I remember being at a wedding and sitting at the table with other couples my age. We were looking at the bride and groom on the dance floor, and one husband said, “Give them and few years, and they won’t be acting like that anymore.” Everyone at the table laughed, including yours truly. Isn’t that what most people think? We laughed, but it was also pretty sad to think that. I mean, is that as good as it gets? I don’t think it is.
There was a truth in what he said. They won’t be acting like that. In other words, they won’t be doing the things that keep the passion alive and growing. If you build a fire and don’t keep it going by adding wood, it will eventually burn out and grow cold.
Realistically, life can get in the way of keeping the passion and spark alive in the relationship if we let it, and I find that most couples do. We stand face to face at the beginning focusing on each other and the relationship exclusively. Then we have kids, and we turn shoulder to shoulder to raise them, build careers, handle chaotic schedules, and try to juggle all the balls we are responsible for.
We take our eyes off of the relationship. It isn’t that we let things slide intentionally. We don’t know any better. Most of us were keeping our heads above water. This is the most common dynamic I see in the couples that come to me for help. Passion falls by the wayside because we don’t keep it alive.
One definition of passion is intense sexual love, but it doesn’t end there. Passion is a sincere enthusiasm about the relationship-about your partner. So lack of passion is a lack of enthusiasm. And with that are two choices. Resignation. Buying into this myth that passion wanes in time or getting back to the basics. Rejuvenation.
So, how do we get back to the passion or enthusiasm in our marriages?
First, let’s talk about the thing most people equate with passion. The sexual relationship. Stop believing that spontaneous sex or a great deal of sex is indicative of a passionate relationship. We have to acknowledge the fact that hormonally we change. Having spontaneous sex where we can go from 0-60 in a minute isn’t realistic as we age. But that doesn’t mean sexual passion is gone.
Whether you think it is romantic or not, we have to be more intentional in our sexual relationship. What used to work for us in the beginning, may no longer work today. So enjoying sexual passion in midlife requires open dialogue.
The sexual relationship evolves just like we do, and we have to talk about it. If not, It’s like trying to sing a song together, and you both have different sheet music. Talk about your needs. Be intentional about setting time together to connect sexually.
Fondness and Admiration
Second, renew your passion by focusing on your fondness and admiration for your spouse. In Episode 11, Increasing Your Fondness and Admiration for Your Spouse, I talked about the value of this focus. If you haven’t listened to that, check it out. If you want to increase your passion, your enthusiasm for your spouse, you will have to renew your fondness and admiration.
It’s hard to be enthusiastic about anything if all we are focusing on is what is wrong. Our thoughts create our feelings, and our feelings create our behaviors. I’m not advocating sticking your head in the sand and ignoring problems in your marriage. But, you can acknowledge things that are troubling you, even address issues that come up in a marriage without attaching to them to the point that all you can see are the problems. I call this catastrophizing. We focus on the faults and forget to consider the strengths of our partners.
In episode 11, I suggest you make a comprehensive list of what you value in your spouse. Write it down on paper. I do this! Whenever I find myself focusing on what bothers me about my spouse and I see myself getting consumed with negativity, I make the list and yes, I’ve done it more than once.
It is a game-changer. My thoughts change, my feelings change, and my behavior changes. I feel more passion and enthusiasm about my spouse when I am focusing on the good things.
Passion is fueled by the little things you do and say each day. We are great at doing the little things in our relationship initially, but we often let things slide. This affects the passion we feel.
It isn’t about waiting for some overwhelming feeling of craziness for your spouse to emerge before you take action. The overwhelming crazy love you want to feel is produced by actions taken regularly.
I’m not saying you need to fawn over your spouse every waking moment, but I believe you both should come up with something affirming to say to each other each day. To do this, you both have consciously looked for things to affirm. You did a great job in the yard. It looks awesome. Dinner was great. It hit the spot. You look handsome or beautiful today. I enjoy watching our show together. It’s fun.
The little things go a long way to building passion. It’s adding fuel to the fire.
Remember how affectionate you were with each other at the beginning of your relationship? Remember how good each touch felt? Get back to it. I’m not talking about sexual touch. I’m talking about affectionate touch outside of any sexual relationship.
Touch can be a powerful way of communicating emotions non-verbally. It offers a subtle and more nuanced approach in which we interact with others. Whether it is a hug or a pat on the back, touch can communicate positive emotions of love and gratitude. A hug goodbye, a hug when you get home from work. Sitting next to each other and allowing your legs to touch. Or shoulders to touch. Holding hands more.
The chemical oxytocin is known as the love hormone or the cuddle hormone. Oxytocin helps to negotiate the experience of attachment. It creates a feeling of well-being between two people.
Oxytocin inhibits stress and increases calmness and connection
between people. Studies show that increases or decreases in neurotransmitters, such as oxytocin, can have a striking impact on thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and interpersonal relationships. This is why physical touch in your marriage is just as important now as it was initially.
The kind of passion we experience at the beginning of our relationship is just that-the beginning. Don’t let it be the endpoint of passion in your marriage. Passion wanes in time only if we let it. It is not a law set in stone. Take action to bring back and nurture passion and enthusiasm in your relationship.