The high of falling in love has been compared to the rush of being on drugs. But that high can’t (and shouldn’t) last forever. So, once the grind of day-to-day life kicks in, how do you promote closeness and caring?
You may be living in the same house but are you on the same wavelength? Here’s how to recapture that initial closeness and maintain intimacy for the rest of your lives.
1. Go on a technology diet
My patients Kara and Bill (names changed) came to therapy because they were starting to feel more like roommates than lovers. She explained, “We both work long hours and then when we’re home we’re sacked out on opposite ends of the couch buried in our iPhones.”
I gave them a homework assignment: Limit the use of desktops, laptops, tablets and phones to 15 minutes a night for one week. Instead of plugging in to a machine, they must turn to one another for an increasingly alien concept: sharing quality time rather than simply existing together.
A week later they came in, giggling and held hands during the session. “It was tough at first,” Bill admitted, “but once we got used to sharing events of our day with one another versus as a status update it made us feel cared about. We were each other’s priority instead of an after-thought.”
Except for very occasional lapses, months later the two stick to this technology diet and their closeness is growing rather than eroding.
2. Share adventures
Don’t be couch potatoes. Studies show that couples who make an effort to keep doing new things as a couple — i.e., taking classes, going on vacations, working on a mutual project — maintain a sense of closeness and attraction.
Denise explained, “Our life together was so boring I was contemplating divorce, miserable as that option seemed. Then I saw a flyer for Habitat for Humanity and impulsively signed Jim and myself up to build homes for low-income couples near us in North Carolina.”
Partaking in an activity that felt important, that aided other people, helped Denise and Jim connect on a deeper level than they’d experienced in ages. Five years after building that first house Denise says, “We do a project for Habitat once a year, and the rest of the time we make sure we’re doing fun activities — from playing pool and Scrabble to building model airplanes.”
Continually creating a sense of novelty keeps long-term couples emotionally tied at the hip.
3. Laud your partner’s successes
This may sound like an oxymoron — “I’m married to this person. Of course I’m happy when something good happens for him or her.” And yet much of the time if our spouse comes home saying, “Honey, I landed that big client that I was convinced wasn’t going to hire me!” our response is along the lines of, “Terrific. Now we can afford to go out to dinner once in a while.” Way to land a backhanded compliment. Try saying, “Oh wow. That’s awesome. You are da man. I knew you’d get this guy. Let’s celebrate. I’m so, so happy for you! Yay!”
Which response is a better prescription for marital happiness and closeness?
4. Read a book — the Kama Sutra
It’s certainly not breaking news to state that monotonous sex can contribute to a couple growing disenchanted with one another. Since sex is a tie (or whip or handkerchief that binds), it’s smart to make every effort to keep the fires burning.
Enter The Kama Sutra — the ancient Indian text that is full of an endless array of sex positions many of us have never heard of! Even if you can’t quite twist your bodies into the pretzels some of these positions demand, you’ll have laughs and lust trying.
Feel free to try other sex tricks — toys, movies, other books (The Story of O), taking turns being one another’s sex slaves, a ‘We’ll do everything but’ night. Make love away from home — a hotel, a car, the park (well, be careful on that last one)! The idea is not to fall into the Saturday night missionary rut, but to treat sex as an exciting, vital component of keeping your love alive.