Alexandra says “My aim is to get you beautiful Brides & dashing Grooms all of the best advice for your Wedding from all of the best suppliers in the UK. There’ll be a guest blogger every month. March is more about your married life thank your wedding and is all about keeping your marriage alive. This is a fab blog which will fill your mind with exciting inspiration. If you’d like to see a particular advice blog, pop me a message: firstname.lastname@example.org & I’ll get right on it :). Enjoy x”
How to keep your marriage alive
written by Katrina Allen – Sexual & Relationship Psychotherapist
What Is Marriage?
What is marriage? The dictionary describes it as ‘the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship; a combination of elements; a connection of two people who have fallen in love with one another and have decide to commit till death do they part’.
The Love Hormones
When you first meet your partner your ‘love’ hormones start working overtime. Physical attraction triggers the release of a cocktail of neuro-chemicals causing part of the brain to ‘derail’ into inhibition and a wanton state of lust.
Lust is one of our most powerful emotions and causes waves of desire to flood into the brain, derived from a heady rush of Dopamine (the wanting/seeking neuro chemical) and Oxytocin (the yearning and attachment chemical). Positive feelings are heightened and negative ones are overlooked and it’s said that the brain circuitry during these times matches that experienced in drug addiction where one is desperately craving the next fix.
Alas, this cannot go on forever. Typically the euphoric ‘madly in love’ phase lasts up to 18 months. The human brain cannot maintain this euphoric state indefinitely due to other pressures bearing upon it. These pressures will unfortunately wake us up from our dream and when reality sets in the brain naturally defaults into its secure, attachment mode.
As the process unfolds less Oxytocin and Dopamine stimulation are needed and the hope is (from a female perspective in particular) that the lust is complimented in some way by a deep mutual love to create feelings of security required to maintain the emotional bond.
This downshift of the lover’s mania and sexual intensity is not a sign of the desire going away but more of it hibernating, whilst the brain moves our behaviours onto other priorities deemed essential for the shift into a more sustainable phase of settling down for a longer term relationship. If this creates a problem for one or both of them then this is where they hopefully look at adapting to their lifestyle to keep alive that intimate part of their relationship which uniquely distinguishes their marriage union as being uniquely special when compared to other friendships they may have.
The pressures of life can make an active and enjoyable sex life hard to maintain. Setting up house, staring a new career, bringing up a family, worrying about financing and game changers such as a family bereavement, unexpected ill health or negative emotions from natural aging processes can all understandably impose demands on time and divert ones brain power away from intimacy.
If couples let these pressures take an overriding precedent in their lives then the passion fire can gradually subside until eventually it fizzles out.
And this in turn can snowball more pressure onto the brain where feelings of he or she doesn’t fancy me any more may come to bear.
Rekindling The Fire
This is when couples tend to visit me and as my website says, taking such an initiative to seek help is in itself a major step in itself towards rekindling the fire as it is a major expression of the positive feelings the couple have towards each other which go a long way towards creating a firm foundation to build upon.
In this situation I advise that the most important thing is to agree to make time for each other – take ‘time out to make out’ as one couple suggested!
Agree to schedule time for intimacy back into your life. Yes, I know, it takes away the massively aspirational, devil may care spontaneity but in a way, the ‘simmering’ process of looking forward to a mutual expression of passion often proves to be a new and exciting pre-play in itself.
Lack of desire is by far the most regular reason clients seek my help and in most cases we find that they just need a nudge in the right direction.
We often find that for so many (understandable) reasons their lack of intimacy has been left to fester and has become the norm. They invariably mention how discussing their fear of reprisal or rejection in response to an advance has become the ‘elephant or 660 pound gorilla in the room’.
In these cases the brain has lost confidence which presents a ‘catch 22’ as for many people, a person’s confidence is in fact a sexual attractor.
Couples often forget about this most important facet of their unique relationship – one which was a key element in bringing them together in the first place. Sometimes, just reminding each other of this and the lovely feeling it evoked in the early days creates the all-important spark they need to start the flames going again.
Some Ideas For You To Try
I advise couples to keep it simple….why not take a break together (without the children); take the opportunity to escape the stressors of everyday life – from work schedules and from family responsibilities. Try to imagine and enjoy the excitement of plotting such a plan together! If baby-sitting is a problem call on a friend and offer to do the same for them.
Or, if a weekend away isn’t practical agree on a regular date night at home. Again, take it in turns with friends to have the children for a sleepover and you and your partner take it in turns to say buy a ‘meal-deal’ for two from your local supermarket.
Ladies can take the opportunity on these evenings to pamper in a long hot bubble bath with a glass of their favourite tipple. The gentleman can take a shower, put on some smart clothes and set the scene with favourite romantic music you fell in love to playing as a precursor to an intimate candlelit meal at the start to a wonderfully special evening to remember.
Sharing mutual interests and going out together to say the movies or bowling again is always helpful but in order to keep the relationship fresh I advise partners to expand their own personal life they bring something new to the partnership. Maybe try a new language, a new sport, voluntary work at a local charity but all in all try to enrich your horizons or interests. This keeps you active and ‘alive’ and your partner will invariably be attracted to you more.
Communication is of course a cornerstone in any relationship and all my clients see benefit in remembering how furiously and eagerly they chatted in the early days and how this was all part of the mating game.
So, make the effort – even if you can’t be bothered! Talk and try to laugh about the small things, as it will be then easier to then talk about the big things. The more you talk together, the more you learn and the deeper the relationship will grow and in no time that elephant will slowly and surely start walking from the room – never to return!
And finally learn how to laugh again. In my opinion laughter is the most undersold, aphrodisiac. Remember the times when you laughed so much it made your cheeks hurt. Laughing is a massive compliment – it sends a guaranteed message to the other to say you enjoy their company and that you like being with them. It is the superglue that creates a bond for life.
Marriage above all is about teamwork; it isn’t all about the sex or the passion, but I emphasise that this unique intimacy is what sets it apart from our other close friendships. So go on, give intimacy a go again and look forward to watching your all-important partnership grow and flourish together.
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
Sexual & Relationship Psychotherapist
Clinical Associate, Paula Hall & Associates