The kids have left, and suddenly you feel as if you’ve lost footing in your marriage, too. Therapist Dr. Steven Craig offers five tools to help couples reconnect during this new stage of life. From The 6 Husbands Every Wife Should Have: How Couples Who Change Together Stay Together.
1. Explore your new feelings. Figure out what you need in order to feel intimately connected in this stage and find a way to explain those needs carefully to your spouse. Remember, your spouse likely has no idea that you have changed or that you now want things to be different. In fact, he or she probably still believes that what worked in the past will continue to work today. Therefore, it is your job to kindly yet clearly report that things have changed. Note that you must also listen with an open mind to what your spouse wants to change as well.
2. Make it a point to put romance back in your life. Kiss each other hello and good-bye whenever you can. Call to check in during the day. Embrace each other “just because.” Make it a point to sit next to each other on the couch instead of in two separate chairs. Organize date nights and make sure they involve new and interesting restaurants, activities, and adventures. The last thing you want to do in this stage of life is demonstrate that things are going to be exactly as they’ve always been. That doesn’t mean they need to change drastically. It just means that adding some spark and variety will go a long way.
3. Ask not what your spouse can do for you; ask what you can do for your spouse. In these years it is always advisable to approach your spouse and engage in a conversation about change that commits you personally to change. Ask what you can do to help bring the two of you closer. Just letting your spouse know that this is on your mind does wonders and opens up conversations for new things to explore as a couple.
4. Rekindle your sex life. This is easier than you’d think. Typically it just involves initiating more conversations, engaging in new behaviors, making specific romantic gestures, and reassuring each other that you still find each other desirable. Much of being desirable has to do with feeling desirable—and if you don’t, you probably already know what you need to do to change that, too, so make a start and keep at it. You deserve it. And remember, not all changes need to be big. Getting rid of those tired old pajamas, losing a little weight, or just becoming more active can make a big difference.
5. Create new adventures. The same old stories and the same old nights out can become boring. Those who successfully generate new sparks in this stage always seem to have a new adventure on the horizon. It’s a good thing to actively think and talk about ideas, dreams, and even pie-in-the-sky adventures. Even if a lot of them never happen, it’s still good to discuss them and imagine them together, as you never know where your conversations will lead. Intimacy doesn’t only occur between two bodies in the bedroom. Sharing your mind, your life dreams, and your fantasies with someone can be a very intimate experience.
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