Editor’s Note: This is part of the “one of my favorites” category. Originally published July 7, 2008.
Here’s a question I received the other day from a Simple Marriage reader.
Dear Dr. Allan-
My husband and I have been married for 13 years, and while we’ve had our ups and downs, overall our marriage is good. Lately however, I’ve noticed a level of unhappiness in each of us. While it’s not so bad that I would leave him, or him me, it is noticeable. How can we add some spice to our marriage to break out of old habits?
A bored wife, Dallas, TX
Dear bored wife-
What you are describing is quite common in any long term committed relationship. The newness is going to wear off and routines are going to settle in. I would bet that you could accurately predict your husband’s schedule of interaction with you throughout the week, and he could do the same for you.
We all live fairly predictable lives. It’s part of the comfort zone so many of us enjoy residing within. Too much uncertainty and change is scary. So scary in fact that most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.
Any time you seek to change things up a bit, including trying to break out of unhappy cycles, there is a great deal of unknown. It is this unknown that causes some people to resist the changes. Even if the changes will bring about something more exciting.
To add a bit of spice to the marriage, here’s a few ideas. Feel free to try any of them, or start from the beginning and work up to the more intimate ones. Good luck!
- Change up the seating chart at meal times. If your family has sit down meals together, there is probably assigned seating that has evolved over the years. Dad sits here, mom there, and so on. Try sitting in a different seat.
- Give up your chair in the living room. This same seating principle applies to TV watching furniture. I have a recliner that is assumed by my family to be mine. Give it up and sit on the couch or some other chair for a while.
- Sleep on the other side of the bed. Same principle, perhaps a bit more closely guarded however. Try it. See what happens.
- Assume different household responsibilities. You may be the one who takes out the trash, does the dishes, or laundry, puts toys away, or maybe all of the above. Try doing something you typically don’t do during the week. Mow the yard. Make the bed. Whatever. Just do something your spouse would usually take care of.
- Ask your spouse out on a date. Actually call them up. Ask them out. Dress for a date. Show up at the front door. Bring flowers. Hold the door for them. Who knows where this idea could lead.
- Talk about your unhappiness. I’m a big advocate for honesty. Too often we expect our spouse to read our mind or sense that there’s something wrong. Speak up. Tell them what’s going on with you. A word of caution however. Tell them what you’re feeling and thinking, not what’s wrong with them. Anyone who feels attacked will respond defensively and be less open to seeking solutions.
- Initiate sex. Inevitably routine will creep into your sex life. It’s his responsibility to initiate sex. Or hers. It’s brought up the same way. Starts the same. Follows the same routine. Even ends the same. If you are the one who initiates sex the least, initiate more. If you’re the other side of the equation, slow down. More than likely, you both will enjoy better quality sex rather than just more sex.
- Try eyes open sex. Sex is the one time we can be closest to another person physically while staying miles apart mentally and emotionally. If you typically keeps your eyes closed while kissing, during foreplay, and during sex, open them up. Engage your lover throughout the encounter. Look them in the eye. Let them see you. For more on this idea go here and here.
- Try eyes open orgasm. This is a continuation of the previous idea, only at a deeper level. When you’re on the verge of orgasm, connect more with your eyes. Obviously some sexual positions may not allow eye contact without being extremely flexible. If so, connect immediately after. Stay with each other after sex is “over.” Look into each other’s eyes. Talk. Breath together. Don’t immediately get up, clean up, and move on your separate ways.