Dan says: Susan and I have been married for a long time – I don’t know, maybe too long. We used to do a lot of fun things on the weekends, and Susan would show me how much she found me attractive in little ways – notes in my lunch, seeing action movies that I know she doesn’t really like. Now, it’s just routine all the time – all we ever talk about is the kids. I don’t feel as if we have anything in common anymore.
Susan says: Dan’s right. I don’t think either one of us feels the “glow” anymore. After 25 years, we may just be bored. Sometimes, after we’ve completed all the essential conversation of the day – what the kids need, what bills need to be paid – there is no time or energy left. I’d really rather just watch TV and unwind, or maybe read. Perhaps we have been married too long.
The counselor says: Dan and Susan are not the first couple who have been married this long. Twenty-five years is a long time. Marriages that have lasted that long often need special care along the way. Both the man and the woman in long-term relationships get used to caring for others. Usually, it’s the children and sometimes other family members. Often they neglect each other, taking each other for granted. What can we do to make the relationship special again?
First and foremost, we must prioritize the marital relationship. That means spending time together without children or others. Having time to talk about your relationship and time to talk some more is very important. If you have lost this contact with each other, try to spend several ‘dates’ or alone- time doing just that. Spend time reminiscing about why you came together in the first place. Remember that having a mutually supportive and empathetic relationship is the desired goal. That means each person takes turns talking with honesty and listening with empathy. Talk about your feelings and thoughts. This allows each partner to listen to the other person and confirm the other’s feelings, while allowing a connection to their own feelings. This creates a mutually supportive relationship that is positive for both partners. This ‘connection’ builds trust and mutual respect, the foundation of loving relationships. Again, this talking and listening may take several different private times. Try not to rush this process. Become friends again.
If this empathetic listening and talking work in creating mutual trust and respect, love may bloom again. Having a good friend in your marital partner is a great start to getting the ‘glow’ back. The next step is pretty easy. Start to date again. Spend time relaxing and holding each other. Alone time is again really important. Depending on each partner’s style, this may also take some time to redevelop the glow. Sometimes, by acting as romantic as you were at the beginning of your relationship, the reality will follow.
These techniques work well for partners who need to connect again. If the issues are deeper, a series of counseling sessions may be necessary. This helps get the little-used techniques of communication back in shape, just like a personal trainer helps us get back in good physical shape. I would encourage all partners to try counseling before they take any next step. Dan and Susan talk about maybe being married “too long.” Please don’t draw that conclusion too early without trying professional help. Most relationships can be helped with outside assistance. Twenty-five years are worth saving.