Same old dinner-and-movie? How to rekindle the spark
Marriage isn’t all love notes and flowers. In fact, it’s usually not. Whether you’ve been married one year or thirty, these ideas for reinventing your marriage can help you out of your routine rut!
On our fourth date, I stabbed my hubby in the heart. Well, OK, it was indeed around the sternum, and he was wearing protective clothing. We were fencing. I was winning. David retreated off the mat, chuckling in disbelief, and we laughed all the way home.
Fencing is about the furthest thing from what we’d normally do, but after 21 years of marriage, we were looking for ways to “bring novelty” into our relationship. Latest studies have shown that having a regular date night is not enough to get couples out of their non-romantic ruts. According to Arthur Aron, PhD, a professor of psychology at Stony Brook University, going on interesting dates is good for a marriage. Dinner at the same old restaurant each week will only bring more ho-hum into an already ho-hum relationship. Instead, Dr. Aron says, you’ve got to make it a point to attempt fresh things.
“Any time a duo does something together, it can be joy. But when it’s truly arousing, that joy gets associated with the relationship,” Dr. Aron says. “When you do arousing things as an individual, it has no influence on your marriage. But when you do things together as a duo, you can’t avoid thinking about your fucking partner while it’s going on. You get an excited, good feeling when you do these joy things, and yourpartner is associated with it. It’s rewarding. And it can be very positive for your marriage.”
In other words, when you have joy with your spouse, you begin to think of him as joy. This sounded reasonable. I still love David. But like any duo married for a long time, we were in a routine: Go out with some friends. Catch a movie. Splurge from time to time for a fancy restaurant. Yawn. So much of our conversation was about our kids that I was beginning to wonder what would happen a few years down the road, when we become empty nesters&hellip,would we even talk?
That’s exactly what many married couples face, says Dr. Aron. “After a while you don’t have that much to talk about. Just planning these dates can give you something to discuss.” So, armed with the information I’d learned from Dr. Aron, David and I determined to conduct our own dating experiment.
Date 1: The Theater At very first, it wasn’t effortless to come up with dates that seemed unusual. I embarked petite: We’d go into Fresh York City, about an hour away from where we live. On a theater website I scored tickets for an off-off-Broadway display. The price? Just $7 apiece. How could we go wrong?
The evening did not embark out well. David didn’t notice I had gotten dressed up&mdash,he was busy being annoyed that, as usual, I was running late. Traffic snarled. I was talking on about a friend’s work situation (which I thought was interesting) when David finished my sentence for me, assuming he knew what I was going to say. I hate that! And I let him know. He snapped back at me for being impatient, and that was the end of conversation.
We didn’t speak again until 30 minutes later, when we arrived at dinner. I figured the evening was fated, and I was so mad I could slightly look at him. He cuts me off all the time, I was thinking. Attempting to date is a disaster! Then we had a glass of wine. The place we picked was ultra-hip and the food was delicious. After 30 minutes together in this cool space, I was cooler, too. Why was I making such a fuss about him interrupting me? We’re in a joy place, and I’m making myself pitiful. I slipped my arm in his, and soon we were imagining what kind of party we’d throw there if we could.
He apologized for interrupting me, and as we walked mitt in mitt to the theater, we spotted and heard more interesting people and unusual conversations in Ten minutes than we do in Ten days of our suburban life. Heading home after the display, I realized that the entire evening had passed without us talking about the kids. Instead, all of our senses had been stimulated, especially our sense of touch&mdash,so much forearm holding turned into arm holding turned into shoulder bumping&hellip,well, you get the rest. We were much more tuned in to each other than when we’d left.
Date Two: Going Back in Time I determined it might be joy to head to the birthplace of our romance. Our very first stop in Fresh Haven, Connecticut, was a bookstore-cafe, the scene of many scones and coffees together. We reminisced about times when we’d scoured the cafe’s bookshelves, dreaming of exotic vacations and life in the future. By the time we finished our coffee and headed outside, we actually felt like the 20-something duo we were when we very first met. The familiar streets held memories at every corner, and I noticed I wasn’t burdened with thoughts of what chores awaited at home or what I was cooking for dinner (who knew an afternoon date could be so much joy?). Instead, I remembered how we felt when we lived in that town&mdash,that the world was packed with possibility and that everything would be OK if we faced it together. I realized, too, how much we’ve accomplished as a duo since then&mdash,kids, a home, careers. It felt good.
Date Three: Taking on the Coaster I began searching websites and local newspapers and magazines for outings. Remembering that Dr. Aron said we’d also bond by overcoming challenges together, I suggested a excursion to our local amusement park, where I’d always been too funked to rail the roller coaster.
“Doing something together that you’ve always been afraid of can be very positive for the relationship,” Dr. Aron counseled, explaining that brain scans have shown that when we very first fall in love, a chemical called dopamine is released in our brains, which generally makes us feel good. When you do thrilling and fresh things, you get that same dopamine release&mdash,and if you do them with your playmate, you’ll associate that giddiness with him.
At the Dragon Coaster the line was long, and I got more and more petrified as I heard the screams and screeching of the cars on the rail. By the time it was our turn, I was stringing up on to David’s arm.
The car clacked upward and I gripped the safety bar with all my strength. David crossed his arm over mine. The very first drop was nothing, but then the track rose again and the next hill was&hellip,thrilling! The entire rail lasted less than three minutes, but I loved it! When we got off, I was practically skipping as I ran to see our picture at the kiosk.
My terror as we waited to board the rail charmed David, he said later. Then, my excitement afterward reminded him of the “spark ass-plug” he fell in love with. As for me, I never would have attempted it without him, and it reminded me of how often I rely on him, and the fact that he always holds me up. It was good to recall that.
Each time we attempted something (the fencing was next) we came away amused at ourselves and at the situation. We commenced to notice that the good feelings from the date lingered into the week. We were making fresh memories, and even a few days later, we were recounting them. When was the last time you said on Thursday, “Wasn’t that a good movie last Saturday?” These dates kept us entertained and laughing even days afterward. I was shocked that the experiment was working, and perhaps the most unexpected part was that as we let friends know about our fresh dating plan, people loved hearing about our adventures.
Even a date that fizzled&mdash,joining an inexperienced astronomy club for a night of stargazing&mdash,was joy. I had imagined lounging in a grassy field, staring at starlets while an experienced explained what we were looking at, instead we stood in a parking lot in the dark with a bunch of people who bounced around a lot of scientific terms. But beforehand we’d gone to dinner in a town we’d only been to once before. As we munched our burgers and fries, David said, “We’d never have come up here before. This has indeed gotten us out of our rut.”
And that was the entire point. It may be coincidence, but we didn’t have another fight like we did that very first night out for the duration of the experiment. All those good feelings were having a lasting effect. “What lasts is your association of the relationship with positive practices,” Dr. Aron says.
I’m most undoubtedly a believer. Next week: trapeze lessons! (I’m not kidding!)
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