Why does intimacy in marriage decrease over time?All of us can recall those moments early on when our partner took our breath away. I'm talking about hearts pounding, the anticipation of seeing them again and the anxiety/excitement that often makes up our feelings early into a relationship. But over time, life conspires against those things. As we start careers, have kids, and get involved in other activities often times we see our marriage or relationship shift further down the priority list. As with anything, when something we used to put a lot of thought and energy into ceases to be a priority, the intensity can drift away. Sometimes too, one or both spouses engage in destructive behavior and over time, it can damage the love, trust, passion, and connection that was once there. So if your arguments involve profanity, name-calling, or making fun of the other, make sure to review my list of the 11 Deadly Types of Marital Conflicts (click to read my article to see them all), so you can work on avoid them moving forward. But even with a damaged marriage, there are ways to restore intimacy in marriage! You can get back those feelings of passion for your spouse. No matter what has happened in your relationship, as long as you are willing to put a little energy into it, you can improve the connection, love, emotional and yes, even sexual intimacy you once had.
Can couples fall in love again?The short answer is absolutely yes! As I get into in many of my posts, my wife and I were on the brink of divorce in 2013 after I had an affair. In the aftermath of the affair which had lasted about 2 months, I set about really trying to understand WHY I had done that to her and our marriage. I also set about trying to restore in the intimacy and connection in our marriage which I had all but destroyed. To do that, I had to take a number of steps, and while the steps you need to take may be different, this is what I did (and it worked!)
- I quit drinking alcohol for about 3 years (it had fueled a lot of drama between us and while it never made me do something I didn't want to do, it did cloud my judgment)
- I changed careers to a much more family-friendly environment (instead of one where I often worked late and joined the crew out for drinks after)
- In order for my wife to feel safe and trust me, she needed to vent and get all her feelings off her chest (thus, I spent a lot of time just listening, which wasn't always easy)
How do you rekindle a failing marriage?Once you are fully aware of why and how the intimacy has left your relationship then you can begin to fix it. If you did something to damage the relationship, it's crucial that you take 100% ownership and accountability for it. No excuses, no shifting blame, and no "but"'s following the end of your apologies! If you made a bad choice, own it, learn from it, pick up the pieces, try and move forward. Somethings that can help are:
- Put your own needs last, at least for a while
- Pay attention to what matters to your spouse (those little things count!)
- Don't put pressure on them to get over whatever the issue is
- If there was a serious issue, Can Marriage Counseling Help? (click to read my article to find out)!
- Go on date nights back to some of the places you went when dating (they will trigger those fond memories)
- If need be, schedule sex weekly. Putting it on a calendar or app may seem too mechanical, but trust me; it's better than it not happening at all!
- Also have some time each week where you connect without the expectation of sex (no kids, no phones, no TV)
Can a marriage survive without intimacy?The short answer is probably not. While I'm sure there are some marriages out there where both partners are content and go through the motions without that spark, connection, intimacy, and sexual chemistry, it's probably rare. Thus, if you are in a marriage or relationship and the intimacy is lacking or non-existent, it's time for action! By action, I do not mean berating or guilting your spouse. Chances are, they are very aware of the problem and already feel bad about it. They don't need to feel worse about themselves! In fact, just the opposite! They need to feel loved, supported, and safe enough to confide in you about what's really going on. While it could be that you did something to shut down your partner's emotional connection with you, lots of things that have NOTHING to do with you can do that too, such as:
- Abuse or neglect from the childhood that recently got triggered
- Stress from work
- Changes in appearance that are affecting their self-esteem
How to restore intimacy in your marriage after kidsParenting, done right, requires a lot of time and effort. That time and effort have to come from somewhere, so let's be honest. Usually, it comes from things we used to do with our spouse. Now I'm not suggesting for a minute that you spend less time with your kids or put yourself above them in the priority list. I am, however, suggesting you find ways to bring balance into the family. After all, spending a ton of time with your kids and then ending up divorced doesn't help them. When you have a newborn, the options are limited, but as they age up, you can begin to work your marriage back into the busy schedule. My wife and I began a routine of spending Sunday mornings alone, together basically locked in our bedroom. Our oldest 2 daughters (10 and 11 as of this writing) know to relax, grab a bowl of cereal and read a book or otherwise entertain themselves for a few hours. It also helps foster a sense of independence with them and they know we trust them. Kids these days can sometimes be coddled so much they never learn to fend for themselves and can end up with a low skill set and a high sense of entitlement. Thus it's not only a great way to restore intimacy in marriage, but it's also an Effective Parenting Tips (click to read my article to see more). This weekly connection time may be a simple tip, but it's powerful and effective. This time is not just about sex. It's a time where we talk about our busy week and the busy week to come. We connect. The phones are down and silent. We listen, we have our coffee and we restore intimacy in marriage a little bit each and every week.
How often do married couples make love?Of course, it varies by age, but on average, most married couples have sex once or twice a week. If you have kids, that of course affects it too, as does the age of the kids. Generally speaking as we get older, we tend to have less and less sex. For instance, by the time a couple is in their 40's they are down 20% compared to the frequency of sex in their 30's. Now if you aren't having sex at least once a week, that doesn't necessarily mean your marriage is in danger or failing. It does, however, mean it might be something you and your spouse need to re-prioritize. I go into much greater detail on how often couples in every age bracket make love in a recent article. I not only list out all the statistics, but I explore the why behind the decline, and (more importantly) give some realistic tips married couples can use to boost their sex life. Just click that link to read it on my site.
How do you rebuild a broken marriage?Lots of things can break a marriage; cheating, addiction, and dishonesty being the biggest offenders. Of those, cheating is probably the most common and among the most damaging. Infidelity can rip a marriage apart. But while it can be a deal-breaker, it doesn't have to be. When a partner cheats it usually isn't that they found someone else more attractive or just wanted more sex. Often it's because the marriage lacked that emotional intimacy and connection that it used to have. The cheater simply didn't know how to restore intimacy in marriage. They took the easy way out. Don't get me wrong, cheating is a terrible, terrible thing one partner can do to another. I can say that having been cheated on in at least 1 of my relationships and having been the cheater in my marriage). It's also important for the cheater to really come to terms with the things in them that are so damaged they would be willing to do that with their partner. If we don't get to the root of our problem, we're much more likely to do it again. I've written extensively about how to Save a Marriage After Infidelity (click to read my post on how to do it), so if you're in that boat, I highly recommend taking a moment to read that highly shared post.
How do you know if your marriage is worth saving?This one is easy. Even if it's a negative empotion, do you feel an emotional reaction when you think of your spouse? If yes, that means there's something there. And that something IS something. You can work with that and build from there. The only deal-breaker for me is physical violence. Almost any other issue can be fought and overcome IF both of you are willing to work at it. So if you and your spouse simply co-exist with little to no interaction, energy, or even anger, that's a bad sign. I'm not saying it can't be saved with professional help. But I am saying it's better to try and save your marriage before all emotions get drained from the relationship. So what are my . . .
31 Proven Steps to bringing back the love and passion to your marriage?
1. However much time you spend together each week, try and increase it by 5% each month
So if you typically spend an hour together on the couch watching TV each night after the kids go to bed, try adding just an extra 5 minutes a night.
Ideally, have that be before turning on the TV so you can just check in.
2. Have a daily check-in with your spouse
Connect every day, if briefly, to hear how the day went and what went right or wrong.
Spouses who are connected and involved with each other's struggles are much more likely to cling to one another in a storm instead of pushing each other away.
3. Show affection in small ways daily
Kiss your spouse goodbye when you head off to work.
Say "I love you" before you go to bed. These things may be small, but they matter. And over time, they form a pattern and help program your thoughts and their's to be interconnected.
It's honestly one of the easiest ways to restore intimacy in marriage.
4. When you are together, put the phones down and focus on each other
Phones are great. You are likely reading this on one.
But phones, however well-intentioned the designers may have been, have a way of disconnecting us instead of connecting us. Thus to truly restore intimacy in marriage, you have to set the phones down and really connect with one another.
To dive in deeper on that subject, take a moment and read the facts on How Technology Affects the Brain Negatively (click to read my detailed article).
5. Focus on appreciating the little things your spouse does
Most spouses do little things for each other that often go unnoticed.
It could be a surprise snack a wife pack's in her husband's lunch. But it could be just watching the kids so a wife can get a well-deserved night out with her friends.
When your spouse does something like that, don't take it for granted. Acknowledge it!
However small, appreciate the fact that they did something for you they didn't have to do. And do something for them in return sometime without any expectations of it being returned.
You CAN save your marriage — even if your spouse says that they want a divorce.You CAN rebuild that passion you felt for one another when you first kissed. And you can bring back that love and devotion you felt for one another when both of you said, “I love you” for the first time. If you feel like your marriage is worth fighting for, then do yourself a favor and watch this quick video on how to Mend Your Marriage that will teach you everything you need to know about salvaging the most important thing in the world.
6. And focus less on what expectations you have that they aren't meeting
Many of us stop focusing on appreciating our partner and focus more on having expectations of them.
Specifically, many of us have expectations of what they aren't doing for us or what we think they should be doing.
Unless they recently developed a drug habit or other dangerous past time, chances are this is how they always were.
Thus to expect them to suddenly change is neither fair nor realistic.
So one of my best tips to restore intimacy in marriage is to stop having expectations of your spouse.
7. Apologize often and without excuses
A basic apology is under-used in our society.
We're almost conditioned to try and justify mistakes or shift the blame. How many times have you heard someone say "I'm sorry, but . . . " The moment a "but" follows an apology, it ceases to be a genuine apology.
A true apology owns it without excuses. Either you did it or you didn't. If you did; own it.
8. Take ownership of your actions or inactions
Along those same lines, it's vital to really take ownership of our actions, statements, and inactions.
If you did it, or forgot to do it, or said it, even in the heat of an argument. Own it. Then take responsibility for it and fix it.
9. Realize sometimes that being happy is worth more than being right
Truth be told there have been times when I've apologized to my wife even when I didn't actually think I had done something wrong.
As spouses, we have to choose our battles. We won't win them all. But at the end of the day, would you rather be right most of the time or happy?
Looked at another way. When you see that guy alone on the barstool who's wife divorced him and now another man is raising his kids, was it really that important for him to be "right" every time they had an argument?
10. Identify a few ways your spouse has helped you be a better person and verbalize that to them and others
All of us who have been married any length of time has no doubt grown as people, in part by the help of our spouse.
So really think about how you and your life have improved due, at least in part, to the influence of your spouse. Once you've identified those things, tell people!
Make sure your spouse knows how you feel, but also family & friends.
11. When things are rough, focus on a time when things were at their best, and when possibly repeat those earlier things
All relationships go through rough patches.
When yours does, instead of focusing on the issue at hand, and especially instead of being critical of your spouse, think back to happy memories.
I don't for a minute want you to not resolve the conflict. But don't get so caught up in the moment that you forget how you truly feel about them.
12. Surprise your spouse with something nice and unexpected
It's always a nice gesture to do something your spouse doesn't expect. That could be surprising them with lunch, or sending flowers to their work. But it doesn't even have to be that fancy.
If they normally clean the kitchen, get up early and clean it. If they usually eat lunch out, get them a gift card to their favorite place.
It doesn't have to be often, but it's best if it's for no reason; so not birthdays or anniversaries.
We recently asked therapists across the country to share the one TV couple they can’t imagine going the distance in the real world. See what they had to say below. https://t.co/dmb8Ry45xJ— Gottman Institute (@GottmanInst) August 30, 2018
13. Say "I love you" daily at least a couple of times
Saving a marriage, or restoring intimacy in marriage often doesn't come down to huge grand gestures. So tell your spouse you love them every day.
My wife and I often just text each other "143", our abbreviated form of I Love You.
14. Text your spouse randomly for no reason once or twice a week
Don't bombard your spouse with texts while you or they are at work. But a surprise text every now and then for no particular reason is sweet and a great way to connect during a hectic day.
15. Set aside a few hours once a week where you shut the world out and focus on each other
As I mentioned above, my wife and I make Sunday mornings "our time". Granted since we had a baby in the fall of 2017, that has changed a little.
But our older girls still know to fend for themselves for a couple of hours when they get up.
That is my wife and I's time to connect, download on the week and recharge our marital batteries. And yes; that's also a great time for sex (once the baby starts a nap).
16. Make sure that sex is a priority
This goes hand in hand with the above section, but sex has to be an important part of a successful relationship. That doesn't mean it has to be daily like it may have been in the early days. But it should at least be weekly.
If your sex life has drifted off of that, take the time and effort to get it back on track.
17. But also touch often without the expectation of it leading to sex
One criticism I often hear about guys is that we see any affection from our spouse as a possible intro to sex. So make sure that you give and receive affection without the expressed intent of it leading to sex.
If it ends up leading to sex, great! But don't always have that expectation.
18. Do something fun and silly with your spouse every once in a while
The other day while finishing up cooking dinner I just put on a Billy Idol song ("Dancing with Myself") and the whole family, baby included, burst out into an impromptu dance party in the kitchen.
It was silly, served no purpose, but it was fun. And we connected as a family in a wholesome and goofy way. Being serious all the time = no fun.
By putting one foot in front of the other, you can create interactions of connection that lead to a relationship shaped by love, respect, and affirmation. https://t.co/yOHGpzQmR0— Gottman Institute (@GottmanInst) August 29, 2018
19. Compliment your spouse on a quality they have, not just their physical appearance
Sure your spouse wants to hear how attractive you think they look. But that shouldn't be the only compliment you pay them. After all, that's a physical attribute they were largely born with.
Take the time to compliment them on a quality or skill they have developed; something they feel 100% responsible for.
Something like how they dealt with a difficult situation smoothly & calmly. Or how great the newly refinished dining room table looks they've been working on.
20. Kiss and be affectionate every day
Just like with random texts and "I love you"s, be affectionate with your spouse. Don't be afraid to let the kids see too.
After all, a great many of their friend's parents could be divorced, so seeing the 2 of you together being loving is a great thing.
21. Understand that your spouse needs a little time apart from you and the kids
I love my wife and I love my kids. But if I spend 24/7 with them, after a while I get a little stir crazy. The same is true for all of us.
So be supportive of your spouse needing some time out occasionally with their friends, or for a hobby.
Don't be jealous of that, don't take requests for that personally, and absolutely don't try and prevent those things or always invite yourself along.
I know a thing or two about being a Clingy Guy (click to read my post), so if that sounds familiar, check out my post for tips on moving past that.
22. Realize that time apart makes the time together more special
So when we do have time apart, when we do come together, it makes the time that much sweeter. It allows you time to miss each other's company.
It gives you something to talk about too and plays a key role in keeping or restore intimacy in marriage.
If you spend every waking moment together, what would you ever talk about?
23. That being said, do have weekly activities you do together and/or as a family
On the other hand, couples that grow to do EVERYTHING separately have grown apart. Forging 2 individual lives is a road that can easily lead to affairs and/or divorce.
So to keep a marriage strong or restore intimacy in marriage, make sure to have regular family activities each week also.
It doesn't have to break the bank either. It could be a neighborhood walk, board game night or family movie night.
24. Don't complain about your spouse to their friends, family or someone of the opposite sex
We all occasionally want and need to vent about our spouse. That's OK.
But there are some important ground rules for that. For one, don't complain to your family or their family. After all, if all your mom ever hears about your spouse is all the terrible things they have done to you, guess what?
They will hate your spouse!
Have that 1 good friend you can talk to openly and honestly (but make sure they are getting a balanced picture).
Above all, avoid talking negatively about your spouse with someone of the opposite sex or someone with whom there could possibly be more than platonic interest.
25. Do praise your spouse openly to all
Make sure your friends and family know how amazing your spouse is. They aren't perfect but I bet there are some amazing qualities they possess.
So focus on the good stuff more than the bad stuff, especially when talking with family & friends.
We are what we think and say. If those things are mostly negative, that's what you will be.
So to restore intimacy in marriage, thinking and saying mostly positive things about your spouse is crucial.
26. Find ways to make your spouse laugh often
A sense of humor is important. But even if your stand-up routine isn't quite up to par, it's not hard to find little ways to make your spouse smile.
27. Support your spouse unconditionally
I don't always understand everything my wife thinks is important. I may not even always agree with her on every decision she makes.
While I'm always going to be honest with her, I do my best to support her and back her when she feels strongly about things.
If your spouse feels like you turn a blind eye or disagree with them every time they stand up for something, that's a recipe for disaster.
28. Don't go to sleep angry
It sounds simple enough and it's a basic thing we've all heard. But if you and your spouse have a fight, don't go to bed angry.
You don't have to keep going round and round until it's fully resolved, but you can agree to disagree or agree to finish the conversation tomorrow.
Remember; you're both on the same team.
29. When your spouse has had a bad day, just listen without the intent to fix things
Trust me; I'm a fixer. It's taken me many years to be able to just listen and NOT try and troubleshoot what my wife is venting about.
I also don't get it right every time.
But if you're spouse had a bad day just listen. That's not to say you can't interject or have to sit in silence. But don't immediately start trying to problem solve.
Dr. Amir Levine explained that everyone has what he calls "a hierarchy of attachment", meaning if something bad happens to us, we have a ranking of the people we call. https://t.co/uh0YX9bK8h— Gottman Institute (@GottmanInst) August 27, 2018
30. Avoid over-scheduling your kids; it isn't good for them and can leave little of you left over for your spouse
In my day job running a martial arts school, I couldn't tell you how many parents and kids I talk to where the kids do 2-4 different after-school activities each week.
Kids need downtime. They need to just go outside and play with their friends.
You or your spouse, on the other hand, are not chauffeurs. So don't overschedule your kids. Pick 1 or 2 activities they are drawn to and stick with those.
When we overschedule, the net result is everybody ends up run down.
31. When a conflict arises, practice the "when you . . . I feel . . . because" method of expressing your feelings
I learned this many years ago from one of my first bosses at Whole Foods Market (thanks, Caitlin).
My wife and I still practice this to this day and it's key to maintain or restore intimacy in marriage.
Essentially when we're having an argument, it becomes all too easy to become critical, belittling or contemptuous of the other.
Instead, say "when you (insert something they are doing or saying), I feel (describe how that makes you feel), because (describe why it makes you feel that way.
Then stop and listen to what they say.
Because you aren't attacking them or being critical of them personally, they will be much more apt to hear you and respond constructively.