Do you feel bored in your marriage or relationship? What if your spouse has "never really been the romantic type?" How does that play out after years of being together? Do date nights suffer, if exist at all? What happens when the passion seems to dwindle, the flames burn out and you both get... comfortable?
I asked an expert and she provided amazing help.
Cindy Norton, LMFT is the owner of AVL Couples Therapy in Asheville, North Carolina where she works as a therapist for happy couples. She loves helping couples have happy and fulfilling relationships.
She took time out of her busy schedule to provide real answers and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did when I first read them.
Here's what Cindy had to say:
Feeling bored in your relationship, feeling like you’ve lost the spark, wishing your partner behaved differently, phubbing, and uninspiring date nights are all very common complaints that I hear from couples. However, just because these things are common, doesn’t mean they’re not frustrating.
Some of these concerns, especially feeling a loss of connection and desire, are related to our physiology. In a nutshell, our brain chemistry changes 18-36 months into our relationship, and this is directly related to the “lost spark” feeling.
Therapist and author Pat Love takes a deep dive into this problem by sharing what is going on in our brain that causes this phenomenon to happen, and what we can do about it. This article is a great place to start, and you can dig deeper in to this subject by reading her book.
Armed with this information you can release any shame, blame, or guilt related to a loss of connection or desire. Understanding that the lost spark is, not only normal but, inevitable in long-term relationships is the first step to making room for the sparks to return.
Next, I want to focus on… “he doesn’t do anything romantic and never really has.” This is an important observation. Whenever you find yourself wishing that your partner behaved in a different way, ask yourself “have they always been this way?” If the answer is yes, then it’s very unlikely that the behavior will ever change.
Many people aren’t romantic (and never will be), and that’s okay. But that doesn’t mean that you two can’t have intentional time together that is very intimate and connecting.
One of the main things I work with couples on is to appreciate each other’s differences. We all have our own values, distinct personality characteristics, and differently wired brains. Focus on the things that you two do appreciate about each other.
Here’s an easy way to practice incorporating more appreciation into your relationship: Once per day over the next week set aside 2 minutes where you and your husband each share something that you appreciate about one another. And be sure to elaborate and give an example of how they exhibit that quality or characteristic. For example: “I love that you are so supportive of me. It felt really great when you encouraged me to take that art class that I’ve been eyeing for months” or “I appreciate your organizational skills. You really keep our finances and budget running smoothly – and that’s one less thing that I have to worry about. Thank you.”
If you want to really step up your game in this area, you can complete the Seven Week Course In Fondness And Admiration in this book.
Phubbing (a.k.a. snubbing someone in favor of your mobile phone) is a major complaint among couples, especially at the dinner table. Smartphone use among couples has been shown to decrease relationship satisfaction, increase conflict, and lead to higher rates of depression.
When a smartphone is present at a dinner table, it sends the message to everyone present that the phone is more important than the company. Even though it may be subtle, it’s very damaging to the relationship.
The addiction to technology is real, and you’ll need to be intentional in order to break the habit. Many of the couples I work with have decided to opt for screen-free evenings, where they pick one evening each week to be free of digital distractions. Other couples have opted to begin having dinner together every evening with no technology. Or you may decide to leave your phones at home (or at least in the car) for date night.
If you need a physical reminder to break your phone habit, you can get ‘no more phubbing bands’ and sleeping bags for your phone here.
In order for date night to be something that you look forward to, it should be intentional and well-thought out – not something that you do on autopilot.
Move away from the same old predictable date nights where you go to dinner and stare at your phones until the food arrives. Stop having the same boring conversations about the kids, the bills, the chores, etc. You want Date Night to be something that you look forward to - so it should be intentional, fun, and new.
Here are a few ideas:
If you’re going for the traditional dinner date night, be sure to do something to make it different.
Go to a new restaurant.
Eat dessert first.
Leave your phones in the car and have a screen-free dinner.
Decide on an interesting topic to discuss over dinner. It can be fun and engaging. Talk about your dream vacation, or what you would do if you won the lottery. Any interesting topic will do.
I know that I’ve said no phones, but this is the only exception: Gottman Card Decks. This is a FREE app with card decks for couples on different topics that provide conversation prompts.
Complete one of the dates from the Eight Dates book.
Try something new such as an escape room, a pottery class, zip-lining, a cooking class, going to a play, etc.
Protect your date night. Put it on the calendar. Plan for it. Treat it like any other appointment.
Remember, it’s the little things that make relationships grand. Be kind, share appreciations, ask questions, be curious, carve out intentional time together, and try something new.
Thank you Cindy! We appreciate you.
To learn more about Cindy, visit her website at: https://avlcouplestherapy.com/
Get her FREE Relationship Guide: https://avlcouplestherapy.com/newsletter/
Visit Her on Facebook: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AVLCouplesTherapy/