by: Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC
All relationships have ups and downs, and they are impacted by internal and external changes, stressors, and stages of life. It’s not uncommon for couples to fall in and out of love yet remain committed to their vows and shared life. The danger is when they are in a down period where they have allowed too much emotional distance to occur, and as a result, one or both are not getting their needs met.
When this happens, it can lead to behavior that is destructive to the relationship. Some examples are spending a lot of time alone or out with friends, overuse of social media, addiction to pornography, or engaging in emotional and physical affairs. These bad choices usually result from the belief that whatever is broken in the relationship can’t be fixed, so the partner looks elsewhere to get his or her needs met.
However, there are specific things that one or both individuals can do that can redirect their path to greater intimacy. The following interventions could bring about an immediate difference and help couples reignite intimacy and get back those feelings of love they once had for one another.
Begin each day with a positive word and affectionate gesture.
Contrary to what you may have heard or even experienced, it’s the little things that make or break a relationship. Yes, when a partner has an affair, develops an addition, or gambles away your savings and investments, it can destroy a marriage. But these things don’t just happen. Instead, they occur over time and are accompanied by, or are the result of, many small problems and issues that weren’t addressed along the way.
Therefore when a marriage is struggling, it’s the small things that can get the couple on the right path to better communication and intimacy. Try starting each day with a smile, a hug, an offer of a fresh cup of coffee, or an expression of thanks for a small act of kindness or thoughtfulness you receive from your partner. It’s amazing how a simple act can help melt even the iciest climate and bring about feelings of warmth and goodwill. The key is to be persistent even if you are met with sullenness, suspicion, or coldness in the beginning.
Find small ways to connect throughout the day.
When there is a lot of emotional distance, you need to build a new bridge back to one another. This is easier than you may think. Use text messaging or phone calls to coordinate an upcoming event, catch up with one another, ask a question, share a piece of information, or just to let your partner know you are thinking of him. This last one can be a real turn on if you include suggestive language or a hint of something fun you are planning for the two of you later.
Remember when you were first dating, and you spent hours talking about everything and nothing–when you wanted to share how your day was going and always looked forward to when you would be together next? This is the mood and environment you want to recreate. And making the effort to connect in this way will help you to do that.
Plan lunch dates and don’t forget dessert. (wink wink)
Lunch dates are great when you can work them into your schedule. Getting together in the middle of the day almost guarantees your energy will be higher. If you can swing a longer lunch and find a private little eating spot—it can be very romantic. By the end of the meal, you could have more on your mind than just lunch.
If you know both of your schedules would allow it, one partner could surprise the other by extending the date and getting a room in a nice hotel (nice is important) for an hour or two. Doing this and ordering lunch through room service saves time and adds intimacy. A break from your normal sexual routine could be a real boost and helps set the stage for experimenting with something new that you may never have considered trying before. Kama Sutra, anyone?
Surprise your partner with a special outing for two on the weekend.
Too often weekends are consumed by family activities, kids’ sports, errands, chores—everything but fun couple time. No matter how hectic and demanding your family life may be, try to find something the two of you can do alone, even if it is just once or twice a month. And no, don’t make it something like furniture shopping or going to design showrooms to get ideas for your new kitchen.
Depending on where you live, many low-cost and easily accessible options could be available to you. Do you enjoy art galleries, museums, or touring historic and unique places? It’s easy to find listings of upcoming events online and in your local paper. Or maybe you would prefer something that allows you to be pampered along with your partner. There’s nothing like a couples massage to help you relax and get in the mood for more relaxing fun and a little romance. Begin by brainstorming ideas for something you and your partner would really enjoy. Then get creative.
Find an on-going activity where you can participate together.
There are many commonly shared activities, like working out or joining a co-ed sports team, and for the more adventurous, there are extreme sports, like sky diving, scuba diving, marksmanship, and caving. But if you prefer something a bit more mainstream, consider adult classes in dance, cooking, language, music and many other areas of interest.
You might require childcare or help with transportation for older kids to make this happen. But there really is something for everyone, if you look hard enough. Certainly, one-time activities will offer the greatest flexibility for those who have a heavy load at home that would need to be covered.
Use nonverbal communication to flirt, connect with, and seduce your partner.
Do you know how to flirt with your partner? Can you express desire with your eyes, posture, and your facial expressions? Do you use touch to convey warmth, attraction, and desire? Can your partner look at you and sense your feelings and needs and respond in the way that you had hoped?
If not, it may be that you don’t have a good grasp of nonverbal communication and how to use it effectively. Approximately 75 percent of what we communicate is nonverbal. Too often, we express one thing with our words while sending a very different message with our body. Since it is the nonverbal message that speaks the loudest, it is important to focus on everything your body, facial expressions, and eyes say without words. When you do speak, be aware of your tone, pitch, and volume. Your partner’s responses will let you know how well your intended message was received and how they feel about it.
Too many couples give up on their relationships too soon. If they put half the effort into improving their marriages that they do on avoiding and going around the problems—there would be fewer divorces and a much higher number of happily married couples. If your marriage has grown distant and you fear you have fallen out of love—give these suggestions a try. What have you got to lose— except your marriage?
Toni Coleman is a licensed psychotherapist, certified relationship coach, and internationally recognized dating and relationship expert and founder of consum-mate relationship coaching. She is frequently quoted in many local and national publications and top-ranked dating and relationship websites and has been a guest on a number of radio and TV programs seeking to provide their listeners with her cutting edge expertise.