Experiencing tough times together can be beneficial. Family therapist, Dr. C. Allen, says that going through times of crisis or tragedy actually increases the bond between spouses. He explains that this is why it’s so important to work through the rough patches in our marriages. Life can be so challenging, but when you are on the same team, fighting for the same goal, it can bring about tremendous closeness. Nothing compares to that feeling of first falling in love. It’s like walking on air. But eventually those beginning butterflies fade away and the work starts in.
When reality really sets in
When we first fall in love, there are chemicals called phenylethylemine and dopamine, which stay in our brains for up to two years. This is why you feel like you are walking on air, and can’t get enough of each other. The bummer part is this eventually fades away and we are left wondering how to rekindle what we once had. We are also shocked to find that our love-interest has flaws. In fact, we start to become annoyed and frustrated with each other. And the flaws were always there—we just couldn’t see them properly through the hormonal haze. Thankfully, as those chemicals begin to fade, there are others that kick in to form lasting attachments. God is so smart. Instead of trying to go backwards to find that crazy good feeling again, we only need to find other ways to connect and bond with each other. We need to look forward, not lament the past because life marches on. We have to replace the ecstatic high with deeper more lasting feelings of love. I like to imagine that the butterflies are exchanged for an anchor. The shallow feelings become deep attachments that hold us steady during the storms that will come.
Here are three ways to establish this connection with your spouse:
1. Physical touch
It’s a well known fact that physical contact increases oxytocin, which helps you feel bonded to another person. Some people are more comfortable with this than others. If it’s hard for you, just try to use small opportunities to show your spouse love—with meaningful touch. People feel better after hugs, and even heal faster when wounded if they are touched by their spouse. Physical touch boosts the immune system and supports mental stability. This is a great reason to give and receive a few back rubs. Holding hands, hugging, and cuddling are all great forms of touch. There are times when Scott simply places his hand on my back and I feel my anxiety level lowering. Take the time to hold hands, cuddle, and give back massages. This is why sexual intimacy in marriage is so important in marriage. Skin to skin contact will quickly bond you with your spouse and create lasting connection.
2. Eye contact
Eye contact is one of the most intimate ways to connect with others. When we adopted our daughter from China, we were told to make as much eye contact with her as possible. When she looked up at me with her sweet little brown eyes, I melted. It moved me in a powerful way and I could feel myself becoming more attached to her. Prolonged eye contact can release oxcytocin, so it’s important to include this in your marriage. If you’re trying to reconnect with your spouse, meaningful eye contact can rekindle emotions and speed up the process. When your spouse is talking to you, make a point to stop what you are doing and look them in the eye. This will demonstrate your devotion and will make your spouse feel important to you. It will also draw you a little closer each day.
3. Sparking happy memories
Isn’t it such a cozy and nice feeling when you make one of your mom’s recipes for dinner? Do you notice how a familiar song can almost take you back to another time a place? Smells, sights, tastes are all ways to connect with your loved ones and your spouse. When you feel safe, you feel calm. Take time to foster these moments. They do wonders for your relationship and create memories that are priceless. Quality time may not resemble the same butterflies in your stomach that you felt when you first met, but it will resemble an anchor that keeps you steady and sure. I love watching my husband spend time with the kids. When we all sit down and play a game or watch a movie, I feel so close to him. Those happy moments establish a connection that keeps you close as infatuation gives way to love.
If you feel frustrated because your marriage just doesn’t feel as exciting as you once remembered, don’t lose heart. It’s all part of the journey. God has good things for you and your spouse as you walk through this process together.