In our marriage consultations, we are often asked for advice on what spouses should do when they feel that there is no ‘passion’, ‘chemistry’, or ‘spark’ left in their marriage.
At this point, couples are usually reporting a large decline in their sex life, a lack of physical affection, and general feelings of not being ‘in love’ anymore.
Does this sound like your marriage?
If so, you may be experiencing feelings of confusion, disappointment and loss, while wondering how the passion you used to feel so STRONGLY with your spouse has disappeared.
If this has been going on for some time, you and your spouse may even have questioned whether your marriage can be saved.
With your marital relationship feeling empty, lifeless and tense, it can be easy to wonder whether the grass would be greener on the other side, and think about calling it quits.
And let’s be real here: a lack of chemistry CAN make loving your spouse feel a lot harder. But should loss of passion signal the end of your marital relationship?
Before you draw any hasty conclusions, remind yourself of these four points:
1. It’s natural for passion to decline in marriage.
Although passion and intense sexual attraction plays a very important role in the courtship and early stages of a relationship, it is not designed to last.
This is because passionate love is a large drain on our physical and emotional energy. It is actually IMPOSSIBLE for your body to keep this up for an extended amount of time without getting burnt out.
As a result, passion usually gives way to comfort over time.
This is not a bad thing – it’s just that it’s hard for passion and comfort to exist at the same time.
This is because while comfort is a symbol of stability, the very thing that IGNITES passion is friction and instability.
For instance, having to do long-distance with your partner, going through a traumatic event together, or going through a period of high conflict and emotional intensity.
If you look at these circumstances in which passion arises, none of them sound very appealing. In fact, the thought of being able to come home to a dependable spouse each night actually sounds like the better option by far.
The truth is, passion is usually brief, intense and rocky, whereas comfort may be less exciting but is it also more nurturing in the long run.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have any passion in your marriage once you are settled together – you absolutely can. It’s just that it may never be as intense as you each may have first experienced it.
The trials of everyday life can also take a toll on your marital relationship – as you will know, married life isn’t always sweet and carefree.
Sometimes there are periods in your life where a whole lot of stressful things are going on at once and you are so run off your feet that your relationship gets put on the backburner.
This is natural and a pure result of the fact that you and your spouse are sharing the realities of life together – the good and the bad.
So having this reduction in passionate feelings for one another is NOT a sign to give up on your marriage.
What it means is that your relationship needs some focused care and nurturing right now, so your connection can gradually re-grow.
For more information about the way that love changes and develops, see How love and intimacy changes over time.
2. You can CHOOSE to love your spouse.
At this stage in your relationship when the passion-creating hormones have died down, loving your partner becomes a CHOICE.
Perhaps it has come to your attention lately that your spouse actually has more undesirable attributes and habits than you thought.
You’ve made the unfortunate realization that your spouse is actually an imperfect human like the rest of us.
Sure, your spouse does have flaws.
But I can assure you that ANY person you could be in a relationship with would have annoying characteristics which would show themselves with time.
No-one is perfect, and more often than not, the grass is NOT greener on the other side.
So instead of wondering what else is out there, CHOOSE to appreciate your spouse for all of their positive and unique qualities. What is it that makes them a good husband or wife?
The more that you choose to focus on your spouse’s positive attributes, the more ‘in love’ with them you will begin to feel.
Remember, we all need positive feedback and showing your appreciation for the things your spouse does for you can be really meaningful for them.
And if there are a few things your spouse could work on, why not support them to try and make these improvements and reach for their goals?
The more your spouse feels your support, appreciation and commitment, the more motivated they will be to re-establish a close connection with you.
3. This stage in your relationship is an opportunity for self-discovery.
When the chemistry has fizzled out in your relationship, it is natural to make the assumption that something is ‘missing’ between you and your spouse.
But what you need to ask yourself is; is it my MARRIAGE that’s the problem, or is it my LIFE that I am unhappy with?
Is something missing in your relationship, or is something missing within YOURSELF?
Research shows us that people who report having higher life satisfaction also report being happier in their marriages.
And although your marital satisfaction DOES influence your life satisfaction, your life satisfaction also impacts on how satisfied you are in your marriage.
When we are happy within ourselves and have many things in our lives which give us meaning and purpose (e.g. in our career, hobbies and relationships with family and friends), this usually flows over into our relationships.
With more love inside, we have more love to give.
But when we aren’t receiving enough satisfaction within these areas of our lives, it can be easy to start blaming our feelings of dissatisfaction on our spouses.
This is because when other areas in our lives aren’t going so well, a common response is to look to your SPOUSE to meet all of your needs which are not being met.
And when your spouse doesn’t live up to these unrealistic expectations you have set, feelings of disappointment and resentment grow.
If this is the case in your marriage, it’s time to relieve your spouse of the impossible burden of taking care of all of your needs, and start taking some responsibility for these yourself.
This point in your marriage is actually a great opportunity to turn the focus inwards and work on increasing your self-confidence and happiness with your own life.
At this time, think about your needs, your goals, your aspirations and how satisfied you are with each area of your life right now, and encourage your spouse to do the same.
You just might find that when you stop focusing on what is wrong with your marriage, you actually make some amazing self-discoveries.
For instance, perhaps you discover that you are actually really unhappy in your current job and would love a career change.
The next step is to discuss these revelations with your spouse, and figure out the best plan for you to make steps towards change, with your spouse’s support.
Just make sure that you go into this discussion with a gentle approach and be prepared to negotiate with your spouse.
Remember, any changes to your life will affect your relationship – so make sure that these changes will only be BENEFICIAL to your marriage.
4. Attraction CAN be re-sparked.
Even if you feel like there is no chemistry between you and your spouse right now, know that this by NO means dictates the end of all attraction in your relationship.
Time and time again I have been witness to a married couple going from being on the brink of divorce to re-discovering their love for one another.
This didn’t happen by itself though - marriage is something that you need to keep working at, especially during the hard times.
As discussed above, passion usually gives way to comfort as your marriage progresses.
And although your relationship may feel like it has fallen past the point of ‘comfort’ and into the point of discontentment, the great thing is that if you can get through this lull, your love will be able to grow even DEEPER than before.
You and your spouse will be bonded by the fact that you sailed through these rough waters, didn’t give up and came out of it together.
And in doing so, you will have developed a greater understanding, respect and appreciation for one another.
So how can the attraction between you and your spouse be re-sparked?
It’s all about taking SMALL STEPS to reconnect.
Right now, you are probably feeling like your needs for affection and closeness are not being met, due to the distance between you and your spouse.
But you can PAVE the way to re-sparking the love in your marriage, by giving your spouse the affection they are CRAVING from you, deep down.
For example, putting your arm around your spouse on the couch, making them a cup of coffee in the morning, or putting up a newly framed picture of the two of you, to show you care.
You can ‘re-learn’ how to love your spouse by putting in the effort to spend quality time with them doing the things you both enjoy, trying out new things together, and making goals as a couple.
Having goals to strive towards in your marriage helps to maintain a strong connection between you and keep excitement alive.
Try initiating a discussion with your spouse about what you want to achieve in your future together.
It might be saving for a holiday, working towards a new house, doing something special with your kids, or entering a half-marathon together – there’s nothing that can spark chemistry more than working out with your spouse!
Remember that the only way attraction can grow is if you and your spouse make time for one another, as leading completely separate lives will only drive you further apart.
And quality time means having time away from the kids, friends, co-workers and other distractions – time that is purely just for the two of you.
I know this time can be really hard to factor in when life is hectic!
But only in this alone time do you and your spouse have a chance to re-discover one another (even if it feels a little like you are just ‘friends’ right now).
Give it time, and try not to get consumed by negative thinking.
Instead, give love a chance to grow.