Adding Zing to Your Relationship

Jerry D. of Arvada writes, “After twenty plus years, (my wife and I) still love each other a lot, but our relationship has been on a plateau for several years.  We both would like to add some excitement and new dimensions to our marriage that might revitalize our intimacy.  Do you have any recommendations?”

The behaviors and skills required for an effective and fulfilling marriage are learned.  Many of us don’t know what those skills are.  Few of us, in addition, saw effective marriage skills modeled for us by our parents, such as good communication, conflict resolution, problem solving, negotiating, affection, compassion, respect and tenderness.

Improving the spark between the two of you is going to require you to get your priorities straight.  It is not good enough to say you want a closer connection and more intimacy, while not finding the time, energy or acting like you do.  Let’s face it, almost nobody says on their death-bed, “If only I’d spent more time at work.”

In truth, most people would rather be miserable than risk being happy.  For those of you willing to risk, I have the following suggestions:

  • At least once a month, ask your intimate partner if he/she is getting their needs met in the relationship.  If they say no, ask what they would need in order to be able to answer yes.  Then be willing to hear them.  (It should be said that some people don’t have the foggiest idea what their needs are.  Those people might need help in identifying what they may want differently.)
  • Be willing to identify and verbalize to your partner your own needs and what you want in the relationship, and do it on an on-going basis in as friendly a manner as you can.
  • Romance is the soul of a marriage.  The core of romance is not about being mushy, as many people think, but rather letting someone know—and giving them reason to feel—that you value and care about them, and that you’re thinking about them.  I’m talking about frequent small gestures of reaching out:  initiating a hug, a warm note or card, an unexpected phone call to say “Hello,” a flower presented with a kiss, holding hands, an unexpected “I love you,” endearments, dinner with candles, and all of the various active stages of seduction.
  • Ask yourself, “How do I convey love and affection to my partner?”  List on a sheet of paper at least six answers.
  • List another six ways that you think your spouse expresses love and affection toward you.
  • List four ways that you would like your spouse to express love and affection to you.
  • As a couple, share your answers with each other and be willing to talk together about the implications of the above exercise.
  • Ask yourself, “In what ways might I be able to better communicate my feelings, wishes and hopes to my spouse?”
  • Each person separately list all the special memories and good times the two of you have had with each other. When did you feel especially close or have an especially good time together?
  • Share your lists with each other.  Are there common themes?  Where are there agreements?  Is there something “special” the two of you can do now?  Do it.

Many of us fear what we most want, and it’s certainly easier to “talk the talk” than it is to “walk the walk.”

Make a commitment to being close with each other, and to clear up anything in the way of that closeness.

Has your relationship turned cold and distant? Neil’s book Love, Sex, and Staying Warm can help you rekindle your passion.

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