The goal in a marriage is for two people to shed their masks completely, unite in love and their desire to share similar life goals and feel comfortable being their true selves with one another. But few women (or men) walk down the aisle thinking that, in a few years’ time, the partner who now goes to great lengths to impress and woo her might wind up being the same person who farts in front of her (on purpose) or rolls his eyes at the suggestion that they cuddle at the movie theater.
No matter how long you’ve been with someone, there’s a good chance you still want to feel loved, desired and courted by that person. At the same time, it’s natural to let your guard down so much after you’ve been married (and especially after you’ve had children) that you forget you aren’t each other’s “bros.” Somewhere along the way, while you’re busy spending comfy time in sweats together on the couch, one partner might begin to feel like the relationship is slipping too far into the dreaded friend zone.
Why do some partners feel upset when their significant others become too comfy in their relationship and what’s a disgruntled, romance-starved spouse to do?
“The reason why people get upset when they feel like their spouse is ‘too comfortable’ is because they associate those behaviors with a lack of romance, intimacy, and spark,” says Lainie Naugle, a hypnotherapist who specializes in interpersonal communication and relationship enhancement. “We’ve all heard about the honeymoon stage, where couples show off the best parts of who they are (some to the extent that they misrepresent who they are). The thing is, healthier relationships have a smoother transition from the honeymoon stage to the more stable stage of the relationship. No one should feel like their relationship has changed from day to night.”
If you fear your marriage has transformed without warning, experts suggest five ways you can address the issue.
Speak up about your feelings
It goes without saying, but step one should always be to speak with your spouse about your concerns and the things he is doing that bother you or make you feel disrespected. There’s a good chance he/she isn’t even aware of a problem. “The simplest way to get your partner to do something is to ask them,” says Fila Antwine, a relationship expert, writer and women’s leadership educator. “We often forget that the basis of a healthy relationship is good communication. If your partner has become more comfortable than you are comfortable with, simply talk to them about it and ask that they make the changes.”
If you’re anxious you’ll say the wrong things, Antwine suggests sitting down and writing your spouse an old-fashioned letter (remember those)? “There is something about reading words on a page that makes us pay more attention to them,” Antwine says. “Start your letter with a sweet greeting, remind your partner you adore them, and then let them know what’s bothering you. He’ll think about it until you two have a chance to talk it over.”
Lead by example
You really don’t have a leg to stand on if you’re expecting your spouse to make the first romantic move all of the time while you sit there in silence. There are times when “show, don’t tell” is the most effective approach of all. “If you don’t like that your spouse leaves the bathroom door open, make sure that you don’t do it,” Antwine says. “Then when he does it kindly close it for him without saying a word. After a few times he should get the message.”
Create a sexy nightly activity
It’s up to you to put the spark back in your marriage and it isn’t going to happen without some effort. Antwine suggests creating a sexy nightly activity for you and your partner. “Dress up, dirty talk, play cat and mouse, dim the lights light and add some candles in the bedroom,” she says. “Something that will make you both feel fresh, new, and excited about being with one another. It will change the routine, add some fun, and help get you both out of the comfy cloud.”
Remember you both made a choice
The root issue in most cases is that a relationship can get stale, especially as we become comfortable with the misconception that we’re “stuck” with each other. Remember that feeling you got when you first started dating, had variety and freedom, and felt you both had to be on your toes? Joseph R. Sanok, owner and a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling, says it helps to remember that no one is forcing you to stay together. “Remember that the relationship is a choice, they are never ‘stuck,’ they are choosing to stay because there is more positive than negative,” Sanok says.
When all else fails, compromise
We probably all have annoying little habits we don’t know about. If you’ve made your spouse aware of the things that bother you, but he refuses to change them, you may need to step back and try and see things with a different set of eyes. “It’s easy to start nitpicking, but remember that person isn’t something you can mold into your ideal partner,” Naugle says. “After you pinpoint the things that really bother you to the point of losing interest in your partner, decide what needs to be talked about and what can be dealt with using simple actions on your part.”