WHAT ROMANCE LOOKS LIKE…
There are many of us who are addicted to what are something like “romances.” That rushing, happy feeling you get when you upgrade your phone, discover a new restaurant that you are excited to try, or when you move to a new city that you can’t wait to explore. That constant stimulation is even the reason why internet pornography is becoming so widespread. There is never an end to what you can see or experience.
Now think of this in terms of marriage – are you addicted to the feeling of romance? If so, what happens when those positive and exciting feelings fade?
The term for marital romance is called limerence. Limerence encompasses sexual attraction, adoration, and sometimes even obsessiveness. John Gottman, one of the foremost authorities on all things marriage, suggests that this feeling of limerence lasts only two years. Two years. When most people get married,
rarely do they think, “Well, in two years, when this feeling is over, I will just get divorced and find a new spouse.” Most people assume that this strong loving feeling is something they will experience the rest of their lives with their spouse. Gottman suggests otherwise. He says this strong attraction is a phase. While this phase is very important when choosing your mate, it is not something that should be viewed as a permanent stage of marriage.
SO, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THOSE ROMANTIC FEELINGS GO AWAY?
Hello, reality check.
- You start to notice that your spouse’s cute grinding noise they make when they sleep actually bothers you, like, a lot.
- You notice that your spouse is always late. You used to joke about it, but now it is just starting to get annoying and inconsiderate.
- You start to wonder if your spouse is really as good as you thought, like maybe you were just tricked into this marriage, or that you were naïve and young, and now you know better.
So then, you start looking around.
I think you know where I am going with this.
Before you get down in the dumps about the inevitable decline of your constant and strong attraction to your spouse, consider this thought: If limerence is just a phase, maybe the next phases will be even better, if you work to make them so.
I mean, it took work to date your spouse before you got married, right? Maybe not hard work, and most likely really enjoyable work, but it still took effort, sometimes even at the expense of other important friendships and commitments.
If you want to transition smoothly into future marital phases, then build a strong foundation that you can always go back to when times get difficult.
Here are some suggestions inspired by the John Gottman blog:
Share the Why
Share your fondness for your spouse beyond the words “I love you,” or “I admire you.” Actually tell your spouse why you love them and why you admire them. Use specific situations like, “I love it when you hold my hand in public. It makes me feel like you are happy for other people to see how in love we are.”
Don’t Underestimate the Value of Appreciation
Tell your spouse that you appreciate him or her for specific things they have done. One instance might be, “I noticed yesterday that you did the dishes for me when I was stressed out, and that made me feel really good. Thank you.” But, additionally, thank them for things that they are. Saying something like, “I appreciate that you are relaxed about the traffic jam,” is something that could go a long way towards nurturing your marriage.
Validate Your Partner’s Feelings
Okay, okay, you’ve heard this A LOT. But really, it does wonders on both you and your partner’s moods. By acknowledging that your spouse is upset or sad, it shows that you care about their feelings, and it helps to combat contempt – which is a huge marriage killer. Contempt is not something you feel often in that honeymoon stage of marriage, but it gets its way when you start to notice all of the imperfections in your partner. Creating a habit of validation will be a stronghold in your marriage when things get tough.
Learn to Speak Your Partner’s Love Language
Part of nurturing your marriage involves concentrating on the things that benefit you and your spouse. You may love it when your spouse gives you a massage, but does your spouse love it, too? What speaks to him or her? What is your spouse’s love language? Making a consistent routine of giving your partner more of what he or she wants and needs to feel loved will make it easier when the cloud of limerence starts to lift.
If you think that you might be starting to lose sight of the honeymoon phase, or have long since passed out of it, don’t forget that it isn’t a bad thing if you are willing to make positive choices that will perpetuate your deep love for one another. Apply the above principles and strategies to your marriage starting today, and you will not regret it. Plus, you may find that a deeper kind of romance and devotion starts to settle in, a kind of love that can last well past two years.