Perhaps you worry that your marriage is getting a bit stale, that one or more likely both of you have settled into a comfortable routine and stopped trying so hard to connect with each other. You aren’t alone in this suspicion – questions about keeping a marriage fresh and exciting are among the most common asked of advice to columnists and therapists.
It’s an old story – boy meets girl and they court each other creatively and passionately, flowers, chocolate, love notes, weekend getaways, romantic dinners in restaurants or lovingly cooked at home, lots of love talk while staring deep into each other’s eyes, plenty of exciting sizzle and sex.
But after a few years of marriage, with domestic duties and life’s many responsibilities weighing on them, the boy and girl, now man and woman, don’t look into each other’s eyes quite so often, and they give each other gifts only on special occasions like anniversaries (if they remember them!) and birthdays. Eventually, things get very boring and routine indeed.
Fortunately, it is easy to interrupt this pattern and add adventure back into your marriage! Just asking the question, “Has my marriage gone a bit stale?” is the first step towards breathing some life back into it.
Here are some ideas to help you revitalize your romance, or keep it alive and vital before it goes flat.
1. Take Time to Talk
I mean really talk to each other, not just about routine chores that must be done or the other mundane minutiae of marriage. No, I mean talk about what’s going on in each other’s hearts and minds. Take turns talking and listening to each other, with a timer if necessary. Don’t interrupt each other.
Talk for two or three minutes about everything that comes into your mind while your partner listens. Tell them what went on at work, what your triumphs and frustrations were during the day. This is a great way to foster true intimacy, which means really knowing what’s going on in your spouse’s life and in their mind.
As you practice this kind of turn-taking with each other, you’ll get better at it, both at speaking and at listening.
Too often, when our spouse is describing a problem or fear they have, we interrupt them to offer an immediate reassurance or solution. But it’s better to keep our mouths shut and listen.
Your spouse is a grown up, and they deserve the dignity of being able to talk about and figure out their own problems. If they directly ask you for help, then you can give them advice. Otherwise just listen.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Dream
Someone once said that a dream can’t come true unless there is a dream. Consider how that applies to your marriage. What are your dreams, big and small, as an individual and as a couple? I don’t care how likely you think they are to ever be realized.
Talk about your dreams with each other. What does your spouse want in their career, in their marriage, in their life with you and without you? Are they hungry for a promotion, to make partner at their firm? Do they want to someday own and restore a classic automobile? Do they want children? A bigger house? A boat? A bicycle? To learn Italian? To learn Italian cooking?
It doesn’t matter what their dreams are, but you should know what your spouse dreams about achieving someday, and your spouse should know the same about you. If you long to quit your job and go back to school to learn something completely different, tell your spouse about it.
You two can strategize together about how to make some of these dreams come true, or you can just put them out there.
Some dreams are small and easier to realize, but it’s important to have big dreams, too. Talk about them all with each other. Let yourselves dream together and get excited.
3. Use Your Bodies
Get out and be active together, whether it’s taking a daily “power walk” around the neighbourhood or sweating through a salsa dance class together at the gym. Keeping fit is good for you in so many ways it’s difficult to count them.
Exercise keeps you healthy, so you can be a better spouse, and it also improves your mood, which is great for your marriage. Staying fit increases the chances of keeping an active and exciting sex life all through your marriage. It not only makes sex easier, but it also keeps you in the positive mood for it.
4. Use Your Minds
Just as important as physical exercise is mental activity. Shake your marriage out of a rut by taking a class together, something you can both do and enjoy, like cooking. Read the same book at the same time and talk about it. Get out to a concert and listen to music, then take time to talk about it together.
Individual classes are also good for you, if you each have hobbies you like to pursue, from painting to learning a foreign language. But bring the novelty of what you’ve learned and experienced back into your marriage by sharing it with your spouse. And think of ways to do stimulating adventures together. Cooking is a great example because most cities have culinary classes available in local restaurants or at community centres, and you two will not only learn something fun together with others, but you’ll be able to keep enjoying what you’ve learned for years back at home as you cook the recipes for each other.
Another popular activity is auditing courses at your local college or university. Often you can enroll for a nominal fee, or talk to the professor and just sit in on the class for free. Check out the university catalog and see all that’s available. Try several different subjects and see what you like. Without the pressure of having to perform and get a good grade, you may find you’re enjoying yourself more than you thought possible.
5. Be Creative
Carve out time for each other, to go on “dates” like you did when you were first courting. Make an interesting game of it.
Agree to eat dinner once a week at a different restaurant until you’ve tried every one in your neighbourhood, good and bad. Plan to walk together until you’ve walked on every street in every neighbourhood of your town or city.
Decide to see every movie that’s been nominated for an award this year, or even to see every movie that comes to your local cinema, no matter how good or bad it is. All these sorts of shared adventures will give you both a lot to talk and laugh about.