This is the third article of 7 in a series about making your marriage stronger and/or saving it. Remember, “The more connections you and your lover make, not just between your bodies, but between your minds, your hearts, and your souls, the more you will strengthen the fabric of your relationship, and the more real moments you will experience together.” (Barbara De Angelis)
Due to stress, relationship problems and solutions can become a theme when you are the caregiver of a loved one with a mental disorder. By learning to deal with relationship problems when they occur, you will be better able to navigate them without damaging your relationship. Nurturing the love between you will help you successfully solve problems and manage stress, and by tackling problems together, you won’t feel so alone. As the saying goes, “two heads are better than one.”
One of the most common problems that long-term or married couples experience is loss of interest in sex. Sometimes referred to as “bed-death,” this seemingly-small issue is often intertwined with communication problems, health issues and a lack of quality time. People end up feeling unhappy and unconnected to the partners who were once the center of their lives. In many cases, they don’t understand why.
Despite the cultural emphasis on sex in the media and everyday society, American married couples actually have far lower rates of sexual activity than people in other developed countries. This causes unhappiness and feelings of isolation that can eventually destroy the relationship. Here’s a look at some of the reasons why this occurs and how couples can rekindle sex and romance in marriage.
Losing That New Relationship Energy
When couples first begin a relationship or marriage, they often feel excited and enthusiastic about sex, romance and making time for one another. As time goes on, the relationship loses its luster and both marital sex and romance fall by the wayside. This problem gets worse as partners age; no matter how long they have been married, couples in their 40s report that they make love only about half as often as couples in their 30s.
There are several major reasons for this decline. According to the most recent studies, the main problems are the inability to tell the difference between sexuality and sensuality, an unwillingness to make marital sex a priority, and allowing the romance to dwindle and die. A marriage is like an organic, living thing. It takes a lot of care and attention to multiple aspects of a relationship to keep it healthy, vibrant and growing.
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Find yourself dropping everything at a moment’s notice to help your relative with a mental disorder? Has your relationship become a casualty?
One reason relationships start to fizzle is because they lose a sense of shared purpose built upon their values. Do you know what values you have in common?
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Sexual Vs. Sensual
Because the two things are so closely intertwined, many people have problems distinguishing between sexuality and sensuality. While sex often includes sensual pleasures, it’s not a substitute for them. Many couples end up focusing on intercourse, orgasm and other explicitly sexual actions. This is especially true for busy couples who don’t have a lot of time to spend together. When they notice that their sex lives seem to be dwindling, these people make an honest effort to spend time together and make love regularly.
Unfortunately, a focus on sex makes it very easy to ignore the sensual aspects of married life. That means that even people who are working hard on their relationships can end up feeling unfulfilled and distant. Couples often lose that feeling of closeness when they neglect everyday, non-sexual touching. Whether it’s a gentle massage, a romantic caress, or just holding hands, sensuality is vital to having fulfilling sex and maintaining interest in a physical relationship.
Sensuality isn’t always directly connected with sex, but by maintaining a sensual relationship, couples increase their chances of staying interested in sex. That comforting non-sexual back rub can easily turn into a passionate evening. Even if no sexual activity occurs, it’s important to remember that sensuality can be rewarding all by itself. When couples stop approaching marital sex as a checklist or as the only goal, they often find themselves having it more frequently and enjoying themselves a lot more.
How Couples Forget
In most relationships, sensuality and romance in marriage are easy and instinctive in the beginning. Couples want to touch one another and be in physical contact frequently. They also spend a lot of quality time talking, snuggling and being affectionate. As time goes on and responsibilities mount up, it becomes easier to forget about these basic interactions and jump straight to sex.
They end up feeling as though they’re growing apart, but they don’t really know why. Romance in marriage is about more than just having regular sex; even when it doesn’t immediately lead to physical intimacy, it creates a stronger bond and a better long-term connection.
Just What Is Romance in Marriage?
It’s obvious that every marriage needs to combine the sensual and the sexual to stay successful. Unfortunately, few people have the same definition of sensuality and romance. That means that couples need to communicate among themselves to decide what works for them, instead of relying on media, marketing and what other people tell them.
There’s no step-by-step process to being romantic and no right or wrong way to be sensual together, as long as both parties feel comfortable. Simply taking the time to think about the other person’s needs and desires can go a long way toward helping a relationship stay strong. If one person in a marriage feels like the other one isn’t providing what’s required, it’s time to communicate this fact: slowly, calmly and clearly. There’s a very good chance that the other partner simply isn’t aware of the problem.
Consideration in Every Part of a Relationship
This effective strategy applies to more than just sexuality. Anticipating a partner’s needs is important to a successful marriage in all areas. For instance, if one partner is responsible for cooking meals in the evening, but has recently been sick or had a lot of extra work to do, choosing to take over dinner preparation is the kind, considerate and romantic thing to do. It removes one more chore that the busier partner has to deal with and establishes a strong bond.
A pleasant surprise without any expectation of payback can make life more enjoyable for both people in a marriage. That leads to feeling closer, being happier, and enjoying physical contact more. By paying attention to the other person’s thoughts and feelings, married people can make it easier to be together and strengthen their sex lives at the same time. It can take some time for this rapport to fall into place, and many people will experience some difficulties along the way, but the result is worth it in the long run.
Falling Out of Love
Most divorced couples cite falling out of love as the primary reason for breaking up. On the surface, this seems perfectly reasonable; after all, who wants to stay with someone they don’t love? Love, however, is much less of a zero-sum game than this scenario suggests. “Falling out of love” is often the result of many factors together, including a loss of romance in marriage, failing to take the time to appreciate one another, and a lack of physical intimacy.
While no one can force himself or herself to fall back into love, there are some things that couples can do to repair their marriages before the love disappears. By improving the right parts of their relationships, they can rekindle romance in marriage and fall back in love all over again.
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