8 Signs You’re in a Strong Relationship (even if it doesn’t feel like it)

1.  You know how to recover from a fight.

2.  You think about your partner often when you’re not together.

3.  You respond positively to each other’s good news.

4.  You spend time apart (do not look to your partner for all your existential

      needs. Find yourself in hobbies, friends, work.)

5.  You have a similar sense of humor. Having a private language with your partner

      (like nicknames and jokes that no one else would get) can facilitate bonding

      and often predicts relationship satisfaction.

6.  You split chores evenly.

7.  You try new things together.

8.  You don’t have a lot of extreme downturns in your relationship.

7 Steps to Making Your Relationship Last

What makes love last a lifetime? Affection?  Sure. Mutual trust and respect? Absolutely!  But a great marriage is not just about what you have. It’s about what you do to make a relationship stronger, safer, more caring and committed. Here’s how to make your “forever” fantastic.

Marriage is a home, a refuge against the outside storms. And like any house, it requires a strong, lasting foundation. To build one, every couple needs to take certain steps that turn the two of you into not just you and me but we. You may not move through all the steps in order, and you may circle back to complete certain steps again (and again and again). But if you make it through them all, you’ll be well on your way toward creating a marriage that will be your shelter as long as you both shall live.

Step 1: Find a shared dream for your life together.

It’s easy to get caught up in the small stuff of married life: What’s for dinner tonight? Whose turn is it to clean the litter box? Did you pay the electric bill? But the best partners never lose sight of the fact that they’re working together to achieve the same big dreams. They have a shared vision, saying things like, ‘We want to plan to buy a house, we want to take a vacation to such-and-such a place, we like to do X, we think we want to start a family at Y time.

This kind of dream-sharing starts early. “Couples love to tell the story of how they met,” points out Julie Holland, M.D., a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City and a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. As you write and rewrite your love story (“our hardest challenge was X, our dream for retirement is Y”), you continually remind yourselves and each other that you’re a team with shared values and goals. And, when you share a dream, you’re a heck of a lot more likely to make that dream come true.

Step 2: Ignite (and reignite) a sexual connection.

In any good relationship, sex is much more than just a physical act. It’s crucial for the health of your emotional connection, too. It’s something only the two of you share.  It makes you both feel warm and loved.  It draws you back together when you’re drifting apart. And….it’s so much fun!

Striking up those sparks when you first meet is easy. The hard part is nurturing a strong, steady flame. When you’ve got a mortgage, a potbelly, and a decade or two of togetherness under your belts, it can be hard to muster up the fire you felt when you first got together. That’s when it’s even more important to protect your sex life and make it a priority. You have to keep working at creating fascination and seduction for each other or your sex life will become dull.

As the years go by, you’ll keep revisiting and reimagining the passion you have for each other. And if you keep at it, you’ll have a sex life that rises above your marriage’s lack of newness, the stresses of family and work, the physical changes that come with aging. Now that’s something worth holding on to.

Step 3: Choose each other as your first family.

For years, you were primarily a member of one family……..the one in which you grew up. Then, you got married, and, suddenly, you became the foundation of a new family….one in which husband and wife are the A-team. It can be tough to shift your identity like this, but it’s also an important part of building your self-image as a duo (and maybe, eventually, as three or four or…).

It’s important to learn to talk to each other when there are issues to resolve……not talk about each other to someone else in the family.  It’s about becoming a team in working things out or dealing with issues relating to the behavior of another family member.

Whatever your challenges —- an overprotective mom, an overly critical father-in-law……..you have to outline together the boundaries between you and all of the families connected to you.  Not only will you feel stronger as a united front, but when you stick to your shared rules, all that family baggage will weigh on you a lot less.

Step 4: Learn how to fight right.

“Fighting is the big problem every couple has to deal with. That’s because fights will always come up, so every couple needs to learn how to fight without tearing each other apart.

Fighting right doesn’t just mean not throwing things…….it means staying focused on the issue at hand and respecting each other’s perspective. Couples who fight right also find ways to defuse the tension……often with humor.  “Whenever one of us wants the other to listen, we mime hitting the TV remote, a thumb pressing down on an invisible mute button,” says Nancy, 52, an event producer in San Francisco. “It cracks us up, in part, because it must look insane to others.” Even if you fight a lot, when you can find a way to turn fights toward the positive — with a smile, a quick apology, an expression of appreciation for the other person — the storm blows away fast, and that’s what matters.

Step 5: Find a balance between time for two and time for you.

When it comes to togetherness, every couple has its own unique sweet spot. “There are couples that are never apart and there are couples that see each other only on weekends. With the right balance, neither partner feels slighted or smothered. You have enough non-shared experiences to fire you up and help you maintain a sense of yourself outside the relationship….…as well as giving you something to talk about at the dinner table. But, you also have enough time together to feel your connection as a strong tie rather than as a loose thread.

Your togetherness needs will also change over time, so you’ll have to shift your balance accordingly. “My husband and I spend a lot of time together, but it’s almost all family time,” says Katie, 40, a mom of two in San Leandro, CA. “We realized a few months ago that we hadn’t had a conversation that didn’t involve the kids or our to-do lists in ages, so we committed to a weekly date. We were so happy just to go to the movies and hold hands, something we hadn’t done in ages. It felt like we were dating again!”

Step 6: Build a best friendship.

Think about the things that make your closest friendships irreplaceable: the trust that comes with true intimacy, the willingness to be vulnerable, the confidence that the friendship can withstand some conflict. Don’t those sound like good things to have in your marriage, too?

Happy couples are each other’s haven. They can count on the other person to listen and try to meet their needs.  When you’re true friends, you acknowledge and respect what the other person is…….you don’t try to control or change him/her. This creates a sense of safety and security when you’re together —- you know you’re valued for who you are and you see the value in your partner.”

Then, when you’ve been with someone awhile, you almost become a mind-reader. You have a shared history and inside jokes. Your guy knows what you’ll find funny, you forward him links to articles you know he’ll enjoy, and best of all, you two can make eye contact at a given moment and say volumes without opening your mouths. And, is there anything more pleasurable than sitting in companionable silence, absorbed in your respective newspaper reading, sipping coffee, occasionally reading something out loud, but mostly just spending time idly, happily together, communing without needing to speak?

Step 7: Face down a major challenge together.

You’re sailing along through life, and suddenly you hit a huge bump…….a serious illness, unemployment, the loss of a home, or a death in the family. How do you cope?

The truth is, you never know how strong your relationship is until it’s tested. All too often, the stress of a crisis can pull a couple apart. But, the good news is, when you do make it through in one piece, you might just find yourselves tighter than ever.

“What didn’t happen to us?” asks Daryl, 28, a preschool teacher in Harrisburg, PA. “My husband lost his job and took a minimum-wage job he was way overqualified for just to make ends meet. He was offered a better job in a mountain town outside San Diego, so we moved. Then, during the California wildfires several years ago, our house burned down and we lost everything. We were living in a one-room, converted garage with no running water and a newborn baby. But, we found that this chaos somehow brought us even closer together. We took turns losing it. We really kept each other sane.”

Marriage is no roll in the hay. It is tough, real work. But, the reward, the edifice you build together that will shelter you through years of tough times, is more than worth the effort. The small, friendly home you build, decorated with your shared history and stories, filled with color and laughter — will be the warmest and safest retreat you can imagine.

What to Do When your Partner Won’t Go to Couples Therapy

It can feel frustrating and hopeless when your partner won’t even give couples therapy a thought or a try. Maybe you have tried to address the issues in the relationship, read some books, talked to friends, fought over and over, and have decided that it’s time to give couples therapy a try. But, you are met with resistance when it comes to getting your partner to go.

You can’t make someone do something that they will not do. Even if you give ultimatums, your partner is likely to feel forced and not really be open to the experience. The best tactic is to tap into the very thing that’s keeping him or her from wanting to come.

There are a variety of reasons for not wanting to go to couples therapy. Your partner might be experiencing many different fears, but here are some of the common ones:

  • Being afraid that the therapist will blame them for the relationship problems, or that the two of you will gang up on them.
  • Honestly believing that YOU are the one that needs help, and internally blaming you for what’s going wrong in the relationship.
  • Being worried that counseling is going to literally be a painful experience.
  • Thinking that there are no issues in the relationship, and that couples therapy isn’t necessary.

One Tactic to Address all of These Concerns

Going to couples therapy takes courage, and anything that takes courage naturally comes with discomfort. But, here’s one tactic to put a dent in all of those barriers that your partner is experiencing.  Discuss what you will get out of therapy, how it will help you become a better spouse, and why you need your partner’s participation in that.

I’m not saying that you are to blame for the relationship problems. But, the fact is that every couple has two members, and every relationship problem has two players. Your contribution to your relationship issues may be as simple as how you respond to your partner’s poor relationship behavior. This still involves you. Tell your partner that you want to go to couples therapy so that you can find tools to use that will help you improve as a spouse. Talk about how much the marriage means to you and how willing you are to do whatever it takes to make it better. And make sure your partner hears how important their help is in doing this.

This is not about taking responsibility for your partner’s behavior, or blaming yourself, especially if you are in an abusive relationship or taking on too much responsibility for changing everything in the relationship. But, in my experience, many people don’t tell their partner how they, themselves, are willing to change. They focus on what their partner needs to change, and engage in unhelpful tactics such as arguing, begging, distancing, and giving ultimatums. Doing something different, such as expressing the reasons you personally want to improve with the help of a couples therapist could be a fresh take.

If your partner is worried that they will be blamed or that you and the couples therapist will gang up on them, this helps to show them that you are approaching this with some level of personal accountability. You aren’t merely looking for a referee or someone to help you convince your partner that they are to blame. The fact is, that a good couples therapist does not play the blame game, and would rather have you both ganging up on the problems rather than on each other. But, your spouse might just need to get into the first session to be able to see that this fear is, well, just a fear.

If your partner really does think that you are to blame, then they might be more open to giving therapy a try if they think that you are open to looking at what role you do play in the relationship issues. This isn’t setting you up to take responsibility for everything. As I mentioned before, a good therapist doesn’t do that. But, if it gets your partner to consider coming to therapy, you can both work on taking responsibility for your own contributions to the patterns once you’re there.

If your partner is worried that it will literally be a painful experience, alleviating some of their other fears could go a long way toward helping them cope with their avoidance of dealing with issues. Couples therapy isn’t easy, but neither is anything that is so important. Being a good spouse and parent, advancing your career, creating a healthy lifestyle and taking care of yourself – none of these are easy.

And last of all, if your partner doesn’t think that there is anything in the relationship that could benefit from couples therapy, perhaps mentioning what you want to get out of it for yourself would be something that your partner would be willing to hear.

This is, by no means, a list of ways to create a more positive and inviting story around couples therapy, but it’s one that can be very effective. The truth is, that a couples therapist is going to help both of you do your best to create the kind of relationship that you want, and taking the first step in thinking about that will go a long way toward avoiding attempts to blame and forcing a reluctant partner into couples therapy.

And, if all else fails, getting therapy for yourself can greatly improve your relationship. Most relationship issues can be explored and approached in different ways, even by just one person. A couples therapist can help you discover ways to improve your marriage even when your partner won’t go to couples therapy. If you are interested in exploring how couples therapy or individual relationship counseling can help, please contact me at 720-291-5707. It could change your relationship with yourself or with someone else forever!

Stay in or Leave a Relationship

 I was talking to a woman that has been with her boyfriend for seven years, is fairly unhappy and does not know if she should stay or go. She is uncomfortable in the relationship, but fears not being able to find anyone else if she moves on. They have gone back and forth on several key issues for many years, but she has never had the strength to cut ties. She knows in her heart that this is not the man she is meant to spend her life with, but she is also torn because, generally speaking, he is a good guy. I need to start by saying there is no magic formula for whether you should stay or go. Whether you are unhappily married, or in a committed relationship that is less than stellar, it is an individual decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. You never want to base a decision out of fear. By this, I mean, you shouldn’t stay in something only because you are afraid of being on your own. Or, you shouldn’t commit to someone because you are afraid you’ll never find anyone else. You want to be with someone for the right reasons. You want to be compatible, you need to generally like the person, you want to have similar values and visions for what your future will look like, and you need to respect and honor your relationship. Every relationship is going to have its ups and downs, so you can’t expect to always get along and be engaging with each other. If you are in a similar situation, it is important to take a step back and look at your relationship with a new set of eyes. Remember, that if two people are committed to making things work, and they still love each other as partners and friends, then they have a great chance of growing as a couple. Also know that there may be a time when, as a couple, you have exhausted your efforts and may be ready to part ways.  Here are some tips to help you re-evaluate where you are in your own relationship.

1. Happy or not?

Are you or are you not currently happy in your relationship? Is your partner also dissatisfied or is it just you? Are you constantly looking to your partner to make you happy and fulfilled? That is a huge request to ask of one person. Remember that just because you are not happy, this does not mean there is anything critically wrong in your relationship. You may need to focus on getting involved in activities that bring more joy to your life. Maybe you are blaming your partner for your unhappiness, where you need to take responsibility for creating your own happiness. Or, there may be fundamental problems that need to be addressed. Take some time to clarify this for yourself.

2. Be proactive and ask for help

If there are fundamental problems in your relationship, have you sought out help? I commend couples that reach out for help when they do not know where to turn. This means you still have the fight in you to make things work. Sometimes it is helpful for each partner to talk with someone individually first, in order to completely share their thoughts and feelings on the relationship. If you still care for your partner, don’t throw in the towel before you give it your all. You will then at least feel peace with whatever outcome comes your way. You will know that you tried and made an effort to work things out.

3. Don’t let fear be your decision maker

If you are extremely unhappy in a relationship and you have tried several methods of reconciliation, then, it may be time to take a break. So many people think it is a black or white issue, meaning you either stay together or you completely break up. There is always some gray area to explore first. You can physically take a break from each other to re-think your options, see how it feels to be alone, and determine the steps that you may need to take. Again, don’t let fear decide what path you are going to take. Know that you are much stronger than you may give yourself credit for, and you will always be o.k.

4.  Acknowledge and heed any red flags

Is there anything that appears to be or feels different than usual, anything that feels uncomfortable or just not right……spouse’s behavior, how both of you interact with each other, inability to communicate openly, honestly and effectively about your feelings, the situation at hand, where you both stand in the relationship and where you want it to go?  Is there a lack of mutual respect for and trust in each other, any controlling behavior in either partner, any form of abuse or infidelity in the relationship?  If any of this rings true for you, it’s important to view these as red flags that there are issues that need to be addressed and resolved through efforts on both of your parts before moving forward with a decision about whether or not to leave the relationship.  If either of you is unwilling to work at resolving the issues that are causing conflict in the relationship, that is a good indicator or factor to assist in making the best decision.

Relationship Rescue


Issue #1:  My In-laws Are Too Involved in Our Lives

The rescue: Create boundaries.

Even though you’re happily married, there’s probably a lot of separation anxiety going on here. Your spouse feels awkward putting limits on her folks, and when the folks feel left out, they lay on the guilt. You both need to set boundaries and explain them — in detail. Try limiting dinner together to once a month, long weekend vacations to once a year, and weekend phone calls to one. Have your spouse speak to his parents to express that the situation is new to everyone: to them, to you two, and to the other set of parents. Explain that you need to launch your marriage, and that means spending time together alone or with friends. Let them know you love them and count on their support — and that they’re not being excluded from your lives — it’s just that you need to learn to depend on each other, rather than on your folks. It’s going to be hard for many parents to let go, especially if your spouse is an only child. Let parents know the situation will naturally evolve as time goes on. Keep them in the loop with a weekly email or phone call so they won’t have the urge to show up next weekend during your romantic park picnic.

Issue #2:  Suddenly Marriage Doesn’t Seem as Fun as Dating
The rescue: Schedule your time.

Your previous life together was always planned, like going on dates and having the wedding. Now you sit together on the couch watching 24. That’s cool — sometimes — but you also need to actively plan “together time” away from the TV. It’s okay to turn to your spouse, look lovingly into his eyes, and say, “Even though we spend time together, I miss you, and I want us to have more memorable moments.” Then suggest a few ideas. They don’t have to be fancy, pricey, or even at night. Each week one person takes the reins to rekindle the romance. Rent bikes one Sunday afternoon and explore the town. Revisit the scene of your first “I love you.” Serve breakfast in bed (Cheerios will do — it’s the thought that counts). As for the unsexy habits, try to have a sense of humor about them. If they really turn you off, develop a code word or phrase with your spouse to let her know that, say, “the glob of toothpaste in the sink needs to be wiped out.” It’ll keep the frustration at bay and the tone fun.

Issue #3:  I Thought My Spouse Would Change, and It’s Not Happening
The rescue: Reconsider those changes.

You can ask your spouse to change, but realize it comes across as mothering — and you are so not your partner’s mom! Okay, so he might still need the maternal bossing around, but find a way to say what you want (if you really need it) so it sounds more sincere and in a less nagging way. Confront the situation before you get too fed up and say it in an “I’ll bend if you bend” type of way. If you can’t let it go, just ask for a favor. Pose it as, “This is the one thing I’ll ask of you.”  Some behaviors will definitely need to be modified, like spending money. More than likely, you have different ideas about spending and saving, and that won’t change by ordering her to quit updating her cell phone every six months. In this case, you need to arrive at a mutual plan — work on it together, not as one person chastising the other.

 Issue #4: My Spouse Thinks in Terms of “Me” and Not “We”
The rescue: Always consider your mate’s feelings.

Whether the issue is big or small, there’s a need after marriage to hold on to your own identities (which might be tougher for a wife who changed her last name). It doesn’t mean you don’t love each other or don’t want to be married, you’re just used to taking care of yourself and making your own choices. Your husband probably doesn’t really care about the hue of any room, and while she wishes she could join you on that great trip, she probably just wants you to go and have a good time. It boils down to this: Each mate wants to participate in the decision-making. When a big trip comes up, immediately call your spouse, instead of the airline, and go over dates and projected money you’ll spend. And when a home improvement decision arises, ask for creative input before bringing home the paint cans. Either way, you’re now part of a team and need to treat your sweetie like an equal player. You’ll need to be prepared for some resistance to your plan, but hopefully you can each voice the pros and cons of the situation to come to a solution, and even learn something from one another’s opinions. Working as a team will be tough at first, but it’ll go a lot smoother if you respect each other. And you’ll probably get to paint the bedroom — and the whole house — any color you want.

Issue #5: We Love Each Other, but we fight a Lot
The rescue: Fight constructively.

You’re probably not in trouble. Fighting is healthy as long as it leads to solving a problem and helps you learn to manage your differences better in the future. One partner shouldn’t always be giving up or giving in just to end the argument. The common goal should always be to settle the case. Constant bickering that goes nowhere will take its toll, but a disagreement is better than holding in a concern and becoming resentful. The key is to use heated debates to find a resolution that satisfies both partners’ needs. The next time a fight ensues, refrain from name-calling and cursing. It’s okay to raise your voice, but don’t let things escalate into a screaming match. Each person should present his or her side, then hash out how you might meet in the middle. Explain things in terms of “I feel” — something like “It hurts my feelings when you tease me in front of your friends.” And then back that up with reasons why. Never lay blame, declare absolutes, or point fingers. For example, avoid “You never take my side!” or “You’re always messing up!” Once you learn to speak rationally, it’ll be easier to reach a resolution. Always communicate! If fights get nasty and seem never-ending, it might be time to consider counseling for one or both of you. Don’t think of it as the last straw; it’s a proactive way to keep your marriage strong.

Communication 101……Stop and Listen

How many times in your past can you recall getting upset with someone, which turned into an argument and you were left with nothing resolved? It is natural to want to express your thoughts and concerns when you feel wronged. However, it is less natural to genuinely listen to the other person’s point of view. Practicing healthy communication and listening skills is vital in all relationships. It takes practice to stop and listen when all you want is to get your point across. Everyone wants to be heard, genuinely heard, when expressing feelings. When you approach someone from the “I” standpoint instead of the “you” standpoint, it changes the dynamic completely. Take responsibility for your own actions and feelings and this will lessen the likelihood of defenses going up. Start today by creating relationships built on respect for one another. Again, it is ok and completely valid to be upset with someone, the way you approach the situation can make a huge difference in the outcome.

  1. Make a list

Make a list of all the people you would like to improve your relationships with. Take ownership and responsibility for what you bring to the relationship. Instead of the “blame game,” try approaching the situation with an open mind, resulting in a solution. Practice responding instead of reacting.

  1. Stop and listen

Next time you get upset with someone, be prepared to stop and really listen to what they have to say. Before jumping the gun and overreacting, take a deep breath and prepare how you want to approach the situation. Envision the end result in a positive manner with both parties being able to express everything without blame. Begin to practice the art of really listening. Take time to stop and really hear what the other person has to say.

  1. Remember how it feels

Remember how it feels when you’ve been genuinely heard and understood? It is difficult to get upset when you feel understood, when there is little blame and more understanding of each other’s point of view.

Affair-Proof Your Marriage

Whether you’re newlyweds or nearing your 20th anniversary, there are three things couples can do to affair-proof their marriages:

Appreciation is the number one way to prevent infidelity. This was the consensus, based on what men reported in a research study. Cheating men were saying that, what they received most from the “other woman” was a sense of appreciation and admiration.” When you recognize your husband’s efforts, you’ll get the same in return.  Love him, not just for the extra things he does, but for all the hard work he does. The more appreciation you give him, the more it will be returned to you.”

The second way to stay connected to your spouse is to have more sex and embrace intimacy. This is about how you can get much more pleasure from sex. A lot of women don’t enjoy sex as much because they have difficulty receiving pleasure. Men are much better at that. You have to get better at receiving kindness and pleasure for yourself.

The third thing to remember is that you have the right to have a conversation about cheating.  One research study revealed that 77% of cheaters said they had best friends who cheated, compared with less than 50 percent of the faithful group. Instead of forbidding your husband from seeing his friends, you should be able to have an open conversation about where they’re going.  A nice way to approach your husband about this, is to say, ‘Look, if my best friend was a cheater, and I told you that I was going away to Vegas with her on a girls’ weekend, I would hope you’d have something to say about it.”

A good way to open up lines of communication is to go on one date a week. However, there are a few rules you must follow while on the date.  There are three things you can’t talk about ……money, business and kids. Talk about fun, friendly things.

Personal Relationship Values

In relationships, just as in every other aspect of life, the spirit and attitude with which you do things is at least as important as your actual actions. Embrace and incorporate these powerful values, and you will start living with more integrity, honesty, compassion and enthusiasm. This will, in turn, breathe new life into your relationship.

Own your own relationship. You are fully accountable for your relationship. You can never again believe you’re a martyr suffering in your relationship because of an unworthy partner. Only when you stop seeing yourself as a victim will you start to see yourself as a fully competent and potent force in your relationship.

Accept the risk of vulnerability. Do not let fear paralyze your life. Wanting, reaching out and letting yourself hope makes you vulnerable. At least by putting yourself on the line, you have the chance of getting what you want, as opposed to hurting with no chance of getting what you want. Not to venture is to lose yourself.

Accept your partner. If your partner experiences in you, the spirit of acceptance, then it is most likely that he/she will find you approachable. Two partners who are moving toward each other, rather than both trying to seek safety from pain, have a dramatically-improved chance of reconciliation.

Focus on friendship. You have to take a step back from the problems and pain of your intimate interactions, and focus on your partner’s positive qualities. Turn back the clock and recall what it was that started the friendship that matured into an intimate relationship.

Promote your partner’s self-esteem. You must bring the spirit of acceptance into affirmative, interactive action. Find the courage and creativity to promote and protect your partner’s self-esteem, even when you feel compelled to be critical. By using the value of self-esteem, you provide a much more nurturing atmosphere, one your partner will not want to abandon.

Aim your frustrations in the right direction. Work at sorting out the causes of your frustration, and resist the impulsive temptation to pick at your partner. Once you start seeing that the negative things you perceive in your partner are often things you see in yourself, you will literally alter the nature of your interactions with your partner.

Be up front and forthright. Nothing can be more frustrating than what is referred to as an incongruent communication, where an individual says one thing yet indicates something dramatically different with his or her nonverbal conduct. Strive to express your feelings in a mature and responsible way. By being honest about your emotions, you base your relationship upon integrity rather than lies and deception.

Make yourself happy instead of right. Start evaluating the things you do in your relationship based on whether those thoughts, feelings and actions are working. For example, you don’t have to prove over and over that you know what you’re talking about more than your partner. Instead, choose a different emotion such as tolerance, understanding or compassion that does not escalate hostility in your relationship. By deciding to be happy rather than right, you will be receptive to your partner’s attempts to de-escalate hostility and return to civil interactions.

Allow your relationship to transcend turmoil. Rough times and arguments happen, and one way or another, they are going to impact the relationship. You must vow to no longer use threats as a lever to manipulate and control your partner. By doing so, you are setting a clear limit on the places a spirited discussion with your partner will not go.

Put motion into your emotion. You must turn the concept of love into a proactive behavior. Don’t be so consumed with negative messages that your expectations are low. You must require yourself and your relationship to truly be better.

How Do I Get the Spark Back into My Marriage?

First of all, what you are experiencing is totally normal. Every couple experiences a decline in the “spark” as time goes on. It’s a fact of life as you move from the initial infatuation and early days of your relationship to the attachment phase. Often, as a couple becomes more comfortable with each other, it can start to feel as if the passion has gone out of the relationship. This can seem like a warning sign that something is wrong — that the attraction has faded or that you are falling out of love. However, it’s a biochemical process that has little to do with your relationship or either of you personally. When you first met, your brains and bodies were producing a cluster of neurotransmitters and hormones that made you feel obsessed with each other. Those chemical fireworks drive the crazy, frequent sex of new love, but it would be exhausting if it stayed that way forever!  Eventually, the biochemistry of love has to settle down —- and when it does, the “excitement” calms down a bit, too.

That being said, you can recapture some of the early fireworks — both inside and outside the bedroom. Novelty is the key. You and your husband should try taking up some new activities together. And if they’re risky, all the better — the endorphin rush will mimic early feelings of love and lust!  Approach your husband with some ideas, or brainstorm together. Anything from learning a new language to exercising together to skydiving will work. Your sex life and your relationship will benefit as you engage in new things as a team.

In the bedroom, consider changing your sexual routine. Try some new manual and oral techniques for spicing up foreplay. Banish the same old sexual positions. There are many excellent books and videos to inspire and guide you.

It’s also important to make sure that you are making room for sexual connection in your daily life. Not only does this mean getting a babysitter and having regular date nights, but it also means making sure that technology such as smartphones and Facebook aren’t taking over your life. Think about your nightly routine when you come home from work. When you eat dinner, is your smartphone sitting on the table next to you? When you crawl into bed with your partner, do you find a warm body next to you or a warm laptop? If technology is gaining the upper hand, you need to step back and set some boundaries within your relationship. If your work situation won’t allow you to completely power down for the night, you can compromise by agreeing to one hour of technology-free time or at least putting your phone away during dinner!

By focusing on recreating the spark and decreasing the amount of time you spend apart (emotionally and technologically), you can re-establish your bond and have fun together as a couple again.

Four Questions to Reboot Your Relationship 

1.  Can you really expect your partner to treat you better than you treat him/her? Is it fair to ask your partner to do something that you are not willing to do yourself? If you are pressuring your partner for sex and then pulling away in an angry huff when you don’t get what you want, can you really expect your partner to WANT to be intimate with you?

2.  Can you really expect your partner to treat you better than you treat yourself? If you are critical of yourself, you could be opening the door for your partner (and others) to do the same to you. If you are not willing to learn how to be patient with yourself, forgiving of yourself, and kind to yourself, than why do you expect your partner to do that for you?

3.  If you want your partner to change, do you think about what you could do to make it easier for him or her? Many people come into therapy and will happily delineate all of the many ways that their partner sucks at this or that. This keeps you in the problem cycle and it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to get out of this cycle if you keep supporting what doesn’t work. Instead, honestly look at what you can do to make it easier for your partner to change. Consider being on your partner’s team rather than putting yourself on the opposite side.

4.  How do you create an environment for your partner to be his/her best self? What do you do everyday to help your partner be the best version of him/herself? How do you create a supportive and loving environment for him/her to flourish and grow? If you find that there are places where you feel resentful and don’t want to do this (“because she’s not doing this for me!”) then it is easy to see where you can get stuck in an unproductive cycle. If you are ready to improve your marriage or relationship, start here. Start with yourself.

If you feel the need for help or support, feel free to contact me to see how I can help you.