SPECIAL SECTION: CLARITY
Many couples come to therapy with a common concern: They feel they’ve lost the passionate spark that was once abundant in their relationship. Often they ask “What now? Will we ever go back to the way we were?” It is an experience of loss and also a yearning for something new. The reality is that 1 in 5 married couples have a low or no-sex relationship (4-10 times per year) but, is it only about sex? Can there be intimacy without romance and vice versa?
A famous relational therapist, Esther Perel talks about the notion of love and desire. Love, she explains, is about predictability, stability, security, permanence, dependability and security. Desire, on the other hand, is about adventure, novelty, surprise, mystery, risk, and the unknown. These are two basic needs that drive the idea of romance; however, it is routine and monotony that can derail couples from desire and intimacy. How do we reconcile these two needs and keep the fire burning?
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Accept Differences and Explore a Meeting Point
Let’s start by defining romance. The literature describes romance as a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love. Begin with curiosity and explore what excites your partner, keep an open mind and play the role of a listener. Avoid judging what your partner is willing to share and instead explore and see where it takes you! You may find something in common or even find a new experience that you are both willing to explore.
Don’t Get Caught Uup in the “Shoulds”
Many couples struggle with the idea of planned intimate dates, but the reality is that 80 percent of intimate encounters take place because they are either planned or semi-planned. Couples often get caught up in the shoulds of relationships, like the notion that love making should happen naturally. But these unspoken standards create increased pressure in a relationship. Instead, try to explore what type of relationship you want to have. Making the time to connect with your partner shows motivation, determination and willingness. Intimate time can be introduced in many ways. Start by picking one evening a week during which you share an intimate space with each another. Invite each other to share ideas and commit to a mindful evening of romance.
Adventure, Adventure, Adventure
When I suggest doing something new and exciting, couples often imagine a scene from an erotic movie. This is the part of the relationship where more doing and less talking is what works. Introducing acts of adventure and spontaneity simply means doing something out of the ordinary. This can range from something as simple as wearing something your partner likes to introducing a new idea to your sexual repertoire. Think of the Nike slogan, “JUST DO IT!” and follow suit…willingly.
Use Your Resources. Don't Wait.
Finally, if you are feeling stuck, don’t wait! Meet with a professional who can guide you toward your desired direction; even love needs guidance. Oscar Wilde may have said, “The very essence of romance is uncertainty,” but a lasting partnership cannot be left up to chance.
South Florida Center for Couples and Families, PLLC
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