Five Ways to Reignite Romance in Your Marriage

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  • Feel more like roommates than lovers?
  • No longer connecting emotionally?
  • Attraction waning for each other?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions or if you just want to increase the passion in an otherwise good relationship, read on.

I get it…you work a stressful eight-hour shift, hustle out the door just to taxi the kids to their evening activities during rush hour traffic! You finally arrive home, but there’s more work waiting for you in the kitchen; after all, dinner’s not going to cook itself. Then there are the dirty dishes to contend with and perhaps even a load or two of laundry before you finally collapse into bed only to repeat the same madness the next day. Given the rat race, it’s no wonder couples fall into boring routines and drift apart emotionally and sexually. Not many people feel sexy when they’re operating from a sleep deficit. Bad as it sounds, when you’re exhausted, romance and sex just seem like more work.

The truth is, it’s common for busy couples who have been married a while to lose their passion. Early love is euphoric as the brain releases certain hormones that bind us to our lover. Dopamine, or the “pleasure chemical” gives us a natural high. It causes our heart to race and pupils to dilate. Oxytocin is released when we touch or have a sexual experience. These chemicals have a drug like influence on our brain, but like any drug, the effect does not last forever; the euphoria eventually fades. As the relationship makes new demands, our love must strengthen and mature or things grow stale signaling relationship danger.

So if you want “that lovin’ feeling” back, here are five ways to rekindle the fire:

  1. Create time for each other during the day: The average person spends 8-10 hours away from home daily depending on workday length and commute. Couples are left with four or five hours together at the end of the day and depending on your evening routine and exhaustion level, you may not spend any quality time with your mate. So one way to get the spark back is to create time for each other during the day. Commit to checking in by calling your other half to ask how they’re doing or send each other flirty text messages. The family has to eat and somebody has to prepare the meal, so why not join your spouse in the kitchen and work together? Take an evening stroll to discuss the days events, future plans or simply enjoy the night sky. Finally, before your head hits the pillow, spend ten minutes reading a couples devotion and pray together. God is for your marriage!
  1. Speak your partner’s love language: Gary Chapman author of The Five Love Languages, discovered five ways people use to communicate and understand emotional love: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. Take the assessment and discover your love language at 5lovelanguages.com. My primary love language is words of affirmation, so I really feel appreciated and loved when my husband gives me a card, love note, or pays me a sincere compliment. My husband feels loved when I hold his hand, hug him or sit close to him. The way my man speaks to me throughout the day has a lot to do with my response to his romantic gestures and the way I take time and care to address his need of physical touch communicates how “into him” I really am and that friends…can lead to fireworks!
  1. Physical affection: I’m not necessarily talking about sex here, rather I’m referring to holding hands, kissing, embracing one another, eye contact, tone of voice and just a general posture that conveys “You matter to me.” Gary Thomas (author of Sacred Marriage) recommends a daily 30 second kiss + 30 minute talk + 3 minute prayer to increase your emotional connection. I’ve noticed the more I stare into my husband’s eyes, speak to him sweetly and respectfully not only causes him to strive harder to meet my needs, but my love for him grows stronger as well. So if you’re thinking “You know, I’m just not feeling that way towards my spouse anymore,” express physical affection anyway. Feelings aren’t facts, do the actions and your feelings will follow.
  1. Increase your sexual intimacy: After couples have been married for a while the physical can become boring and lovemaking becomes a rote act or is relegated to the back burner altogether; this is very damaging to your marriage. So to keep things fresh and exciting, flirt with each other and let the tension build throughout the day or week. Be an expert in learning how to please your spouse. God created sex within the context of marriage, not only for pro-creation, but for your enjoyment- explore it together.
  1. Turn towards each other: After facing a few life challenges the marital bliss fades and couples have a tendency to turn away from each other, no longer supporting or meeting each other’s needs. The relationship then grows cold and lonely. But remember, you married your partner because you were unable to meet your own needs of companionship, emotional love and support. You are team- you are not enemies. Be intentional about turning toward each other for support. Learn to depend on each other (again). Enjoy frequent date nights, laugh together and reflect on why you fell in love in the first place. With time and intentionality, your love will mature, your relationship will strengthen and your spark will return!

The Long Way Back to Me: Finding Normal

Prior to exploring trauma with a new cljozwlqkegtewqncmpsnk5rzwhl5t3lvsrfavzctrxxazlc0ipng0fa8aheic-e2st6d_kgs154ient, I assess their needs and ability to cope with traumatic symptoms. After ensuring stabilization and increasing coping strategies we are ready to begin the arduous journey of unpacking the damage from all the psychological and emotional wounding. For me, writing is a coping skill I use to deal with the traumatic symptoms of adultery. It is a way to make sense of nonsensical things. A way to re-write my life narrative, gain clarity and leave a legacy.

Not every marriage can be saved after an affair. Not every marriage should be saved. Mine was, but it’s been a long way back to me. Since my husband’s confession 16 months ago, I have laboriously toiled through the wreckage of my feelings in an attempt at finding normal (again). I have cycled through intense emotions that at times have been dark and frightening and on other occasions, completely out of character.

Affairs rip families apart; they are devastating to everyone involved. My initial emotions were shock and fear. Shocked that the one person who stood with me before God, family and friends and covenanted to forsake all others had rammed a dagger in my back. This affair partner (AP) actually thought she was taking my man. In my one communication with her I told her to leave my husband alone and she replied, “…It is not for you to say with whom I am in contact with at this time. This is out of line.” In an email exchange earlier that day she told my husband, “I have interviews in North Carolina in December.” Now she was plotting to move to my zip code! The fear that my husband might actually abandon our family for this desperate person enslaved me. I could not shake loose the shackles of anxiety.

His betrayal left no area of my life untouched. As I crossed the threshold from 2015 to 2016, I had but one goal: saving my marriage. We attended marriage therapy for months sifting through the affair details. We stabilized our relationship, repaired the breaches and increased our emotional intimacy. Yet there are still questions I will never have answers to, questions that haunt me to this day. As I stand on the precipice of 2017, my chief goal is to rediscover me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milestones

imagesI just passed a crucial milestone. A year ago on September 9th I discovered my husband was having an affair and planning to abandon our family. What a difference a year makes! This September 9th, we were in Asheville, NC with five of his closest high school buddies and their wives celebrating the occasion of turning a half-century-old (well, not the ladies- just the men). Over the past 12 months, we have worked diligently to restore our relationship. This has not been an easy journey for either of us, but it has been worthwhile. Although I am not in a place where I can say I am thankful the affair occurred, I can say that I am thankful for the wake up call the liaison gave us.

My heart was crucified. I lost my identity, my confidence. I lost me and for the exception of pastoring a small church and my job as a therapist, I withdrew from every event and organization I participated in and retreated inward. A strong extravert, I even stopped connecting with friends. After spending months in individual and couples therapy, I am feeling invigorated. I am slowly coming back- not to the person I was, rather I am transforming into a new self. God is remaking me and I am rediscovering my gifts and talents.

I have much to be excited about. I have a new grandson, a book in the works and very soon I will be redesigning my website and introducing the fascinating services I will be offering my clients. Stay tuned!

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part XI: Saving Grace

DSC_0053The saying, “What you have done, you will do again,” in the context of adultery means: once a cheater always a cheater. I reject that belief. As God’s children, when we repent (change our mind about our sin) and turn to God, sin no longer has dominion over us (Romans 6:14). Having one affair is not the same as being a serial cheater. Todd and I have history together, I know my husband’s personality and behaviors and because I know him so well I am able to say with a great degree of confidence that prior to the summer of 2015, he was never unfaithful to me.

Of course I don’t have a guarantee that Todd will never cheat again, but then I never had a guarantee to begin with. No human is above falling. Our saving grace was that beneath his hardened heart, Todd still had a conscience and he still loved me profoundly. Together we made a decision to honor our marriage vows and rebuild our relationship. There has been no magic recipe for healing, but these twelve steps have been instrumental in the rebuilding process.

  1. Forgiveness– I didn’t forgive the man I love because he deserved it; I forgave him because love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8). I wanted to save my marriage and failure to forgive would not help me achieve that goal. More importantly I didn’t want to become bitter. There is nothing fair about forgiveness; it is a costly gift the betrayed spouse offers to the unfaithful one.
  1. Recommitment– Commitment is the most important ingredient to a long-term successful relationship. The higher the commitment level, the more likely you will be to stay together when the storm winds blow. Trust can be re-established, love can be revived, but once you throw in the commitment towel, the relationship is essentially dead. Fortunately in our situation, we were still committed and refused to quit.
  1. Communication– As in “cutting off” communication with the other woman. This conversation flowed logically (and within seconds) after deciding to reconcile our marriage. Although he initially lied to me and said he cut strings with her, he did not. He continued with the deception for another seven weeks, his “insurance policy” (his words) in case I was just trying to win his heart back and then revert to putting him last again. After Relapse Day, he suggested we craft a “no contact” message to inform her that all communication should cease immediately. He blocked her from his cell phone, social media and email accounts.
  1. Disclosure–I advocate for full disclosure as both a therapist and wife. Details for me did not necessarily mean I wanted to know every spoken word and read every text/email sent. While some people may need that information, I did read a few and opted out on the rest. I just wanted a summary of who/what/when/where and why. I do make it a rule to ask questions based on my strength and ability to hear the truth.
  1. Secrets– Affairs thrive in secrets and marriages thrive in transparency. When all secrets were on the table, I knew who and what I was up against and I could move forward in the healing process. We agreed to an open communication style where my husband said he would “squeal” if he heard from the affair partner. He got this very opportunity three weeks after Relapse Day. The affair partner “butt dialed” him twice and sent a follow-up “apology, I miss you” text. He brought the phone home, showed me and together we deleted the text and blocked her number. We also agreed to share our social media accounts. Passwords are hard coded in our computer and we never change the passwords without consulting with the other partner.
  1. Remembrance– Emerson Eggerichs introduces the 80:20 ratio in his book Love and Respect. This concept says that 80 percent of the marriage can be categorized as good or great while 20 percent is troubling. This was certainly true of our marriage, but we were hyper focused on everything wrong with each other. We had to make a conscious decision to remember the good, get the derailed back on track, forgive the flaws and make new memories.
  1. Romance– We were sabotaging our marriage by spending more time on things that annoyed us about the other partner. We were watering the weeds and strangling the romance. Our attraction for each other was still there, but we had to make a deliberate choice to revive the expression of our chemistry. That meant flirting, laughing, kissing, and when going on dates- leaving cell phones in the car and not talking about the other woman.
  1. Counseling– Attending weekly sessions helped us concentrate on meeting each others needs by speaking our partner’s love language. We evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of our relationship, defined realistic goals and established a core vision statement for our marriage. Through introspection, Todd was able to process his character deficits that led him to go outside the marriage. More importantly, counseling gave both of us a safe place to voice our opinions and concerns about the affair.
  1. Partnership– Both of us have felt alone for the last three years. Most evenings would find us in separate corners of the house pursing our own interests. Not so any longer! We now prepare meals together, pull weeds, plant flowers, tend the garden and take long walks by the river. This amazing man I love, now leads our prayer ministry at church and asks daily how he can make my life easier by transporting the kids to their events. We are a team once again!
  1. Grief– One of the best gifts I gave to myself was permission to grieve the death of my marriage, as I knew it. I can never again say that my lover has only been with me since our wedding night; our marriage bed has been defiled (Hebrews 13:4). I set up a support system of friends who allowed me the freedom to be real and writing helps me express my anger so I don’t take it out on my husband.
  1. Boundaries– Trust can be re-established, but it takes time and patience. My man used to have boundaries; apparently they went by the wayside when he cheated. New boundaries were set in place, which include: not discussing our relationship problems with women and no meeting with women in private settings without other people present. I know some folks who include their spouse in all manner of dealings with the opposite gender, but that is not always feasible for me. I cannot drop everything and run up the road to RTP and sit in on a work luncheon with him and I don’t expect him to attend my gynecological visits with my male doctor. Although, I do have his cell phone and email passwords-I do trust, but I also verify. I can’t police his every move, he has to live above reproach (Philippians 2:15
  2.  Prayer– After Reconciliation Day, Todd and I returned to our nightly routine of devotional reading and prayer. Even when he travels we are faithful to read and pray together over the phone, but that can get a little tricky when he travels outside the Eastern Time Zone. We have to make it a priority.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Ways to Love Successfully

loveSecular advice on love and success focuses on ways to maintain another person’s sexual interest or directives on getting your emotional needs met. In the end, this cheap brand of love is shallow and doesn’t lead to long term success. Genuine love is sacrificial and pure, it doesn’t demand its own way or take advantage of others. If you are interested in a love that endures all things, continue reading. I have identified three essential ways to love and be loved successfully:
1. Pursue love- How would you feel if you were deeply in love with someone who was investing more time and energy with their friends, career or hobby? Most likely you would feel insignificant and you certainly wouldn’t feel your love was reciprocated. We invest in the things that are important to us. People think nothing of investing in vehicles, real estate or the stock market, but they rarely apply that same logic to their relationships. Love is a verb. Couples must sacrificially work together to keep love safe, secure and alive. You cannot assume the passion you felt early in the relationship will remain if you invest little effort.

So just how do you pursue love? Put your partner’s needs ahead of your friends. If your other half is sick, cancel your golf game and play nurse instead. Enjoy each other’s company and pursue BFF status with your significant other. Regularly participate in activities you have in common. When eyes start wandering, people begin wondering what they’re missing; love has to be guarded with fierce devotion. Make your relationship an exclusive two-person arrangement. Continue dating after marriage, see a counselor before things go south and finally, never stop discovering new things about one another.

2. Nurture love- Love is among the most basic of human needs; everyone wants to be loved by someone. The ability to express love is what makes us human and sets us apart from the animal kingdom, so before we go any further, let’s define love. Is it a feeling? Is it a decision? Is it more spiritual than emotional or more cognitive in nature? Love is too broad a term to adequately describe in the English language. Would you take a bullet for your car or die for your favorite jeans? Of course not! You probably would, however, give your life for your child or your soul mate! The Greek language provides four major words (and at least eight minor ones) for love:

1. Agape- the idea of a person giving all his or her love or favor to another. Often associated as the love God demonstrates towards us, it is a pure and whole love.
2. Phileo- emotional love, emphasizing affection or a fondness one person has for another.
3. Eros- refers to the passionate love between a husband and wife.
4. Stergo- refers to the love between parents and children.

When the passion fades, you will have to make a decision whether or not to keep on loving in spite of how you feel or you will never leave Phileo Land and experience the depth and richness of “eros” or better yet, the perfection of “agape.” Love is sacred and for it to grow, it must be nurtured. Love should not be repetitive, it should be creative, original and inspired.

3. Hold on to love- Our culture has sold us an unrealistic brand of love. We have been deceived into believing that love is simply physical, which makes you and I no better than Fido the family pet. Romance novels and the silver screen hold men and women to unbelievable standards that devalue love and set us up for failure. Beauty is fleeting, in time romance dwindles, the physical gets boring and eventually, without a strong commitment, we abandon ship and jump into the next hot relationship. Initially love begins as a feeling, but if you want love to last, you must make it a choice and hold on with all your might. Commitment is the most important ingredient to a long term successful relationship. Commitment means honoring the promise to love someone even when the “feeling” is lacking.

In reality, there is no fairy tale ending and there is nothing magical about “true love’s kiss.” Successful love is an unfailing love and in all its splendor, it is quite ordinary. Love that never fails is long-suffering, it is the first to forgive, always seeking to understand rather than seeking to be understood. It means loving a person when they are unlovely or unlovable and loving in spite of each other’s failures and short comings because people are imperfect. Enduring love understands that there are not those couples who have it together and those who do not. We are all broken, messed up and in need of redemption, grace, mercy and forgiveness. So, you want to be successful in love? Pursue it, nurture it and hold on to it with fierce devotion!