You know what they say if something is moving along without any major hurdles - ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ But your marriage may not yet have reached its full potential. Believe it or not, you can change boring routines and improve your relationship.
According to the field of interpersonal neurobiology, our brains are constantly changing. And that is impacted by how we interact daily. Loving relationships can alter the brain circuits that shape memories and emotions.
Think about the immediate attraction when you first fell in love. This alchemy continues throughout life, and how we treat each other matters. In a loving relationship we can change neural functions when we decide to be more compassionate. And holding hands is enough to reduce stress and minimize physical pain. So whether you want to release euphoria-inducing chemicals like dopamine or change the wiring in your brain, here are some ideas to consider:
Invest emotionally. Make time for each other and keep romance alive. A gentle touch or quick hug releases oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates bonding. When you're tense, an affectionate moment can help you feel relaxed and more loved. Studies show that celebrating positive events predict greater relationship satisfaction than complaining about negative ones. Just like with any valuable asset, the efforts you make will be returned in multiples.
Eliminate boredom. Lightheartedness is often a casualty of hectic family life and then, when the kids leave home, there’s an even greater void. Talk to your partner about this without being critical. Plan adventures and discover activities you both enjoy. Take on a physical challenge together and train to make it happen. Have fun and laugh - being playful can lead to greater intimacy.
Ask for what you need. No one is a mind reader. Sometimes couples can get frustrated and stop talking. Try to understand each other’s disappointment or resentment. Meet halfway and get more of what you want. If you invest in your own happiness, your partner won’t have to be responsible for your wellbeing. By taking action, you'll feel more confident and your relationship will reap the dividends.
Express gratitude often. Compliments serve as positive reinforcement at the very times when you may be taking each other for granted. If you feel distant, try to see your partner in a different light. Look for the qualities you love about each other. And when you’re having positive thoughts, say them out loud. Being satisfied with small changes can make a good marriage better.
© Her Mentor Center, 2012
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are consultants in family dynamics. Whether you're coping with marital stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law, we have solutions. Visit our website, http://www.HerMentorCenter.com to discover practical tips for dealing with parents growing older & kids growing up. Sign up there for our free newsletter, 'Stepping Stones' and download our complimentary ebooks, "Courage and Lessons Learned: Reaching Your Goals" and "Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm."