Dr. Romance writes:

The old folk songs say it:

Oh, love is handsome, love is fine
Love is a jewel when it is new; 
But when love's old, it waxes cold
And fades away, like morning dew.

Folk wisdom says it: If newlyweds put a penny in a jar for every time they make love in the first year, and take one out for every time after that, the jar will never be empty.

Although most of us hope for our love to last forever, studies show that many couples who have been married for several years actually feel quite hopeless about keeping love alive, or at best resigned to boredom.

The majority expectation is that sexual excitement will fade, and the best we can hope for is fondness and affection, and it is this belief that often underlies cheating, affairs and even leaving a spouse for a new, often younger version.

When couples know how to:
* enjoy sex with each other rather than be tempted by others,
* be open and honest with each other about sexual dissatisfactions, attractions, and other uncomfortable topics, 
* have well-established, reasonable guidelines for spending intimate time together,
* care about each others' feelings, 
* treat each other with respect
* support each others' emotional health and happiness, and
* work together to create a partnership,

...they have a sexual relationship that enhances and brings excitement instead of boredom and discord to their partnership.

Satisfaction Enhances Security

Couples who know, from experience, that they can feel mutually satisfied and enhanced by being with each other, do not doubt their relationship or their commitment.  When a relationship goes well, the reasons for being in it are clear:  Why would any one want to leave a relationship where they get what they want, and have fun to boot? When your relationship works well and feels like the best of all possible relationships, leaving it for something else, however new and exciting, is too big a gamble to take.

Creating this kind of security takes some skill and effort. A key ingredient for success for any long-term relationship is learning to create fun together.  Why fun? Because having fun together is a major way all couples enhance their positive feelings about each other, which we call bonding.  While fun enhances your bonding and the security in your relationship, the absence of fun can create boredom, which can lead to serious problems.

Avoiding Boredom

Boredom in a relationship is usually the result of avoidance -- of each other, of change, of responsibility, or of life.

Boredom is a signal that the two of you have begun to take each other and your relationship for granted.  Perhaps your activities have become too routine or you are avoiding facing a problem.  Counter the boredom by taking necessary risks -- for example, have that scary discussion about sex, aging, your in-laws, or dare to suggest a change in your routine.  If the cause of boredom is a too-regular routine, the problem is easily fixed.  All you need to do is... anything different.  It doesn't matter what you do as long as it's different and can be shared.    

Use the following three words as your key to avoiding boredom: celebration, play, and laughter.  
Celebration: Just as you used celebration as an important ingredient of your marriage ceremony, work promotions, your children's birthdays and graduation, you and your spouse need to continue celebrating your love throughout your lives to keep your energy high and maintain your motivation.  Frequent celebrations demonstrate your love and appreciation for each other.

 Organize festivities with friends, or celebrate alone together.  Go away for the weekend to mark a special event or simply to celebrate the fact of your continuing love.  Plan a special evening at home or at a restaurant; attend a concert to go to an amusement park together.  In short, don't stop dating because you've been together a long time.

A celebration need not be expensive.  The point is to acknowledge that you're celebrating something.  Ginger ale in a champagne glass, a lit candle and a bubble bath may be all you need. 

Play:  Playing together can help you to avoid boredom. It's during play that we re-create and renew our individual and mutual energies. Make recreation, play, and fun a priority in your relationship, setting aside time for play on a regular basis.  Filling all of your spare time with overtime work, volunteer work, or other such activities can translate into an avoidance of your partner. Get over any reluctance you have to appear silly, and throw a frisbee, blow bubbles, get on the swings in the park, play a cutthroat game of Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit, or just read silly jokes and funny stories to each other.  Dr. Seuss books, like If I Ran the Circus, and silly poems by Ogden Nash, are favorites of mine.

Laughter: I believe that after the initial excitement wears off in a long-term relationship, if all goes well, a sense of humor sets in.  Partners in long-term relationships generally have the self-esteem and confidence to laugh at their own and each other's quirks and weaknesses.  Through laughter, you and your partner can relieve pressure and remind yourselves that you're human.  A joke, a silly gesture or a funny greeting card or gift can often heighten intimacy.  Richard and I have gotten through many trying times together by repeating the sentiment of a greeting card given years ago.  The front read, "I love you" and inside, it said "it's a dirty job, but someone has to do it!" 

In my practice I have seen couples use conflict as the mainstay of their lives together, because they feel that not having constant dramatic struggles means not taking the relationship seriously.  Once they learn that such drama not only does not signify love, but is also unhealthy, they can learn to lighten up, relax, and substitute the delight of humor and play for the pain of struggle.
(adapted from: How To Be a Couple and Still Be Free 4th Edition)

Couple and Free 4th Ed

For low-cost counseling, email me at tina@tinatessina.com

Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.