Remember in the early days of your relationship how you wanted to make sure you presented the best of yourself to that special someone? You would go out of your way to use your best manners, put his or her needs first in every interaction, make sure they got to pick their favorite restaurant on dates, made sure you communicated how you felt about him or her as often as possible? It all seemed so easy then; it just flowed; it was virtually reflexive.
Then, over time, those patterns began to fade and the once easy exchange of devotion and expression of love became more infrequent. It wasn’t necessarily that your feelings or commitment changed, you just began to express them less frequently. Familiarity bred comfort; comfort bred contentment; and contentment bred neglect. Frankly, you just became lazy.
Don’t fret! It is a normal part of the relationship journey. We all start out in the Romantic Love Stage. This is the easy part where behavior is driven by strong feelings doctored by a constant elixir of powerful hormones. It is most often a glorious time; but is never lasts. It is not meant to. It is the biological drive that attracts us and prepares us for deeper and more meaningful connection.
However, before arriving at this final stage, we go through the Disillusionment Stage. In this stage the hormones begin to wear off and we begin to see things in the other person which, previously, were not as clear. We begin to be easily annoyed by the other person’s faults and foibles. Many individuals falsely conclude that the ending of the Romantic Love stage is a sign that they picked the wrong person. Blustery feelings begin to wane and, sadly, many relationships start to disintegrate. In the worst scenario, partners begin drifting towards separation or divorce.
The final stage is the Mature Love Stage. In this stage true bonding and intimacy take center stage. For some couples the transition from Romantic Love to Mature Love is fairly quick. For others, wallowing around in the swamp of the Disillusionment stage can last a long time, sometimes many years. In the Mature Love stage we know and embrace that it is our behavior that drives our feelings, not the other way around. The feeling of being “in love” is still completely possible and achievable, but we recognize that it is the result of engaging in “loving behaviors,” not the other way around.
This brings us to our application. If you have found that you have been presenting your less-than-best-self to your spouse, begin to turn that around today! Recognize that you are likely in the stage of your relationship when great feelings and enjoyment are not dead, they are simply lying dormant anxiously waiting to be revived by the application of intentional loving behaviors and attitudes. Go out of your way to express appreciation for the little things your spouse does, make sure they know they are the most important person in your life – more than work, children, or hobbies, stop using your spouse as a dumping ground for negativity and complaints, be willing to listen, make good eye contact, hug them just a few seconds longer than usual, express excitement to see them when you reunite after the end of the day, ask them what you can do to make them feel special, compliment them, thank them, hire a babysitter and go on a date, do something they love to do, make their life a little easier by some act of service, etc. I dare you to try it as an experiment for a week. See what great things happen!
© 2018 Richard P. White