Q: Yet another couple we know is getting divorced. It’s scary for me because they seemed so happy. How can my husband and I make sure we don’t become a statistic?
A: There’s no doubt about it: Long-term love can be hard to sustain. Women today are twice as likely to seek divorce as men, and the reasons for wanting out have changed. A large proportion of women cite a lack of quality time and connection to their partner as the cause. Individual satisfaction and personal growth have become paramount for many women, and marriage is now about companionship rather than money and security.
So how to keep that flame burning? I tell my clients it’s not easy to create passion that lasts for life, and it takes time and effort. But the investment in your relationship will yield great intimacy returns. Two key strategies to start with: Talk more and make love more.
Research by John Gottman, a couples therapist and the author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, found that successful couples make time to talk daily. They buffer their relationship from the stressors of life by sharing daily concerns in a conversation averaging 45 minutes. Then they move on and just spend time as a couple: taking the dog for a walk, making dinner together. And your mother was right: Be kind and considerate. Speaking to your partner in a critical or contemptuous manner is a leading predictor of divorce. Speak to your spouse the way you would a valued friend. Communication depends more on the tone of your voice and your body language than it does on the words.
Lasting passion is created. Carve out time to be together and, yes, schedule sex. Regular lovemaking, at least twice a week, creates an intimate bond you don’t have with anyone else. I teach couples to make their sex life their hobby. Think about it: We carve out time for our hobbies, we don’t consider them work, and we want to learn more to become good at them. If you look at your priorities, chances are you spend more time and energy on your garden than on your sex life. It’s time to change that. Watch videos on maintaining a healthy sex life, or join a couples’ workshop. Take the fitness of your love life as seriously as you take the fitness of your body. If your marriage is in trouble, call your provincial psychological association and find a couples therapist to work with.
The good news? Passion can last, and become stronger. It just needs a little workout regimen.
September 2010 issue of Best Health magazine