After the initial lust has subsided and the romantic glow has dimmed, many of us start worrying about the love in our relationships. “Do I still love him?” you might wonder. Or you worry, “She doesn’t love me anymore.” If we experience this lull for too long, we may even consider ending our marriage or commitment thinking that we haven’t yet found “the right one.” Below are five suggestions for rekindling your love for your partner.
- Appreciate the positive — Once we pass the euphoric “in love” stage, our rose-colored glasses lose their hue, and we sometimes see things in our partner that we don’t like. Additionally many of us are “problem solvers,” so we’re on the alert for anything in our relationships that isn’t working like we want it to. Instead of focusing on the negative, become a seeker of positive treasures. Pay attention to what is working and praise your partner for all that you love about him/her. Be specific with your acknowledgments, such as saying, “Joe, I really appreciate how you keep our bills paid,” “The house feels so homey with the fresh flowers you put in the kitchen each week, Jen,” or, “The way you smile at me each morning makes me feel so special.” What we focus on expands, so when we put our energy into the positive features of our relationship, we’ll create more of those. Certainly be honest about anything that’s not working, yet make sure these are occasional observations instead of continuous commentary. You might be surprised by how quickly the love returns when you open your eyes to the positive attributes that are already there.
- Ask how you can improve — Our orientation is often to find fault in others and to exert our energy trying to get them to change. Without blaming or berating yourself, focus your attention on being the best partner you can and leave your mate’s personal development to him. Invite your partner to give you feedback (honest and loving, of course) about anything he’d like you to do differently. You can do this in a specific way–”I notice that I’m sometimes bossy with you. Do you have suggestions on how I can more courteously make requests?” You can also ask for general feedback–”I want you to really feel loved by me. What is the best way I can communicate my love to you?” Be open to his input, considering any changes you make to be enjoyable experiments (You might make them permanent, you might not.). Orient yourself toward your own growth as a human being and reap the rewards in all areas of your life. Chances are that you will be a source of inspiration to your partner, and he’ll start looking for his own ways to evolve.
- Get obsessed — During the “in love” days, we have one-track minds. Forget work, school, friends. Anything that doesn’t include our partner isn’t on our “to do” list. Though it’s not a highly-effective way to live, a dash of that obsessiveness can bring out the love in any relationship. Mark out time on your calendars to be alone. Let the chores go undone for a weekend. Save the errand running for another day. Pour yourself into your relationship as if it were brand new. Invest yourself in learning about your partner or sharing one of her favorite activities. Do something “special” for him even though it’s just a normal day. Become more romantically inclined and you’re likely to see love blossom anew.
- Forgive — Bottom line, if you’ve been in a relationship for any length of time beyond the early period when you thought your partner could do no wrong, you’re very likely to feel some resentment toward him/her. Whether it’s a minor complaint–leaving the toilet seat up or asking a lot of questions about your workday when you prefer to quietly relax–or a major upset–forgetting your birthday or saying something unkind–we all have reasons for feeling annoyed, irritated, or frustrated with our partner. When we hold onto these grievances, however, they infect us and poison our relationship. This ill will is a love killer. So, take time to forgive your partner on a regular basis. Even if you don’t like what she did, let go of the resentment. One way to do this is to be alone in a distraction-free place, close your eyes, and visualize your partner in your mind. Once you can see him/her, speak aloud, as if you were talking to your partner, “[Your partner's name], you are human, just like me. I let go of any resentment I’ve been holding toward you. I forgive you.” Repeat this phrase, or something similar, until you sense that your feelings of resentment are gone.
- Renew or make commitments — Sometimes in a relationship we sense that we’ve lost our way on the journey to love. Renewing your commitment to your partner (or clearly making one if you haven’t already done so) is a sure way to help you rekindle your love. Set aside time in your life to consider what promises will help keep you connected and support you in creating a relationship that’s ideal for both of you. How do you want to be with her? What actions will best demonstrate your love? Which choices will dismantle walls between you? Write down your ideas and inspiration. Make them concrete, clear, and concise. Use words like “I will,” “I promise to,” “I pledge,” “I intend,” or “I commit.” Share these vows with your partner whether by candlelight, after lovemaking, handwritten in a greeting card, or while holding hands in one of your favorite romantic settings. You might even have a ceremony–privately or with other loved ones–to formalize your commitment. Getting clear on your intentions is a wonderful way to refresh your feelings of love and connection with your partner.
If you have suggestions about how to keep the love alive in a marriage, post them in the “comments” area. (I wrote this post as well as one titled, “Everyday Gifts — How You Can Show Your Love Without Spending a Dime” as part of Darren Rowse’s “How To” group writing project.)