For years, I marveled at couples who appeared to connect on a deep level while I struggled to save my second marriage from the brink of divorce. In hindsight, my husband and I lost the spark and emotional closeness needed to sustain a healthy marriage due to lack of attention. However, when I turned to the experts, I was able to reconnect with my husband and regain the love we had early on—before ghosts from our past relationships cast a dark shadow over our marriage.
One of the main things I have learned about marriage is to make it a priority and to focus more on my husband’s attributes rather than his flaws. Additionally, I am convinced that making a commitment to love each other in spite of our differences is crucial to long-lasting love. Another important principle that has helped strengthen my marriage is put some rituals in place that are non-sexual but keep the passion between us alive.
Author Zach Brittle, a certified Gottman therapist, informs us that “Rituals also help ensure that your relationship is unique.” He posits that some couples might question the value of this but that making an agreement to uphold a ritual can inject fun into your marriage even if one or both partners don’t really feel in the mood to connect due to their busy schedules.
For instance, sharing a six-minute kiss when we reunite each day has increased the emotional and physical intimacy with my spouse. Since my husband is more physically affectionate than I am, this satisfies his love language of physical touch and helps us stay close.
Keeping emotional love alive in marriage, according to relationship expert Dr. Gary Chapman, makes life more enjoyable and is a powerful vehicle for communicating marital love. How do you restore the spark that once existed with your spouse? In many cases, physical touch that is non-sexual can spark passion even when it doesn’t lead to sexual intimacy.
Today my second marriage is stronger than ever and I have been able to establish a harmonious and healthy relationship with my husband. We recently celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary and have raised three wonderful children together. Being more intentional about physical affection and rituals has helped to bring the spark back to our marriage
The Art of Sensual Communication
Making love to your partner with words and talking about your love, fondness, and admiration for each other is a form of foreplay and can enhance the intimacy in your marriage. Talking about your feelings, wishes, and desires can definitely spice things up when the demands of jobs, kids, and the household are piling up.
Being more sensual in your communication with your partner includes talking about how attracted to them you are, how attractive you think he or she is, and what you look forward to during your time alone later in the day. Saying something like “I love it when we cuddle on the sofa and have plenty of touch” can enhance your emotional intimacy.
10 Non-Sexual Ways to Keep the Spark in Your Marriage
- “Turn Towards” your Spouse rather than turning away or against. According to Dr. John Gottman, a tendency to turn toward your partner when they make a bid for connection means you are good at listening and showing empathy. It’s the foundation of love and intimacy in a marriage. “Turning Away” (ignoring) and “Turning Against” (being defensive or shutting down) breed disconnection and resentment.
- Nurture Fondness and Admiration. Remind yourself of your partner’s positive qualities – even as you accept that they have flaws. Express your positive feelings and/or compliments out loud several times each day.
- Search for common ground when you have a disagreement and decide that it’s more important to foster good will than to be “right.” Ask yourself: would I rather be “right” or be happy? Listen to your spouse’s side of the story and strive to understand his or her perspective.
- Be vulnerable. Real intimacy requires that you be authentic even if it feels scary. The next time you are tempted to shut down or be defensive explore the emotions coming up for you and share them with your spouse. Accept that he or she may not be able to respond in a way that is nurturing in that moment and try to let go of your expectations for a loving response (it may come later).
- Establish an open-ended dialog regarding concerns. Don’t be surprised if some of your discussions are heated – especially around hot-button issues such as money, chores, vacations, in-laws, etc. The key to a successful marriage is knowing when to let “hot button” issues go and being able to take a break when you feel flooded.
- Repair your relationship after conflicts arise. Don’t put aside resentments that can destroy your relationship. Experiencing conflict is inevitable and couples who strive to avoid it are at risk of developing stagnant relationships. John Gottman discovered in his 40 years of research that 69% of conflicts don’t get resolved but can be managed successfully. Learning ways to get back on track after a disagreement will boost your passion and strengthen your marriage.
- Spend time with your partner in new ways. For instance, changing the topic to something unrelated; using humor to diffuse tension; or offering your partner signs of appreciation such as “I love it when you massage my neck.” It doesn’t need to be more than a few minutes, but it is part of the time and energy investment
- Take an annual vacation together without your children or relatives. If you have a tight budget, try camping or plan a weekend get-a-way at a resort near your home.
- Practice Physical Reconnect. When you give an intimate kiss, it is not just the meeting of your lips. It usually involves touching with some other part of your bodies, i.e., hand on cheek, hand on hair, and embrace, etc. Having an additional point of physical contact during a kiss with your partner creates a deeper sense of intimacy.
- Increase physical affection. Hold hands with your partner, give them a massage, and demonstrate your love through touch. According to author Dr. Kory Floyd, physical contact releases feel good hormones. Holding hands, hugging, and touching can release oxytocin (the bonding hormone) that reduces pain and causes a calming sensation. Physical affection also reduces stress hormones—lowering daily levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
The best way to keep your marriage fulfilling and passionate is to establish rituals to enhance your profound love and intimacy as a couple. A good marriage requires vulnerability to thrive. Responding positively to your partner’s bids for connection will help you bring out the best in one another.
The good news is that there are some things you can do to restore the spark that you once had as a couple. In fact, Dr. John Gottman explains: “Couples who “know each other intimately [and] are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams” are couples who make it.” Even if you are not an affectionate person, increasing physical affection and emotional attunement can help you to sustain a deep, meaningful bond.
Photo credit: iStock