We plucked a book out of the shelf entitled “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” It’s old – last publication date was 1999 – that’s close to 7 years ago. The pages have turned yellow and the book’s condition showed that a thousand different and eager fingers turned the pages too fast and too frequently.
Were they desperate souls? Were they looking for answers about why the marriage is crying for a tune-up or a major revamp? Were they searching for that one miracle tip that will whip a marriage back into shape?
Speaking of shape, Dr. John Gottman, the book’s author and referred to as the “country’s foremost relationship expert” wrote these words in the last pages:
“Remember, working briefly on your marriage every day will do more
for your health and longevity than working out at a health club.”
Hmmm. If you didn’t read in between those lines, you’d think he was advocating giving up on the exercise and fitness regimen that so many men and women are frantically trying to achieve because they’ve let their physical selves go, which really shouldn’t be the case. Because we all know that one’s looks matter a lot. We won’t be hypocrites and staunchly declare that how one looks has little or no effect on keeping the flames of love crackling. If you let go of your body, your mind will eventually go.
You wonder why.
How does this minimalist answer strike you? If you look good, you feel good. When you feel good, you develop self-confidence. Confident spouses are attractive because they radiate happiness and contentment.
No answer could be easier than that.
So let’s count the ways of how to bring the words “torrid” and passionate back into the frigid zone. We’re not talking about only our physical desires, mind you.
Tip # 1 - If Looks Could Kill…
Going back to Dr. Gottman’s principle - we’re confident that he would be conscience-stricken if he told couples to stop working out in the gym or engaging in their favorite marathon so they could concentrate on working out their marriage with the least amount of distraction. We are certain he didn’t mean it that way. As a relationships guru who knows human frailties too well, looking good constitutes an added bonus for the marriage.
How would you feel if you saw your wife dressed in her old, faded and food stained sweat outfit 24/7? You begin to wonder what happened to the woman with the sexy figure you married years ago who was obsessed about suggestive lingerie because she enjoyed teasing you.
How would you feel if you saw your husband slouched on the sofa, glued to the TV set, his belly bigger than the rest of his body and punishing his liver because he’s drinking beer by the barrel?
Here’s your first tip: whip into shape and stay physically alluring so the desire doesn’t melt away. The courtship and seduction phase of a blooming relationship – if you remember those whirlwind days - was based on the degree of physical attraction of each partner. Why should it be different once they tie the knot and go through some rocky moments in their marriage?
Tip # 2 - The Marital Poop Detector
Here’s another novel idea from Dr. Gottman. It’s intertwined with expectations. The popular theory is to come down a few notches from the high expectations we’ve established for ourselves and our future spouse. The idea was supported by the fact that the less you expect of your significant other, the less you’d be frustrated.
Dr. Gottman however raises the principle promoted by Dr. Donald Baucom of the University of North Carolina: contrary to people’s beliefs, “people with the highest expectations for their marriage usually wind up with the highest-quality marriages…by holding your relationship to high standards, you are far more likely to achieve the kind of marriage you want than looking the other way and letting things slide.”
In line with Dr. Baucom’s idea on expectations, Dr. Gottman, in studying couples’ problems, discovered that those who adjusted to high levels of negativity in their marriage became less happy and less satisfied many years later. But those who refused to tolerate negativity – who confronted each other in a gentle way – ended up being happier and satisfied years later.
This brings us to the conclusion that every marriage – to use Dr. Gottman’s words – “ought to be equipped with a built-in early warning system that lets you know when your marital quality is in danger of deteriorating. I call this system the Marital Poop Detector because it’s really a way of saying something just doesn’t smell right!” (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, 1999).
Tip # 3 - Instead of Taking the Exit…Take a Detour
Given the high divorce rate in the western world, married people regard divorce as the only and logical solution to a marriage that’s gone topsy-turvy. There’s a pretty good reason why many think of marriage as an institution. Institutions are worth defending and fighting for, institutions are meant to withstand the test of time.
Divorce appears to be the easy way out for un-thinking and un-feeling couples, and that’s a crying shame especially when children are involved. It’s the weak human in us when we look to divorce as the solution to our domestic hiccups, like reaching out for a bottle of aspirin when we have a headache, or discarding a towel when the threads show signs of coming apart. It’s not the headache per se that’s causing all the pain – we need to examine the causes of the pain. And why throw a towel when it can be recycled and put into good use?
Rather than considering divorce we should think “marriage therapist” or “marriage retreats” as a last-ditch effort. This way we open the door to opportunity. And the best opportunity of all is to make the institution like marriage stand with pride, reinforcing it with all the energy we can muster.
Many couples have said how grateful they were for exploring marriage retreats because they now see their relationship in a different light. All of a sudden, they’re getting to know a part of their loved one they never knew about before.
All because they decided to take a detour, and not head straight for the exit.
Tip # 4 - C’mon, Say the Three Magic Words
Wife: I know you love Swedish meatballs, and you love the swing of Tiger Woods, but I often wonder…do you love me?
Husband: (looking at her strangely, slightly annoyed that he had to peel his eyes off the TV set). I married you didn’t I?
Ouch. Ouch again.
We once read that if someone can’t say “I love you” then he probably doesn’t. Or he has stopped loving you.
It’s a pity that some of us fail to appreciate the magic that happens when these three old fashioned words are spoken at the time when their significant other needs to hear them most. How about trying a little tenderness? Yes, male or female, the words are like a soothing balm for our weary souls. Rain turns into sunshine and poems turn into melody and song.
I LOVE YOU.
Sparks fly when those words are uttered by someone special. They’re the short cut way to rekindle a marriage.
We don’t need high-power tools or how-to manuals to start rekindling a marriage. Maybe the only antidote to a sagging relationship is to get out of our timidity and to be not so tongue-tied when it comes to whispering sweet nothings.
Tip # 5 - Champagne Goes Well with Scintillating Conversation
Is it absolutely necessary to buy an expensive bottle of Cristal Brut? Goodness, you don’t even need champagne. A good conversation will always make you tipsy. Sparkling conversation has a way of making you heady with a hundred and one tingling sensations if your partner has mastered the art of engaging tit-for-tat.
Smart and intelligent people exude a natural charm because they sound smart and intelligent. It would really be quite a treat if people continued to talk like they did on their first dates: sharp, interesting, well-informed. If looks could kill, good conversation clinches the deal.
You like to listen to someone who speaks passionately about their interests and hobbies, not someone who knows the price tag of a Gucci watch that’s on sale at Macy’s. Not someone who perpetually gossips about the people in the office – creatures you hardly know.
If your significant other falls into the habit of being a bore in the dinner table, it will be only a matter of time before the marriage will make you yawn. We all know what a marriage feels like when it’s bereft of any intellectual stimulation. The sex may be heavy, but even that can’t keep the fibers of marriage together.
Show you’re curious and interested. Luxuriate in the tiny pleasures of life. Work on your conversation skills so that the other returns the compliment.