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The beginning of a romantic relationship, and often the “honeymoon” stage of a marriage, abounds with passion. A person feels “butterflies” when near their partner, their thoughts turn to their partner frequently and with a daydream-like quality, they just want to be with their partner, talk with their partner, and touch their partner. Over time, this passion tends to fade. Demands from work and children, financial strain, growing responsibilities, exhaustion and fatigue, changing bodies, and low self-esteem can all contribute to a decrease in passion in a marriage.
Unless a couple works to cultivate passion and correct this fade, they may experience a decrease in desire for sex, a decrease in love-making experiences, a decrease in sensual touch, and even a decrease in touch all-together. Without these, deeper and more serious marital and sexual issues can occur. Being intentional about growing and maintaining passion can be difficult, but it is important. Here are five ways couples can cultivate passion in their marriage.
Deepen your emotional connection. A couple’s emotional connection, or emotional intimacy, is a large part of the foundation for their physical and sexual intimacy. Couples who spend at least 15 minutes every day sharing with each other about their experiences, feelings, concerns, successes, and failures, are more likely to feel connected and close to each other. As one person shares it is important for the other to listen actively. This includes sitting knee-to-knee and facing each other, focusing completely on your spouse and eliminating all distractions, and maintaining eye contact. Listen carefully for feelings expressed by your spouse, paying attention to non-verbal cues like body language and tone of voice. And then put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Another way for a couple to deepen their emotional connection is to spend quality time together. This includes doing things you both enjoy, as well as participating and showing interest in things that are important to your spouse.
Show companionate affection. Think back to when you and your spouse were first dating. This is often a time filled with excitement, anticipation, and the beginning sparks of passion. The affection that was expressed during this time played a powerful role in sparking that passion, and they can be just as powerful in helping to maintain passion throughout a marriage. This companionate affection can include holding hands, sitting close together on the couch, or giving an unexpected smile when your spouse walks into the room.
Schedule a weekly date night. The phrase “never stop dating your spouse” is certainly wise advice that many couples, unfortunately, do not follow. Going on a date with your spouse communicates to them that they are important to you and that you want to know them more deeply. Dates do not have to be expensive or elaborate, but it is important to try to leave all “business talk” about work, children, chores, or house repairs at home. Instead, reminisce about when you were dating, daydream together about your plans for the future, or share about common interests.
Be Romantic. Romance and passion go hand-in-hand. Romantic gestures, which are often seen during the dating phase of a relationship, communicate to your significant other that you desire them, that you have chosen them, and that they are worth more than the time, effort, and vulnerability that the romantic gesture required. A few ideas include spending the entire day with your spouse watching romantic movies, winking at your spouse from across the room, calling your spouse from work on Wednesday and formally asking for a date for Saturday evening, and writing your spouse a romantic, passionate, heartfelt love letter.
Share plenty of sensual affection. Dr. Doug Rosenau, author of “Total Intimacy” describes a category of marital intimacy between being companions and having sexual intercourse. This category involves a sensual connection, and is necessary for a passionate and mutually-satisfying sex life. An example of sensual affection includes giving each other a daily, front-to-front, fully-embracing, and resting into each other hug for at least 20 seconds. This is the amount of time that it takes for Oxytocin, the “bonding hormone”, to be released, causing deeper feelings of connection and intimacy. Other examples include giving each other a daily, open-mouthed, passionate kiss, giving each other a massage, or taking a shower together. It is important to remember that this sensual affection often includes non-genital touch, and that it is not foreplay. These expressions of affection must occur separately from sexual intercourse, so that a couple can fully relax and enjoy the sensual connection without the pressure or expectation for sex.
Cultivating passion in your marriage is not easy or automatic. It takes time and intentionality. But if you begin to work your way through these five tips, you will be well on your way to having a passionate marriage!