– “Doctor…We’ve been married for so many years—we hardly ever make love anymore.”
Sheila X. is a nice, successful lawyer “d’une certaine age” that has had increasing doubts about her marriage during the past few months; every time she comes to my office, I can see the tired look in her face with an evident readiness to say a lot of things but with an unwillingness to do it. She has been complaining of multiple minor ailments of various systems in the past few months that, after a complete medical work-up with referral to specialists, turned out to be “somatization.”
One of the most persistent misconceptions in our society is that the progressive decline in marital passion of married couples is directly related to the loss of libido and/or interest in their partners. Even though there is certainly a dearth of sexual activity in these “bored couples”, we believe that it is usually a symptom of a larger problem that needs novel solutions that go beyond the bedroom. So, recurring to our humble, limited but intense experience with the marital bliss, we recommended her the following:
1 – Watch the communication modes
In the beginning of every relationship, we tend to be obsequious and mellifluous with our partner; unfortunately, the daily routine and the wear-off from labor and family obligations will ultimately sap our readiness to say nice things, progressively drifting into rudeness and worse, indifference. We shake our torpor and try to see our romantic partner in a new light. We must listen to their concerns. We must talk to them as adults, not talk down like children. We must speak softly in their left ears. Why the left? Because the sensory input from the left side of the body goes to the Right Hemisphere, the center of affection, where there is no Right or Wrong (read more in my upcoming book) Never underestimate the soothing effect of the right word of encouragement at the right time.
2 – Respect the differences
When a romance starts we value the differences in our “significant other” as a nice challenge of our sentimental status quo and offer us some needed excitement to “feel alive.” However, that attitude might change over they years as we become less tolerant of previously accepted features. We strongly believe that it is almost impossible to “change someone”, a fallacy that many young women believe when they supposedly marry “the man of their lives” and start tinkering a little. When you love someone, you are ready to change your ways. A little. Sometimes may be more. But don’t you start vacuuming the living room when the football game got finally interesting.Or pester me that you want a salami sandwich when “gorgeous” is about to pop “the question” to her. Ca va de soi!
3 – Encourage the individual initiatives
Perhaps one of the most difficult and yet easier recipes is the fact that, in order to keep a healthy couple relationship, both women and men must have separate activities, either in the labor or social spheres, including reserved times for personal hobbies, old friendships, new business ventures. Of course, there were always couples that “do everything together” but that smacks of other times when women were more compliant and followed the lead of their men and relegated their wishes. Moreover, after some time spent apart, the yearning to be with the loved one gets even stronger.
4 – Surprise your partner regularly
One of the funniest ways to break the routine that might asphyxiate any kind of long-term relationship is to do something completely unexpected to surprise your partner. Perhaps one day you decide to stop by a florist shop on you way back from work and buy her a bouquet of red roses; maybe you even dare, not to use one of those lame pre-printed cards, but to write a few simple lines telling her how much you love her and appreciate all she does for you. Say it. Loud and clear…Or perhaps you decide to wait your hubby with a new dish that you learned from a TV program even if you got all the ingredients from Blue Apron. What’s the matter? Is cooking beneath you? Just do it.
5 – Watch your personal hygiene
This is one of the trickiest issues. Of course. we know that we must take a shower every morning and get ready for our interaction with our work or study mates. But how about at bedtime, eh? We should avoid late feasts with too much red meat difficult to digest, carbohydrates that swell your belly, beans and broccoli that encourage the colon bacteria to produce malodorous flatulence. For years I have had the habitude of “moving my bowels” (Yes, I can talk at ease about this subject because I am a physician, remember?) at least once in the morning before going to work and at night before I take a quick shower to get to bed squeaky-clean. Try it. You’ll smell the difference. And, exuding lavender from Provence, your partner might be enticed to “take a bite out of you.”
6 – Maintain family and friendly relationships
The interaction with other people brings a much-needed breeze of fresh air to the couple, besides cementing their attachment to their family members and their friends. Humans are supposed to live in association with other individuals, not only the lifetime companion they have chosen. We know that it is sometimes tough to bear the relatives or fellow workers of our “significant other” but we have to remember that he/she/sie might feel the same. By agreeing to accompany them along in stride, we are helping them to ease the burden. They will be grateful for our gesture. And we might get cookie points.
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.