Keep your marriage sizzling

During the early stages of marriage, most couples choose to reaffirm their love and passion for each other. Regrettably, this hope and plan only works for less than 50 percent of pairs. What are the factors that enable half of the pairs to keep their love alive for life, while others part along the way?

Research studies about the durability of marriages have come short in finding the formula for “Forever through thick or thin.” Skilled professionals have long avoided making predictions at any stage of a marriage about any union’s durability. It is safe to say that several factors are essential in bonding or parting couples, all of whom initially trusted that their commitment, love, passion and adulation are indestructible.

One major factor in the durability or fragility of any union is the underlying motivation of each individual in electing to vow “Till death do us part.”

Any external factor such as loneliness, fear of not being “chosen,” seeking financial, emotional or status enhancement, being physically attracted despite glaring concerns, social or parental pressures or close friends’ marriages, that evokes fears of “being left behind,” are common compelling factors for some individuals to initiate or accept a marriage proposal that is not motivated by true love and wholehearted emotional, physical or intellectual conviction that they actually found and wish to commit to their “true soulmate.”

Another common factor which propels women to say “I do” is the fear of being “left behind.” Some adults say, “You are 22 and you don’t have a steady boyfriend?” It is as though the single female is deficient in some aspects that make other women be chosen. Social pressure of adults may hinder the unmarried individual’s healthy mate selection.

Once married, some assume that this is the front gate to harmony, love, lust and lifelong devotion, without additional efforts to nourish and intensify their love bond, emotional and physical intimacy. Nothing in life is able to thrive without the essential basis of need fulfillment. From plants, to animals, to friends, to job success, to a healthy social and vocational life, parenting and friendships are never resilient enough without ongoing energy, efforts, appreciations and cultivating deeper social and emotional connections. Plants that are not watered and fertilized tend to wilt and eventually die. All living things need nourishment, attention and love to survive and thrive.

Another element of distancing mates is a reduction in verbal, emotional and physical connection. The idea that marriage in itself is a sufficient incentive to stay physically and emotionally close, is a common illusion.

Research from the University of Geneva of 500 studies discovered that the “only criteria predicting long-term romantic love in couples is the capacity of both mates to admire, idealize and maintain positive illusions about their mate.”

Affirm, validate and sincerely praise your spouse’s looks, contributions to his/her job, being a wonderful parent, a smart, hardworking and loyal family man/woman, being a good lover and being physically appealing to you as much or more than when you first met. Try it and you will be glad you did.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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