How do we Maintain the Passion of our Relationship?
- Thursday, February 06, 2003
Dear Dr. Warren,
I'm still recovering from the pain of a devastating divorce. I feel like I need to solve some of the issues that plagued my marriage before I can move out into the world and look for someone to love. This is why I'm writing. All new marriages start with passion and romance. It is usually one of the reasons the people are getting married in the first place. But how can a newlywed couple maintain the passionate flame of love and romance year-after-year without the relationship going stale and eventually dissolving into a divorce? And how much of a strain can children place on a marriage once they are added to the family? -Rick
As a psychologist I spent 35 years working with troubled marriages and encountered your question countless times. Most people seem to view marital passion as a mysterious force that comes and goes with no rhyme or reason. They assume it is natural law that as a marriage gains years it loses passion.
I can tell you, Rick, that I've seen nothing to suggest that either of these viewpoints is an unavoidable fact. It is all too common that these beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies.
In my heart I believe that you control your passionate feelings. They can be coaxed. They can be created, often when you aren't even sure they still exist. I'm reminded of this old story:
A man went to his attorney and announced that he was ready for a divorce. He no longer found his wife attractive. She was caustic, overweight, and frumpy. The two were at war, fighting constantly and he had grown to hate her.
The attorney listened for a while and then offered the following suggestion. "I can hear how much you detest this woman and I have a plan to inflict maximum damage on her. Go home and spend the next 30 days treating her like the most important person in the world. Engage her in conversation and listen attentively. Help her around the house. Take her to dinner, and see a romantic movie once a week. Do everything in your power to be kind to her. You will have set her up for the biggest hurt of her life! THEN we will serve her with the divorce papers and she will be devastated. I'll have the papers ready in 30 days."
The husband was more than happy to carry out the vicious setup. He went home and immediately began to practice all the unscrupulous suggestions that the lawyer had given him.
30 days later the attorney called the man to tell him that the papers were ready to be served. But the husband was horrified at the very suggestion of divorce.
"Divorce?" he said. "Why would I want to divorce her? She's an incredible woman, even better than when I first fell in love with her. She is everything I dreamed of. Why would I want to divorce her?"
It is a corny story. But the point is clear: certain actions create results. By taking concrete steps to engender passion and romance you keep that flame alive throughout the years of your marriage.
Consider these simple, effective steps:
1. As obvious as it sounds, you and your partner need to spend time together.
I mean ample and consistent time together. Some couples don't see each other all week and then expect the romance to rekindle on Saturday night.
2. Take time each day to consciously pull for each other.
Spend plenty of time praying for your mate. This greatly affects our love for each other. When you pray for your partner, he or she is right at the center of your consciousness. All your hopes and best wishes are focused on that person as you ask God to intervene in his or her life.
3. Find a way both of you can serve each other.
Caring for others makes us feel good about ourselves. We are most attractive to those people in whose presence we feel best about ourselves. When you and your spouse serve together and feel great about it, all kinds of positive, loving feelings are bound to follow.
This is just a solid beginning. Let me applaud you for taking the time and energy to investigate this problem while you are still single. Your commitment to learning about passion and romance means that, when you do choose to marry again, you and your wife can grow your passion over the years instead of watching it wither.
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