Love Like New: Reintegrating basic tools of dating into a lifelong marriage
Stephanie Sarmas, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Symmetry Counseling Chicago
A rush of excitement as you answer the phone to finalize plans for an upcoming date, the anticipation of seeing your new partner again evokes such joy and giddiness insurmountable to anything you’ve ever experienced. The mere thought of learning more about your partner triggers an exhilarating attraction and fascination, underlying, there is a genuine desire to establish true closeness and intimacy. Remember what it was like to prepare for an experience like this one, emotionally and physically.
Think of how you reflected closely in the mirror to ensure that you looked your very best, how you hoped to impress the person you were so looking forward to spending time with. What were you ready to share? What were you anxiously waiting to hear? And most importantly, what drew you to this person during the early stages of love?
It’s essential to remember those initial feelings and thoughts that brought such attraction and emotional closeness to one another. Regardless of how much has changed in your marriage, or how much time has passed, channeling those memories and reenacting special rituals from dating can remind couples of what led them to each other in the first place. Physical Appearance, Compliments & Affirmation, and Active Listening can be reintegrated into your marriage to improve communication and connection to your spouse.
- Physical Appearance is surely part of the many reasons you were drawn to your spouse and vice versa. Although entering marriage, you were accepted by your partner as a whole person, and not solely based upon your attractiveness, taking the extra time to impress your spouse will communicate in many ways that you value their wants, their opinion, and an exciting sexual relationship with them. It can also reflect positively on your individual self-esteem; with improved confidence this will increase your motivation to strengthen the bond you have to your partner. Recall the special touches in preparing for your new love, from a fresh haircut to the fragrance you decided to wear, the extra time was taken to influence the desire of your partner and achieve an all-encompassing intimacy. Become attuned to what your body and mind need to feel good about yourself, and this will translate to your relationship. Not everyone is able to accomplish this alone, if there are mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression, seeking additional support from a professional in marriage counseling or individual therapy can help in doing what is best for yourself and your relationship.
- Compliments & Affirmation: Perhaps you’ve grown accustomed to both hearing and offering compliments to co-workers, relatives at a holiday party, or a dear friend catching up over coffee. Although it can become easy to overlook what’s right in front of you, think of what it meant to hear your partner acknowledge your physical appearance in a positive way. It can often seem as though your partner has already heard these words a dozen times and surely knows exactly how you feel, but a sincere compliment can go a long way in allowing your partner to feel appreciated and closer to you. This can be a simple statement such as: “you have a great smile, I can’t get enough of it,” or it can entail affirming your partner’s intellect, drive, and admirable personality traits, such as honesty or trustworthiness. Consider instances when your spouse has put in long hours at the office to finish a project, complimenting their work ethic and loyalty to their company can provide encouragement during moments that feel overwhelming.
- Active Listening is a communication technique that requires full and undivided attention to the speaking partner with absolute focus from the listening partner. On a first date, this may have occurred organically because you simply couldn’t wait to hear the next word about to come out of your date’s mouth, however, this seemingly simple task can easily get lost when couples are having trouble connecting with each other. The busy lives we lead cause many distractions, whether that’s from others around us, having to always be “plugged in” to technology, or endless demands constantly on the mind. To truly benefit from active listening, one must have the ability to repeat back what their partner has expressed, this tool can be incredibly eye-opening and informative in understanding your loved one’s experience. Next time you find yourself in a conversation with your spouse, stop the urge to prepare a response, refrain from entering problem-solving mode, and never tune out. Just remember to practice excitement and interest when listening to your partner, and allow yourself to be fully present in what they are sharing with you.
The key to reintegrating attention to physical appearance, expression of compliments/affirmation, and commitment to active listening is to remember how you expressed yourself during those early days, weeks, and months of courting each other. Put forth that same effort in making your loved one feel special everyday. For some, communication may need a helping hand, Symmetry Counseling offers relationship and marital counseling for couples that would like to share their experience with a clinician to improve upon these skills, reach out and always take care of yourselves.