6 Tips To Bring Back Love And Passion To Your Marriage

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Dear Terry,

I’ve been married to Bruce for eight years and I’m worried because we’ve lost the passion and excitement we used to have. It seems like there’s something missing in our relationship and I don’t know how to get it back. It’s not that we don’t get along, we hardly ever argue. That’s part of the problem – we’re more like friends than lovers. We mostly talk about our kids Ryan and Nathan, who are four and six, and never seem to focus on us.

Bruce says I’m too sensitive and that all couples go through dry spells in their sex lives. He says he still loves me but I’m not sure that I believe him. I seem to be the one who wants to work on improving our relationship, but lately the more I approach him, the more he withdraws. It all feels pretty exhausting and I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Most nights, I go to sleep feeling frustrated and lonely. When Bruce tries to initiate sex, I pull away because I just don’t feel attracted to him anymore. We can’t seem to connect and I don’t feel sexy at the end of a long day. Sadly, when we talk about our problems with intimacy and sex, they seem to get worse. Bruce says that I nag and worry too much. Maybe he’s right but we just can’t seem to break this vicious cycle and I worry he’ll leave me for someone else.

What do you suggest that we do to rev up our sex life and to feel excited about each other again? Please help me because I’m desperate to save our marriage.

My Best,

Ashley

Dear Ashley,

It sounds like your relationship with your husband is defined more by friendship than passion but that you still love each other and haven’t given up. Rest assured – it’s common for couples who have been married for a while and have busy lives, to drift apart emotionally and sexually. Like many couples, you and Bruce seem to have lost the intense spark you once had but you can rediscover your sexual relationship and get back on track.

During the early phase of marriage, many couples barely come up for air due to the excitement of falling in love. Unfortunately, this blissful state doesn’t last forever.  Scientists have found that oxytocin (a bonding hormone) is released during the initial stage of infatuation – which causes couples to feel euphoric and turned on by physical affection – such as touching and holding hands. Oxytocin works like a drug, giving us immediate rewards and binding us to our lover.

It’s normal to feel a sense of disappointment when our desire for sexual intimacy doesn’t match our partners and a pursuer-distancer pattern can develop. Your struggle with Bruce is a common one for hard-working couples balancing jobs, parenting, and intimacy. “Most sexual concerns stem from an interpersonal struggle in the marriage,” writes sex therapist Laurie Watson, author of Wanting Sex Again: How to Rediscover Your Desire and Heal a Sexless Marriage. She describes the tug-of-war between being too close and too distant from a partner as a repetitive pattern of one person being the pursuer and another being the distancer.

Why is this relationship pattern so common? Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washington and The Gottman Institute, a distinguished observer of marital relations, believes that the tendency of men to withdraw and women to pursue is wired into our physiology and reflects a basic gender difference. In his classic “Love Lab” observations he’s noted that this pattern is extremely common and is a major contributor to marital breakdown. He also warns us that if it’s not examined, the pursuer-distancer pattern will persist into a second marriage or subsequent intimate relationships.

Let’s face it, when we fall in love and commit to someone, we have high hopes that we’ll feel blissful and excited by him or her indefinitely. This leads to unrealistic expectations and disappointment when the passion dies down. In her Huffington Post Article Not Having Sex? 7 Ways To Start Again, Laurie Watson writes “We think sex will grow in frequency and quality. Yet within two years, 20 percent of marriages end up sexless (less than 10 times a year) and an additional 15 percent become low-sex (less than 25 times per year).” According to Watson, skipping the wedding ceremony doesn’t seem to alter this fate since only one in three committed couples is barely having sex.

In his landmark book I Love You, But I’m Not In Love With You, author Andrew G. Marshall posits that it’s possible for couples to rekindle love by building a better understanding of themselves and each other, and ultimately building a stronger, more passionate connection. Marshall answers the question: Is it possible to fall back in love? He explains that Limerence is the early phase of falling in love characterized by elation and passion. Psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined this term in her landmark book Love and Limerence. Marshall writes, “Someone under the spell of Limerence is bound tightly to his or her beloved, however badly he or she behaves.”

But what happens to one’s feeling of love after Limerence is gone? Marshall calls the next phase Loving Attachment – the type of love characterized by a deep connection, sexual intimacy, and the ability to tackle the challenges of life together. Marshall posits that the two main culprits that destroy Loving Attachment are neglecting physical intimacy and not accepting each other’s differences. He labels the third type of love Affectionate Regard and says that it’s friendly but lacking in passion – similar to the love between a brother and sister.

What is the secret to helping you and Bruce revive your sex life and get back to Loving Attachment? Couples who “turn toward” one another rather than “turning away” are more likely to be happy and less likely to be headed for misery and/or divorce court according to Dr. John Gottman. In his book The Relationship Cure, he writes: “It’s not that these couples don’t get mad or disagree. It’s that when they disagree, they’re able to stay connected and engaged with each other. Rather than becoming defensive and hurtful, they pepper their disputes with flashes of affection, intense interest, and mutual respect.”

Author Teresa Atkin advises couples to rewire their brains to experience feelings of pleasure so they can experience emotional and sexual closeness.  She reminds us that the human brain, while wonderfully complex, doesn’t always work in our best interest and we need to rewire it in order to experience pleasurable feelings. She writes, “Research shows that we get a healthy shot of dopamine (the feel good hormone) when we are seeking reward, and when there is something new to experience. Also excitement is transferable, so the heightened arousal that follows say, a roller coaster ride, can be used to rev up your sex life.”

Here are 6 tips to help you rev up your sexual intimacy and rewire positive connections:

  • Get in touch with your pattern of relating. These include ways you might be denying your partner or coming on too strong sexually. Avoid criticizing each other and stop the “blame game.” You are responsible for your own happiness.
  • Break the pursuer-distancer pattern. Distancers need to practice initiating sex more often and pursuers need to find ways to tell their partner “you’re sexy,” while avoiding critique after sex.
  • Resolve conflicts skillfully. Don’t put aside resentments that can destroy your relationship. Experiencing conflict is inevitable and couples who strive to avoid it are at risk of developing stagnant relationships, posits author Kate McNulty, LCSW,  in Managing Conflict to Protect Your Relationship.
  • Increase physical affection. According to author Dr. Kory Floyd, physical contact releases feel good hormones. Holding hands, hugging, and touching can release oxytocin (the bonding hormone) that reduces pain and causes a calming sensation. Studies show that it’s released during sexual orgasm and affectionate touch as well. Physical affection also reduces stress hormones – lowering daily levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Allow tension to build. Our brains experience more pleasure when the anticipation of the reward goes on for some time before we get the actual reward. So take your time, share fantasies, change locations, and make sex more romantic.
  • Carve out time to spend with your partner on a daily basis. Try a variety of activities that can bring you both pleasure. Have fun courting your partner and practice flirting with him or her. Don’t forget to cuddle on the couch and surprise your partner with a kiss.

In closing, talking about problems with sexual intimacy can sometimes make things worse. For your marriage or romantic relationship to thrive, it’s important to remain calm and not jump to conclusions. Just because your relationship is going through a dry spell, it doesn’t have to mean you are headed for divorce court. Practicing emotional attunement while relaxing together can help you stay connected in spite of your differences. This means “turning toward” one another, showing empathy, and not being defensive.  Even if you’re not a touchy-feely person, increasing physical affection can help you to sustain a deep, meaningful bond.

I would love to hear from you and answer your questions! Please share this article, make a comment below, or select the Question tab on the navigation bar on this website. Thanks! Terry

Be sure to order my new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”

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19 Responses to “6 Tips To Bring Back Love And Passion To Your Marriage”

  1. Daniel says:

    Hi
    My wife told me that she didn’t have feelings for me anymore about 5 years ago. We both talked about it and resolved that we would work towards rebuilding our marriage.we tried various things including date nights and regular talks about the marriage but every time she would disengage. I Kept asking her if she wanted to leave me and her answer was always no. We tried counselling and again she disengaged saying it wasn’t for her. Our sex life has diminished to a handful of times a year. In the last year she started telling me to find someone else just for sex. This got me thinking that she wanted to get rid of me. I have not followed any of her suggestions in fact I ended up telling her I did not want to hear it anymore and it stopped. At the moment we have not had sex for about 4 months, every time I try to initiate sex she blocks me from touching her and I’m now afraid that this is it. The strange thing is that she is always planning some long term things for us and yet she tells me she does not love me and has no intention of falling in love with me ever again. I have suggested a trial separation and she does not want that. We do not argue. We are the best of friends and we put on an act in front of friends to the point where our friends admire our marriage. When I try to kiss her she looks away but when friends are around she will kiss my face off. We have two children and we have been married for 16 years.
    My question is are actually heading anywhere or are we whiling up time until the kids have grown up?
    I am getting fed up of this game 5 years is a long time to try and rebuild something alone. I still love her to bits and I think that sometimes she uses that against me knowing I’m not going anywhere. What should I do?

    • Terry says:

      Hello,

      I can’t respond to such a personal question in this format. I recommend that you contact a professional coach or counselor to help you. This is an important question that you ask and I wouldn’t want to take it lightly.

      Regards,

      Terry

    • Astin hart says:

      Im in the same position and i spoke with a coworker who been though this. And her response was fught for your women if that is what your heart desires. And do little things that will rekindle that love like cards flowers jjst small things and keep at it until zhe breaks that wall she have for you and you can show your love all over again. Do let no one take your queen or king its like chess. Females only work off emotion once you stop showing they go somewhere else to find. So get to work

  2. chichi says:

    tough situation..clearly she aint in love w u anymore and you have been trying to make it work,why dont you find another person who loves you?your wife can always be your friend coz thats what she wants.

  3. Tessa says:

    Nice post thank you re to the previous comment sounds like she’s playing games sorry still enjoyed the post though

  4. Jacqueline says:

    Hi! I enjoyed reading the article and learned a lot from it. I’m looking for advice on how to bring back the intimacy between my boyfriend and I. We went from just sleeping together to dating and living together so we definitely moved very quickly. The way my boyfriend describes it is everything is there for the relationship but the intimacy. Would us planning time for each other help? Our time alone without his roommates there is us watching TV or movies and we eat meals in front of the TV watching whatever. We have a lot of time alone but its watching TV or picking up food or riding somewhere in the car. He says watching TV and cuddling should be an intimate moment, but would it if the intimacy isn’t initially there? How do we figure out the cause of the lack of intimacy?

    • Terry says:

      hello,

      I believe that reading blogs and books together can help! Couples counseling can be effective too – if mutually agreed upon! Catching a problem with intimacy early on is highly beneficial – so good for you! That way, you can work on good solutions before the issues become deeply ingrained. You can select the tab for telephone coaching on this website and contact me if you want some more tips!

      Best,

      Terry

  5. ana says:

    Hi i am depressed. My husband had a affair and sexual relaion before our marrige. He can not forget his old love. He sometimes calling in mobile with her. At first i can know this later i know everything. When i Want to know everything he deny it. Somedays later we are good couple. I have six years marrige life. But now i want to know my husband still now relation with her. I have a daughter and i love my husbsnd so much. What can i do?

    • Terry says:

      Hello,

      This situation is very difficult and can’t be easy solved in this format. Usually individual counseling can be beneficial to folks dealing with infidelity and marital stress. Most communities have resources for counseling in the phone book or on-line.

      Regards,
      Terry

  6. Joe says:

    Hi, wife and I have been together for 7 years and have experienced 3 separations and each time it seems like the end. We are separated now again after she said she was done and goodbye. Her main issue with me is that I lack intimacy with her and don’t touch her. She says I never touch her and I do not display any passion, that I’m egotistical and lazy. The problem is that I totally disagree with her and I feel like I have put everything into being more loving and affectionate since the last time she accused me of that. We have sex at least 2 times a week and I kiss her multiple times a day, give hugs and we cuddle before bed. I do nice things for her out of the blue and we go dancing on the weekends which she said would help… but she still says that she has had enough of me not showing any love or affection and not ever touching her! I don’t want to say that she is not being honest about her perspectives, I just don’t know what to do or think about it. We both work over 50 hours a week (I work over 60), and I help raise her 3 kids who I see as my kids and they see me as their father. I do not know how to address the lack of passion.

  7. michael says:

    Thanks for your efforts and Keep up the great work here
    I like such topics

  8. Tara says:

    I am lost what to do in my marriage of 18 yrs. My husband told me 2015 that he hasn’t loved me for a long time now. Tried to tell me, my meds negative side-effect made me difficult to accept it. He said I love you for yrs to keep me quiet & not to hurt me. He lost his love for me due to my critical words of the past yrs. That I’ve made my changes(that he’s more comfortable with)he’s still nothing but bitter to me. He won’t accept my neg behavior was due to med overdosage. He says he can’t ever forgive me. Counselor said progress will come by taking baby-steps. I find it very stressful as an epileptic. What advice would you have when one in the marriage is so bitter & resentful/ living in the past? Tara

    • Terry says:

      Hi Tara,

      Not all marriages can be saved but marriage counseling can help some when both people want to engage. I recommend you start with individual counseling to get clarity and decide if you want to stay in a loveless marriage.

  9. selen says:

    If there is passion may be again but if the separation was that I just love is almost impossible

  10. destiny says:

    me and my boyfriend ( soon to be Husband) have been together for 3 years on feb 18th of this year. we have a beautiful 9 month old girl and we just don’t feel that spark anymore. we still love each other very much and are trying to get that spark or that amazing feeling back. would someone please help me with this. I don’t want to lose him or my family and is willing to try anything.

    • Terry says:

      Hi,

      Counseling can help if you are both committed and go for several months. Three years is not a long time to be together in the total scheme of things – especially since you love each other and have a child.
      Regards,
      Terry

  11. jackie says:

    Hi Terry,

    Your article was helpful, it made me feel like I was not alone.

    I have been married 26 years, my husband stopped wearing his wedding ring about 5 years ago, and refuses to put it on, even though I have expressed the discomfort I feel, watching him leave the house everyday, advertising himself as a single man, in a neighborhood like NYC.

    When I address it, he says that he not going to wear it and, that I’m crazy with my insecurities about it.

    He is a handsome man. The playing field here is so unfair. A man of 50 something, who keeps himself in shape, can grown facial hair to mask the natural signs of aging and look like George Clooney with salt and pepper hair. A women, who keeps herself in good shape, has to face the day boldly, with the same canvas to apply her daily make up routine that once made her look beautiful and now has to be managed so carefully, not too much, not too little.

    My husband, for the most part is home early every night, leaving no room to really suspect he is having an affair, however I understand sexual interaction, in a city like NYC can happen at anytime of the day.
    He says he has no intention of leaving, that he is not having sex with anyone else, but he also has a way of telling me what he knows I want to hear.

    Our sex life has pretty much disappeared to onece or twice a year, when we are on vacation. He is given 5 weeks per year, but typically takes only one or two weeks with me. The rest are used on camping trips and ski trips with his buddies.

    I express my the pain I feel by his distancing himself from me through silent treatment all weekend, and trips planned without me, but he says, if I want a divorce, I should see a lawyer. That he is not looking for a divorce. He just wants to have time with his guy friends.

    AS a women of 50 something, I feel insecure about taking my show on the road,but it would end this daily distraction of feeling hurt & rejected over and over again, masked on this platform called marriage. I enjoy male companionship, & if my husband wore his wedding ring, but our sex life remained the same, I would actually feel more secure, and accepting of the change in our sexual intimacy, but his defiance to wear it….makes me feel so uncomfortable everyday. When I google. husbands that don’t wear wedding rings…the answers are never good.

    Is this a good reason for getting a divorce, one that will support me in court? I have read that the repeated silent treatments, quiet and distant during our weekend time together, is considered domestic abuse, not domestic violence, but no less hurtful.

    If you can recommend a book or counseling that can help me with next steps, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Heartbroken, by the lack of respect and affection from my husband. jw

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