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I'd like some advice about saving my marriage. Not just
saving, but revitalizing it.
We've had the usual rough spots that hit couples with young
children -- stress from jobs, money, arguing over parenting,
chores, child rearing issues, sex, sleep, etc. Seen most of it
in the advice pages over the years. For us, disagreements
that used to be aired and then over with often now feel like
deal breakers...like we just can't go on like this. We also
seem to have less in common. Our interests and
inclinations are going in different directions.
I know we love each other, but at times it feels like we have
less and less in common. I don't want to wake up 10 years
and realize that after the kids move out, there's nothing
keeping us together. We are in couples counseling, which
has helped enormously, but it's still just plain hard at times.
There's lots in the advice pages about divorce, but not much
about reinvesting in your marriage. I want not just to have a
''good enough'' marriage, but actually fall in love again. Is it
possible? I guess I just am looking for some words of
hope, as well as some advice about how to go about doing
Through a confluence of events too lengthy to describe here, I
attended a ''marriage preparation'' session recently even though
I've been married for about 8 years now. Part of it had to do
with keeping the romance in your marriage, which tips I am
pleased to share with you. Do little unexpected things for your
mate - make a favorite meal, send a note, give flowers, a back
rub, tell him/her to take a couple of hours ''off'' on the weekend
to do something he/she enjoys (guilt-free). Mini-dates to the
coffee shop (if you don't have time for real ones). Try to learn
one new thing about your spouse - don't act or think that you
know everything there is to know about them, but treat them like
a new (and interesting!) person. In short, act like a newly-in-
love person, and it will help you to feel that way. Good luck!
My husband and I went through a bad period about ten years ago
where we fell out of love and things looked kind of hopeless.
But we really wanted to make the marriage work. What we did was
make lists of the things we loved/liked about each other, and
agreed to think about those good things, and not to dwell on the
things we didn't like about each other. Everybody has faults,
but they also have good points. By following this simple
procedure of thinking good things, we fell in love again and are
very happily married with two great children, and have survived
the stresses of parenthood and illness.
So it can happen! We are coming up on our twentieth
anniversary and still hold hands, send each other little notes
of love during the day, and look forward to talking and
cuddling at night. My husband and I have very different
interests, but we support and listen to each other's interests
even if we're not totally enthralled. Here's a quote we use to
remind ourselves: ''Love must be made and remade each day, like
bread.'' In other words, building a loving relationship takes
work, daily work and attention. You don't just find that
perfectly compatible person and coast along.
Good luck! Rebuilding your relationship is worth it (assuming
he is not abusive). You have all that history together, the
times you loved each other. It is worth preserving that.
Besides, if you jump ship now to look for someone else, how do
you know it won't happen again? We are so happy together now,
and I have a feeling that if I had left him ten years ago, I
would be thinking about leaving the new person again today.
In love again
Your message certainly resonated with me, and I'm sure with many
(most?) others on this list.
I don't have the solution, but one thing I've found is that if I
behave outwardly with more affection to my mate (consciously
making an effort to touch, kiss etc), I actually feel more
affectionate to him. And he of course responds in kind. I think
the risk is in becoming isolated from each other--of not finding
solace in each other, but seeking solace away from each other. So
I am trying to be mindful of our togetherness, and reinforce our
connection physically and emotionally.
Everything you say sounds familiar. You might check out a
book called Passionate Marriage. I've forgotten the author's
name. A lot of it is about sex, which may or may not be part
of what you are dealing with. What I found really great in this
book was the message that marriages are strengthened by
going through just this sort of period you're talking about,
and that in fact, few marriages will survive *without* this kind
of mid-term crisis. I know many people who have found this
book a real eye-opener. I hope it will help you. I look
forwarding to reading the advice that others give.
I HIGHLY recommend ''The Passionate Marriage'' by Dr.
David Schnarch, if you want inspirational words of hope
AND practical advice. Dr. Schnarch has been a marriage
and sex counselor for over 20 years and his approach is
NOT the same old thing that people get from typical
marriage counseling, as far as I can tell. This book has
been very inspirational to me and makes a LOT of sense.
Please pick it up and see if you agree.
Best of luck.
When you've been married for a while, little things that get
between you accumulate. And then you have a huge wall
separating you, which a brick at a time, didn't seem like
much. In little ways you have each given up on the other,
whether it's the ability to trust or something you'd wanted in
a marriage but it hasn't happened that way or you're just
disappointed, angry or sad. So, the wall is a shelter too, and
each person increasingly begins to follow separate
interests, because separate activities compensate for what
the marriage fails to give you.
Certainly, people keep going, wall intact, as my parents
have. Or one person turns outside the marriage for what
they need and has an affair. Or one person seals off the wall
utterly and demands a divorce.
If you want to revitalize your marriage, make the decision
*together* to not ''settle'' for what you have. Take the plunge,
be ready to have your heart broken, and attack that wall. It's
good you're going to a counselor. Marriage counseling can
be a safe place to start this process, since you'll probably
discuss how you've hurt each other deeply, and it's painful to
take responsibility for that.
I feel shy about discussing my own marriage, about getting
into specifics and away from metaphors, but I've found
success by figuring out where I disappoint my husband, and
then working on that thing. Often I'm initially met with
skepticism, then cautious acceptance, and then surprised
pleasure: Yes, I am actually going to stay awake with you as
promised after the kids have gone to sleep, and watch the
movie we rented. Yes, I am going to do the errands I offered
to do, and not gripe like a martyr afterwards. And for your
part, keep an open heart about his/her attempts to do the
same, and accept and trust those efforts. Continue to
commit to getting through to each other, even when it
seems you've made progress.
My husband and I tell each other whenever a friend says we
have a great marriage or somesuch, and we just laugh. I
guess it must look easy from the outside, because in here,
it's very tough. If you're not pulling down that wall, you're
letting it get higher. It's so hard and so worth it. Take
courage - falling in love again can happen.
My advice: if you really love each other and aren't
just ''attached'' then besides counseling, maybe you could try to
have some fun together. This sounds silly perhaps but I advise
you to play hide-n-seek, tag, go sledding on the same sled
(wear helmets), play at a park, skate together, jump on the bed
together, anything that seems ridiculous and childish that
might make you laugh. Do something adventurous together. Write
each other love notes. Remind each other about funny and happy
times in your past. Do something together regularly - community
service work or take a class together (stimulates conversation
about something other than kids and you will have something in
common). Dress up in your sexiest clothes for dates or just at
home. Go dancing regularly or learn to dance together in a
class. Talk about your personal dreams (big, small, abandoned)
and brainstorm together about how to achieve them, then help
each other work toward the goals.
I am in the same boat, and couples counseling has been good but
there is just too much time between sessions where we just don't
work on anything. At the recommendation of our therapist, I am
reading a great book called Getting the Love You Want, by
Harville Hendrix. It is really helpful and I am feeling much
more hopeful already. I bought it on Amazon, used (excellent
condition) for less than half the cover price ($14). I highly
recommend it! Even if only you read it (I don't see my husband
actually sitting down and reading it, but I am summarizing it
for him as I go)--it's worth it! The last section is exercises,
so at that point both people become involved even if only one
has actually read the book.
Best of luck to you!
The things that have best held my otherwise rocky marriage
together and kept the love alive are continually letting each
other know we are on the same team, just acting loving even when
we feel plenty of reason not to, and both trying to give what
the other wants first instead of trying to get what we each want
for ourselves first. These are the things we both strive for
whenever we can remember, and both acknowledge are the most
important every now and then when we can see past whatever else
is usually in the way. Best wishes.
My heart goes out to you to find the flames missing in your
marriage. I feel that I am in a similar situation in feeling
like my husband and I are having less in common. What helped is
trying to make some time together and doing something fun and
putting that huge task of parenting aside and remembering why we
came together. I made a deal with him that I would be willing to
do something of his interest if he would share something of my
interest. While the results aren't always ideal, we have
appreciated each other more.
this page was last updated: Oct 2, 2005
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