Keeping Romance Alive As Years Go By
Wednesday - July 11, 2007
Val Umphress: Romance need not
Making the transition from dating to marriage can mean more than just moving in together and creating joint bank accounts.
A lot of newly married couples I know say that nothing changes in your relationship when you get married.
“Yup, things are pretty much the same,” my just-married friends Pauline and Lance both exclaimed in unison.
“We’re all good as long as Pauline does-n’t start trying to control me,” Lance added, jokingly.
But secretly Lance wasn’t really joking. His one fear when he and Pauline got married was that his sweet wife might turn not-so-nice now that they were legally bound for life.
Pauline was excited to have a husband and imagined nothing could be more romantic than the treasured time the two would spend together.
But Pauline’s parents (who have already been married for 35 years) warned the couple before their nuptials that a marriage takes work to keep it going strong.
“Sure, sure, we’ve heard that before,” Pauline said, not truly taking it to heart.
But Pauline and Lance would do well to listen to her parent’s advice because too often couples think the ring on the finger is the last grand effort needed to secure a loving relationship to last the ages. They don’t pay attention to the day-to-day acts of kindness that support a thriving marriage and partnership.
In the beginning of a relationship, loving feelings abound due to the “infatuation phase” that can last anywhere from a year to a year-and-a-half, explains Val Umphress, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in private practice.
“This is when people are on their best behavior,” says Umphress. “There is a lot of effort on both parts to romance the other. They are very polite and communication is very good at this time. You usually don’t see a lot of the other person’s faults. There also aren’t as many things that bother us in the beginning of a relationship.”
Umphress explains that this means there
are a lot of positive feelings being reinforced. But once you get married the romantic talk can be overshadowed by more mundane competing demands in the relationship such as who is going to watch the baby, where are we going to move and how much money are we making to pay the bills.
It’s easy to let the relationship slip and let the daily grind take over, says Umphress.
“Inevitably, the infatuation phase is going to wear off,” he says. “A lot of these feelings dissipate very quickly with the reality of life. But these loving feelings and the romance don’t have to fade out.”
Umphress believes in the profit principle where the more profitable your interaction is with your partner, the stronger the love in the relationship.
So, you decrease the negative interactions in your relationship and increase the rewarding ones and you’ll have a profitable union.
Umphress suggests that to increase the rewarding interactions, you can go on special dates, surprise your partner with love notes every now and then, speak politely and courteously to them, or even just give them a little look or a hug.
To decrease your relationship costs, Umphress says to follow good rules of communication, don’t nag a lot, don’t keep your feelings inside and carry resentment for longs periods of time, don’t criticize too much and avoid explosive negative reactions.
“Make sure to listen to your partner,” Umphress says. “Even if you don’t agree with them, you can still recognize and validate how they are feeling.
“Create a sense of importance for your partner,” he adds. “This is one of the fundamental needs that people have is to belong and to be needed. Show them they are appreciated; sacrifice time for them. You have to be deliberate and proactive.”
Umphress also stresses the need for sufficient interaction time as a couple.
“If you don’t get enough quality time, the relationship will suffer,” he says.
Men often need less time to connect than women do, but decide on time spent together that you both can agree on. Umphress suggests a minimum of one weekly date night and to find something genuinely nice to compliment your partner about on a daily basis.
Things can go dormant in a marriage, says Umphress. You might be good at one thing while you’re dating but over time it doesn’t come as naturally anymore. No relationship will keep you on a perpetual high.
“Relationships can be really meaningful and the best part of life if they’re worked on,” says Umphress. “If we put as much effort into our marriage as we often do with our jobs, we would have a really successful partnership and marriage. Maybe there is one couple out there that does-n’t have to work at it, but I haven’t met them yet.”
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