Marina* came for her appointment feeling stressed and somewhat embarrassed. Her exhaustion and stress had been obvious in previous sessions; she was a busy working professional at a major university, and though she knew what she needed to do to take care of herself, she had a hard time actually carving out the time and energy to do it. Her profession demanded and expected that she work more than full-time. It was difficult for Marina to find and maintain the balance between fulfilling her professional responsibilities, being present and engaged in her marriage, attending to the needs of three busy teen-age children, maintaining her home, and taking time for personal rejuvenation and self-care.
While her personalized program with me was focused on other changes Marina wanted, during this appointment she wanted help with her relationship with her husband, Bob. They were so busy with their individual careers and teens’ many activities; they had grown apart in the last several months.
Marina and Bob rarely had time alone together, and when they did, they often lapsed into silence, or had so much “children and household stuff” to talk about that their conversations sounded more like business meetings than those between two friends, let alone lovers. Sometimes Marina felt like she and Bob were strangers; he supported her in her career, though he did not have much understanding for the pressures and politics of university life. She knew he gained a lot of satisfaction in his business, though privately she thought that much of his day to day activities sounded tedious.
They often lay in bed at night like two strangers, and hadn’t made love in months. Marina usually fell into bed after 11pm, exhausted, with her mind spinning, thinking about some project, class or committee meeting. By then, Bob was usually asleep.
As she was relating her story to me, Marina felt stunned to realize how disconnected she and Bob had become, compared to the close connection they had when they were younger. Marina remembers there was fulfillment in their intimacy earlier, even with three children.
She said that now, making love felt like one more thing on her endless “to do” list, and much of the time she was too exhausted or had little desire anyway, so she didn’t miss it. It was doubly sad to her, because she didn’t think Bob missed it either, until the night they argued about it. He was usually pretty easy-going and patient, but that night they both felt hurt and frustrated.
Later the next day as Marina was working in her office, she could see Bob’s viewpoint. She had to admit that it had been months since they made love, but she hadn’t realized it until that moment.
As we talked, Marina and I discussed answers to many questions. What happened to the woman she was in her thirties and early forties? Why was she so indifferent to intimacy now, at age 47? How could she reconnect with her husband, and how could they restore the romance in their marriage? How could they find fulfillment in their intimacy again?
Do you relate to Marina's experience?
If so, you are definitely not alone. Millions of women and couples are surprised to find themselves in a similar situation as they enter their mid to late forties and beyond. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, sexual intimacy in marriage can be more rewarding, fulfilling and deeply connecting than ever at this stage of marriage, and just as Marina learned, can be restored.
Below is Phase I of my “Relationship Rx” plan for getting the romance back and restoring the sizzle in your marriage.
Getting the Romance Back
The first step for most women and couples is to strengthen their friendship and revitalize their emotional connection. Provided that your marriage does not have serious issues that have been unresolved through previous years, and that both you and your spouse want to (and most men do!) this usually takes just a little time, and is very fulfilling. It’s a matter of getting to know your spouse again, just as you did years ago when you were dating.
It is common for couples in their forties and beyond to get into well-oiled routines with daily living, from cooking, laundry, shopping, doing the dishes, and who does what with the kids. Many couples even get into a routine with their intimacy. These routines can become almost trance-like, and when that happens, couples stop really being present, awake and aware with each other (sometimes they stop being present with themselves, too - more about that in a following section). They stop really listening, and seeing and relating to their spouse here and now, as a living person. It’s almost as if we become our roles, and lose our human realness to each other.
Becoming real again, rediscovering your spouse and revitalizing your friendship and love, is the crucial first step in restoring the romance to your marriage. In fact, research indicates that for BOTH men and women, the quality of the friendship between spouses, is the most important factor determining the fulfillment and satisfaction they both have with the sex, romance and passion in their marriage. It’s a really big contributor too – 70% is attributed to the quality of their friendship alone.1
How to Revitalize the Friendship and Emotional Connection in your Marriage
You revitalize your friendship and emotional connection the same way you did before you were married. You take time to emotionally connect, and spend time together, just the two of you, and get to know each other again in this stage of your marriage. If you are not in the habit, start doing these two things:
Before you each start your busy day, take 5 minutes and connect. Find out one or two things your spouse has coming up that day, and share a couple things going on for you. Then check in about them in the evening, when you have returned home.
A weekly date may seem challenging with all the other commitments you have; you may be protesting that it’s not possible until “such and such” time.
Ask yourself, is that really true? Consider how you would feel, if one of you were to die in a car crash tomorrow, and you hadn’t revitalized your marriage. Delegate, step out of lesser commitments, get a babysitter if you need to. Use a Sophia Woman (c) self-care technique to release your “yes-buts” and create the time to invest in revitalizing your marriage.
Just as you are not the same person that you were when you got married, chances are neither is your spouse. On your weekly dates, begin getting to know the person your spouse is becoming, at this stage in his life, and share with him, who you are becoming too. Share activities and talk about topics such as this:
- Current interests and areas of personal growth
Share your hobbies together
The best book you have read in the last year
What about your spiritual journey – do you share with him the expanded view and new possibilities that are opening inside you?
What do you dream about?
If you work, do you share your experiences at work with your spouse?
If you don’t work, now that your children are launching, are you searching for what to do with the next phase of your life?
What do you envision your life and lifestyle being like as you approach retirement?
Share yourself and your inner world with your spouse this way, and invite similar sharing from him. When you are sharing and listening, be sure to really listen. Turn off your cell phones, and be present with one another, listen with openness, kindness, love, and a desire to discover new dimensions in your partner.
A Lifetime of Love
Daily check-ins, and a weekly date are two of the most important things you can DO to revitalize and restore the romance in your marriage. During your dates, do things that strengthen your friendship and revitalize your emotional connection and romance. Daily check-ins and weekly dates are such powerful ways to revitalize your marriage, because they consciously partner with the Universal Law of Cause and Effect ~ what we send out and invest energy in, comes back to us multiplied. Stated differently, what we focus on expands.
Many marriages wither and become devitalized, until one or both spouses seek a divorce, because partners stopped investing time, energy and attention in their relationship. So consciously and intentionally harness the Law of Cause and Effect, focus on revitalizing your friendship with your spouse, and watch your romance re-bloom.
To find out about how I can support you to rekindle and deepen the romance in your marriage for a lifetime of love, contact me today about Creating Joy for Couples.
*The names and identifying details of this client and her experience have been changed to protect her privacy.
1 Gottman, John M. PhD. & Silver, Nan (1999) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Three Rivers Press: New York.