Feeling the itch? Hope isn’t lost. With a little effort and creative problem solving, even the dimmest flame can be reignited. Dr. Jessica Griffin, Seven Year Switch’s go-to relationship expert, has a few tricks up her sleeve.
Hug It Out
Physical contact is the best way to rekindle an emotional and physiological connection. Getting between the sheets is great, but even a simple touch – holding hands or cuddling – can increase dopamine and oxytocin, also known as the love drugs. “Of course, this is easier said than done if you can’t stand your spouse at the moment,” admits Dr. Griffin. “It may be helpful to pause for a moment and think about what first attracted you to your spouse, or to recall a fond memory of the two of you.” Start with a hug and see what transpires. She says, “No need to eat the meat and potatoes before the appetizer.”
Cut It Out
It’s hard to reconnect with your spouse if you don’t disconnect from everything else. Dr. Griffin suggests unplugging the phone, tablet or other distractions for at least an hour a day. “Check in with your partner during this time,” she says. Kick off the conversation with some introspective questions. What do they want from the relationship? What are they happy with? What would they like to see changed? “Likewise, share what you want from the relationship,” says Dr. Griffin. This is the time to ask yourself the same questions and be honest about the answers.
Let It Out
Studies have shown that couples who try new things together are happier. While that may be a great excuse to sign up for a samba class, something as simple as dining out in a buzzworthy new restaurant can have a similar effect. “Bring back date night!” says Dr. Griffin. Even better, jet off on a romantic getaway. She suggests enlisting friends or family to watch the kids, if you have them, and get out of town (or at least the house) for a couple of nights. “Your children will benefit from parents who are in love with each other, much more than parents who simply tolerate each other. Children who see their parents in love feel safer and more secure.” Take a few minutes of your mini-holiday to plan the next one, and make it a routine. “Time alone shouldn’t be a temporary band-aid, but something that will reconnect you and remind you why you fell in love in the first place.”
Talk It Out
“For those couples that continue to struggle, consider a consultation with a licensed couples’ therapist,” recommends Dr. Griffin. She says a professional can help improve communication and “navigate the murky area of whether this is an itch that can be addressed, or whether it’s a sign that the relationship has run its course.” What if one spouse wants to work on the relationship, but the other doesn’t? Dr. Griffin suggests individual therapy for the partner who feels the itch. But, she cautions, “If both spouses are unwilling to work on marital issues, the long-term prognosis for the marriage (and individual happiness) is grim. In these instances, the grass may truly be greener in someone else’s pasture.”
What have you got to lose? Set off on a mini-adventure, hug your partner and set sparks flying. It’s just what the doctor ordered.