Are you surprised to be looking for ways to fall back in love with your spouse and wondering how you got here?
Most of us remember how the butterflies swirled on our wedding day, as a new life with our partner brought hope for a “happily ever after.” Looking into their eyes, we promised to love them forever, as they hung on every word.
“For better or for worse,” we hoped the magic of that moment would stand the test of time.
Following the wedding celebration was a glorious trip together. There, we tried on our new titles of husband or wife for size.
But real life as a married couple began when we returned home. And so did the challenges of balancing a life together against the external forces that threaten that bond. As they say, life got in the way.
Whether you’ve been married two years or 40, addressing this imbalance is the difference between marital bliss and the marital abyss.
Don’t feel bad about trying to find ways to fall back in love with your spouse. You’re doing the right thing. No one’s marriage is perfect, but when things get off track, we do need to look for ways to rekindle our love.
Here are 10 ways to fall back in love with your spouse that just might do the trick!
1. Practice Empathy
It’s so easy to vilify our spouses when we only see things through our own critical lens. How many times do you have to ask your spouse to pick up their dirty clothes and put the toilet seat down? You thrive on organization, but your spouse doesn’t care! How selfish and thoughtless, right?
Or could your spouse be working so hard under their horrible boss that they have nothing left to give? Or maybe they just can’t see their messiness and disorganization in the way you do?
You can choose to be angry and critical or you can approach them with compassion and empathy.
Empathy and compassion take so much less energy and engender a lot more goodwill.
Don’t ignore behavior that bothers you, but if you approach your spouse with a sense of empathy, resentment is less likely to build. And that leaves more room for love to grow.
2. Learn to Laugh
Humor is effective to reduce tension and avoid long-term resentment stemming from marital conflict. John Gottman, P.H.D., discusses in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, how “repair attempts” are so important to de-escalate a couple’s negative interactions.
Couples who are good friends are most likely to engage in successful repair attempts that de-escalate negativity and allow them to move beyond disagreements, says Gottman.
What does this look like in real life? To diffuse tension, one couple I know uses the catchphrase, “the more you know” from a television network’s public service campaign. When Zane instructs his husband Michael on how to properly close a cabinet or put dirty dishes on the correct side of the sink, Michael laughs and says, “the more you know!” Zane laughs too but knows it’s his cue to back off.
When couples can laugh at themselves and at each other, they strengthen their friendship which also fortifies their love.
3. Write Down Specific Things You Love (or Have Loved) About Your Spouse and Your Relationship
When life swirls around us and our spouse is annoying, it can be hard to remember why we fell in love. So we need to make a conscious effort to refresh our memories and prevent a negative thought spiral that erodes our love for our spouse.
Just as you might start the day with a positive affirmation to feel motivated and happy, write down one positive thought or attribute of your spouse or your relationship every day.
Gottman suggests sticking to this daily schedule from Monday through Friday, no matter how you feel about your spouse on any given day. “What you’re really doing is rehearsing a more positive way to think about your partner and your relationship. Like any rehearsal, if you do it often enough, the words (and more importantly, the thoughts) will become second nature,” Gottman says.
4. Spend Time Apart
Can absence make the heart grow fonder? The answer is a resounding “yes!” The need to spend time apart for a closer relationship with your spouse may seem counterintuitive. But Psychology Today reports, “personal time allows us to maintain our individual identities, provides opportunities to do things we like to do, and lets us feel like we have some control over our lives.”
When we feel replenished through a little “me-time” we can see our partners in a more positive light.
Author and educator Rachel Astarte, a couples coach at Healing Arts New York, told Bustle, “in reality, brief periods of solitude recharge our soul batteries and allow us to give even more to our partners and to the relationship itself.”
5. Plan Special Time Together
If you think you can stop at spending time apart, think again. Equally important is the need to ensure you have quality time together regularly. Whether it’s walking around your neighborhood together or a weekly picnic, regular time together is essential to maintaining your relationship.
This couple time “offers a needed break from the demands of everyday life. It’s a time to set aside your to-do list and focus on each other,” writes Winifred M. Reilly, MA, MFT, Marriage and Family Therapist and author of the book, It Takes One to Tango.
Everyone accepts the seemingly universal premise that date night nourishes your relationship. But for many couples, even finding an hour to spend alone together each week can be challenging. No matter how challenging it may be, this time alone is an essential way to fall back in love with your spouse.
6. Kiss Like You Mean It
If the status of your relationship has you feeling less enthusiastic about a boudoir rendezvous with your spouse, you might consider regular intimate kisses to light your fire again.
As with sex, kissing produces feel-good chemicals including oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, which, according to Healthline, can “make you feel euphoric and encourage feelings of affection and bonding. It also lowers your cortisol (stress hormone) levels.”
If it’s been some time since you and your spouse have rolled in the hay, kissing with no expectation of intercourse may be just the ice breaker you need to get rolling!
7. Establish a Talk Ritual
Don’t wait for date night! Schedule time each day to talk with your spouse. Just 15 minutes can help you stay connected to what’s happening in both your worlds.
Find a quiet place, whether it’s the backyard patio or a large closet, and ask each other about your days.
Take the opportunity to really listen to your spouse and ask probing questions.
What went well? What are they concerned about? This time will give you insight into your spouse’s mood, offering you a chance to lend a supportive ear. It also allows your spouse to provide you with needed support.
Done regularly, this intimate download can help you build trust and friendship, which can carry you through when your relationship is challenged.
8. Try New Things Together
While rituals are important, it is also important to try new things as a couple. The American Psychological Association recommends couples try new things to keep their relationship healthy.
Doing something new together helps you bond over the shared experience and prevents boredom from settling in.
It can be a new restaurant, a new hobby, or an adventurous activity like hiking or skydiving. Simply trying new things together is another way to fall in love again with your spouse.
9. Be Unpredictable (in a Good Way)
Boredom can be the death of a relationship, or at least send it into a long-term coma. Surprising your spouse is another way to keep things interesting. But you don’t need to whisk them off to a second honeymoon in France to achieve the element of surprise.
Simply sticking a sweet note in their pocket for them to find unexpectedly, making their favorite meal, or giving them a massage after a long day can do the trick. These things let your spouse know that you care for them. And they may return the favor in a way that solidifies your mutual bond.
10. Hold on to Yourself
You need to retain your sense of self to preserve your relationship. David Schnarch, Ph.D. discusses the concept of “differentiation” in his book, Passionate Marriage: Sex, Love and Intimacy in Emotionally Committed Relationships.
He defines “differentiation” as “your ability to maintain your sense of self when you are emotionally and/or physically close to others.” He goes on to describe the concept as the balance of individuality and togetherness.
“Giving up your individuality to be together is as defeating in the long run as giving up your relationship to maintain your individuality. Either way, you end up being less of a person with less of a relationship,” Schnarch says.
What does this mean?
If you don’t maintain your sense of self in a marriage, you will be overwhelmed by it, and the
marriage will weaken.
You need to feel empowered to agree without losing yourself and to disagree without feeling resentful. Schnarch says well-differentiated people “can stay connected to people who disagree with them and still ‘know who they are.’ They don’t have to leave the situation to hold onto their sense of self.”
So often in long-term marriages, we give up our sense of self and lose who we are to the marriage. The ensuing resentment results not from being distant from our spouse, but from being so close that we can’t breathe.
If you are uncertain how to regain your sense of self in your marriage, you might consider talking to a licensed marriage and family therapist.
During quarantine, many of us work, live, play, and eat right next to our spouses. It can be challenging even for the happiest couples to maintain a healthy relationship under these conditions.
These 10 ways to fall in love again with your spouse may help reinvigorate your marriage so that you can enjoy each other for years to come. But, if you’ve been to counseling, tried all the recommendations, and you are still struggling to regain your love, you might want to read my post, Should You Stay or Go? Ask These Six Questions.
Editor’s Note: If you are in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, read no further. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which is free 24 hours per day and seven days per week, to get the help that you need.
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