There is a popular belief in the marriage and relationship world that when the doldrums hit and you find yourself more numb than really alive, you should look for ways to get back what you once had.
Call it a spark. A zest. A passion. Whatever.
The point is, something’s missing and since you once had it – you can go back and find it again…
Life is not lived backwards.
Our past is important.
Who we once were is what our spouse found attractive (since that person caught the eye of your spouse and reeled them in the rest of the way). But the previous version of you is long gone and trying to go back and find him/her is a path to more frustration.
While you may be able to produce a brief spark by reminiscing about when you were dating, it won’t be a lasting spark.
The main reason – you’re up against the “love drug” in your brain.
When you first met and fell in love with your spouse you both experienced a chemically induced high. Your brain flooded with a chemical called Phenylethylamine (PEA), which remains in your brain from 6 months to 2 years. PEA produces a feeling of euphoria, a sense of belonging, and a feeling of obsession (which is why you want to talk and be with your new found love every moment).
As PEA fades over time (and it will) many people believe that you can recreate the same levels of emotion within the relationship. Problem is, you can’t.
You cannot go back a manufacture PEA in your brain within the same relationship (although I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies are trying to figure out a way).
What you can do, increase the levels of Oxytocin in your system.
Oxytocin is known as the “bonding” chemical. It produces the deep connection to others, the lasting bond that long term relationships create. Oxytocin is released when you bond with another person – the most intense experiences are mother and infant while nursing and during orgasm. But other contacts create this bond as well: massages, eye contact, hugs, holding hands.
On the other end of the spectrum, going through crisis and tragedy together dramatically increases the levels of Oxytocin as well.
This is why it is worth it to work through the rough patches in marriage.
What it produces is a deeper, more lasting bond.
Now that you know what you’re up against when you face the monotonous times in marriage, here’s a couple of ideas to help up the Oxytocin in your life:
1. Catch romance where you can
You can learn to build romance at unexpected times — during your daily commute, while doing laundry — you can even do this through a long, lingering kiss or just holding hands. In other words, the next time you hear find you’ve got a couple of minutes to yourselves, make use of it — give that Oxytocin a boost.
2. Nurture your separate selves
Having your own hobbies isn’t a sign you are drifting apart. On the contrary, developing individual interests allows for a richer life as a couple. Taking personal responsibility for your own well-being relieves the your spouse of the pressure to “provide” happiness — so go ahead and nurture some solo adventures. That’ll also keep each of you stocked with plenty of adventures to chat about, which also tightens your bond.
3. Take on a project together
Separate interests aside, exploring new ground together is also important since it strengthens your history of shared experiences (Oxytocin boost). Commit to run a 5K together. Create a project for your home or kids. Big projects together offer increases in Oxytocin because they are often filled with highs and lows, but the lows will create a bond as well. Couples who take on adventures together get a sense of daring and accomplishment that can really kick up their chemistry!
4. Touch each other (sexually and non-sexually)
The boost of connection you receive from human touch is huge. And every touch doesn’t have to be sexual in nature. Sure, sexual touch is important and will increase the connection, but so will non-sexual touch. Hold hands, hug, sit close beside one another, cuddle. Each little (or big) gesture can cause a boost of Oxytocin for both of you.
Comment below or come on over to Facebook to share your favorites ways to bond in marriage too!
About the Author
Dr. Corey Allan is the editor of Simple Marriage as well as a licensed marriage & family therapist. While he has a Ph.D. in Family Therapy, he only occasionally likes to be called doctor. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss any future posts.