When the bedroom becomes a command post for scheduling the must-dos that keep Family, Inc., on track, the most devoted spouses will have moments of unease when they ask themselves, Is this all there is?
As a wife of 37 years, I know the feeling. So I was intrigued to learn the secret of couples who rekindle the spark by simply going on dates, as they did when they were courting. What are the secrets to spicing up your marriage?
Date Secret #1
Broaden your horizons. Save your tried-and-true neighbourhood bistro for another occasion; date night is all about surprise.
Marriage counsellor Janet Tanzer of Toronto is a firm believer in the power of dating to shake up the same old, same old. Tanzer explains that passion thrives on mystery. A lasting marriage, on the other hand, owes a lot to security and predictability. When the two of you start sharing a bathroom and finishing each other’s sentences, mystery is the first thing to go. At this point, you can make a conscious effort to recapture the excitement of your courting days. Dating can jolt you out of your routine. ‘It’s the playfulness that matters,’ says Tanzer. ‘If you focus on surprise, passion will follow.’
Date Secret #2
Share the effort. Take turns planning your dates and you won’t feel compelled to keep asking each other that familiar, buck-passing question, ‘What do you want to do?’
Recently, Arthur Aron, a social psychologist at Stony Brook University, showed the contribution that novelty can make to a marriage. In one experiment, Aron and his colleagues bound couples together at the wrists and ankles, then challenged them to push a foam roller with their heads while racing the clock (and laughing like kids at an amusement park). A control group of couples were given a humdrum task. When both groups later filled out questionnaires measuring satisfaction with their relationship, the foam-roller group scored higher.
Date Secret #3
Aim to delight. When it’s your turn to make the arrangements, keep your husband’s interests in mind. On the big day, build the suspense by telling him only the essentials.
There’s nothing like a shared good time to relieve the friction that is part of every marriage. Studies by John Gottman, a Seattle-based psychologist and author, have shown that long-standing couples share the ability to counter harsh words and dismissive looks with affection and laughter.
Date Secret #4
Be a gracious date. Keep an open mind about the outing he’s created for you (no ‘Why did you pick this restaurant?’).
Aron is quick to point out that new activities are no substitute for intimacy and trust, but he’s convinced that even modest doses of adventure can strengthen a solid marriage. Every week, he and his wife try to weave a new activity into their schedule’paddling a canoe, maybe, or attending a lecture.
Date Secret #5
Lighten up. This is one outing, so what have you got to lose?
One perfect evening just last week, my husband and I stepped out our door and struck off in a direction we’d never walked before. After close to two hours of talking and exploring, we stumbled on a gem of a restaurant. Back home in the bedroom, one thing led to another. We didn’t plan our escape from everyday life. But I’d have to call it a pretty hot date.
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