There is a very familiar rhythm that most couples who have been in a relationship for a while tend to notice. When the honeymoon phase slowly dies away, people begin to get into rhythms of life: wake up, go to work, come home, rest, sleep, repeat. And with kids, this can become even more complicated! Date nights quickly fade and get replaced with evenings of catching up on chores or work. Sex becomes compromised for television or sleep, because the physical exertion and the thought of seducing our partner just seems like too much work when you could just snuggle instead. So how do you fan the flame and rekindle some of that old passion that was present when you first got married?
There are two bodies of thought regarding this matter (and probably a few others too!). One comes from Esther Perel, sex and relationship therapist, who discusses the importance of mystery in a relationship in order to continue to feel passion. She discussed in TedTalks and books how as people, we desire familiarity and trust in relationships, but we also desire mystery and the chase. This can be especially prevalent for couples who spend all of their time together. You drive to work together, go to the store together, hang out with friends together, watch the same shows together, etc. and have probably run out of things to talk about. It’s likely you’ve lost a sense of your individual identity and have morphed into the identity you have as a couple. To resolve this, start doing a few things on your own. Call up some old friends and have a girls’/guys’ night out (take turns watching the kids to permit this if you can’t find a sitter), pick a hobby that’s your own, read a book or listen to an audiobook in a genre that you particularly enjoy. Take some time to find things that you love. The saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is true. A little time apart and some individual development is great for having stories to come back and share with one another.
The other line of thinking is to work on the development of friendship, which Dr.’s John and Julie Gottman discuss in their trainings. Oftentimes, people get caught in a habitual rut with their partner in which they spend time talking about chores and household tasks that need to get accomplished (are the bills paid, who’s taking the kids to soccer this week, etc.) that they’ve stopped connecting on a deeper emotional level. This can be true for couples in the aforementioned situations, or for those who spend too much time apart. You start becoming roommates and realize that your friends are more fun to hang out with than your spouse, who’s constantly reminding you of all the tasks you need to complete. How do you remedy this? Schedule more intentional time together. Set a weekly date night. Have a “State of the Union” conversation on a weekly basis to address what’s going well in the relationship and areas of growth. Pinterest “questions to ask other than ‘how was your day?’” if you’re struggling to think of topics to ask your partner. Be intentional about connecting with one another.
Both of these schools of thought are relevant and the approach you take really depends on your situation with your partner and what aligns most with you. Something that pretty much all of my couples find useful is The Five Love Languages book, by Gary Chapman. Typically, we love people the way that we enjoy receiving love, rather than loving others the way that they enjoy receiving love. To better understand this, check out the book, or just take their free quiz online!
Lastly, for sexual connection, once the emotional connection starts to get reignited, this tends to follow; however, it’s not always the case. Most couples don’t talk much about sex – so start by having an actual conversation about it. Discuss what turns you on and what turns you off. Discuss what situations open you up more for sex than others (is it a certain setting, such as candles and dark lighting? Or is it that the house is clean and the tasks for the day are able to be put away? Maybe a mixture of both!) Talk about what fantasies you have and how you’d like to utilize them in your time together. Practice giving each other a sensual massage. All sorts of options are out there, but often, couples aren’t having the conversation about sex, so they’re missing a beautiful connection that could occur.
Rekindling a relationship isn’t always easy. If you’re finding you’re having difficulty in this area and can’t seem to make it on your own, reach out to a couple’s therapist or relationship coach. They’re trained with tools and skills to help mediate the process and might have some new insights you hadn’t previously considered!