To maintain a vital, thriving marriage, partners need to be nurtured physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Mutual nurturing enriches and enhances relationships but too often couples become complacent and take each other for granted. They forget to appreciate the good qualities of their spouses and find cause to criticize and demean.
Passion becomes a treasured but hazy memory. Kisses are blown into the air on the way out the door. Real hugs seldom happen. Connections that were once electric feel burned out. The marriage wilts like a plant without water and fertilizer.
Then one day one or both realize something is missing. What to do? Divorce could be around the corner.
Many couples, however, persevere in marriages that have lost their zest. Some seek solace and/or excitement in affairs. Still others bury themselves in work, hobbies or other distractions. They live parallel lives. They adapt and life loses some of its luster.
Is it too late? Not necessarily. Our most basic needs are to feel loved, cared for and cherished. When those needs are lacking, couples loose their sense of connection. Commitments weaken, interest wanes; the stage is set for failure. Any remnants of love can be resurrected with the proper attention. Passion can be reclaimed. Happiness can be reborn.
If we know what we need for ourselves in a relationship it is very simple to know what our spouse needs; exactly the same things. If you feel neglected your partner almost surely feels the same. If you feel verbally abused chances are s/he does also. Seldom does an abused husband or wife suffer silently without angry retorts. If you long for more affection, ask your spouse if they feel the same lack you do. By now you’re getting the idea.
The lacks in a relationship can be a source of incessant arguing and blaming or they can be addressed through positive action. All it takes is for one to want change, one who is willing to risk the first step. I often see couples who are willing but only if the partner agrees. If two people really love each other they will both risk that first step. In fact, it helps to hold hands, look into each other’s eyes and remember what they saw and felt when they first fell in love.
Then, if affection is lacking, you make the first move, and keep on doing so simply because you love that man/woman.
Don’t expect instant results though! Your partner/spouse won’t trust that you will persevere, so you must be consistent and patient for a few weeks. Whatever you feel is missing, give it to your beloved; s/he is missing it also. Don’t whine that it isn’t working and don’t give up.
If your love is true and deep enough you will sense a gradual shift. One or both will notice a new lightness, want to get home earlier, find reasons to be together more. Laughter will return. You might start dating again and feel safer and more connected than you have in a long time. Old passions for each other will be reawakened. All this can happen when you nurture and love your beloved.
Elinor Stanton is a psychiatric nurse practitioner on Marco Island. She has 30 years of experience as a therapist in private practice and with a large health maintenance organization in Boston. Send comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 394-2861. Visit her Web site at http://www.etseven.net.