 543–45. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02332.x.