After the Sparkly Phase….Then What?

One question I hear over and over is “How do we make love last once the sparkly phase is over?”  The initial attraction is referred to as “limerance”, where your partner can do no wrong, and their every quirk is incredibly charming.  Sooner or later, one of you will get the flu, have a bad day at work, and the aspects of your partner that you couldn’t get enough of now drive you crazy.  What follows next is crucial to the longevity of your relationship.  Either you break it off in favor of finding the next New Thing, or you buckle down and find some deeper, lasting ways to connect.

In an article entitled, “That Loving Feeling Takes A Lot of Work”, author Jane Brody reports that studies show that: “… the happiness boost that occurs with marriage lasts only about two years, after which people revert to their former levels of happiness — or unhappiness.

She goes on to write that “Infatuation and passion have even shorter life spans, and must evolve into “companionate love, composed more of deep affection, connection and liking,” according to Sonya Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.

My Sweetheart and I are coming up on our second anniversary (we first met on Valentine’s Day…could that be any more romantic?) and this topic has been on our minds lately.  What are some practices that we can do to keep our relationship healthy and stay connected over time?

Here’s what we came up with, and now I’ll share them with you.  We call them The Five Habits of Happy Sweethearts.

1. The Habit of Appreciation and Gratitude

2. The Habit of Variety

3. The Habit of Keeping Things Clean

4. The Habit of Commitment

5. The Habit of Affection

Here’s how we practice these Habits.

1.  The Habit of Appreciation and Gratitude.  It’s a very human trait to become habituated over time to the things that make us feel good, leading us to take the things our Sweetheart does for us for granted.  A loving relationship is composed of many actions and interactions, and the five-year old inside of us likes to be appreciated for the efforts we make on behalf of others.  In other words, if your Sweetheart does things you like for them to do, make darn sure you thank them in whatever way you choose.  In a story of how powerful this is, a friend who is in a happy 18 year marriage told me that she mended a time of marital stress by shifting from what bugged her about her husband’s then current behavior, and focused on writing down each day the things he did for her that she was grateful for.  “I thought when I started that I would only have one or two things to write down”, she said.  “Each day my list got longer and longer and after only a few days, I wasn’t mad at him any more.”  The lesson here is that you can consciously shift your focus, and that the things you love about them are always present if you look for them.

2.  The Habit of Variety.  No, this doesn’t mean cheating on them!  What it means is that couples who seek out new experiences together get the benefit and thrill that comes from shared growth.  What this means is to try something that neither of you have done before.  Salsa lessons?  Skydiving?  Traveling to a new city?  Trying a new cuisine?  The actual event isn’t as important is that it is new to both of you and that you do it together.

3.  The Habit of Keeping Things Clean.  My Sweetheart and I make a point of resolving issues as soon as we can, rather than letting them linger.  We find that addressing uncomfortable topics early on keeps them from growing into deep-seated resentments and gives us more mental space to just have fun with each other.  “Under-the-rug” issues put distance between us and we have found that life just feels better when we stay emotionally connected.

4.  The Habit of Commitment.  In any long term relationship there are times when one of you ‘works at it’ more than the other.  There are many reasons, family or work obligations, health circumstances, you name it.   At some point one of the people mentally ‘leave’ the relationship and once that happens, it can be pretty much over.  So this habit is designed to be a preventive measure.  Put your relationship on the top of your To Do list, and even if you don’t practice our Habits, I’m sure you have your own that keep your relationship fresh.  Neither party wants to think that they are the ones doing all the work.

5.  The Habit of Affection.  Babies (both human and animal) fail to thrive when deprived of physical touch, and I believe that relationships fail as well in the absence of physical affection.  A non-sexual touch sends a message of love, of support, of comfort, of reassurance, and is a powerful connector.  Make hugs a regular part of your relationship.

 

That’s Love Applied!

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