It was a dream, but I was dropping science nonetheless. A married pastor pulled me aside to explain his trouble with his wife. He lamented, “Dr. Wright, I’m afraid that I am no longer providing my wife what she needs. I think I may need to spice things up a bit. But, I’m afraid that is getting old too. It’s not just that I am running out of ideas. It just seems like the response I get is diminishing. She’s never as excited as I had hoped. What do you think I should do?”
“I’m all for spice,” I replied, “but, there’s a difference between spicing it up and building it up.” This pastor had fallen prey to a common challenge for married couples. Some couples try their best to stay within the space where they first found each other. The pressure seems to point toward “never changing,” “everlasting,” “until death do us part.” To many that becomes a life sentence of boredom. Worse yet, in some marriages, one spouse is fine with “boredom” while the other is taking classes, traveling, engaging with the community. In both cases, they drift apart. No distractions. No loss of love. No infidelity. Just lack of engagement.
For some, the brilliant idea is “date night,” “spontaneous trips,” or “just-because gifts.” Those are great if that’s what the other spouse values. But, often couples mistake a feeling of “grow into a new season together” for “return to what we were.” They attempt to rekindle the fire, rather than learning to install a natural gas furnace.
I awoke with that refrain in my mind, “There’s a difference between spicing it up and building it up!”
Differing Relationship Fixes
Spicing it up refers to the inclination to do spontaneous and romantic things. It often gets old rather quickly. Even when it had some success early on, the challenge is to maintain spontaneity as a new normal. It just is not physically possible.
Building it up is the alternative. This refers to evolving as people and evolving as a couple. It requires honest conversation about individual goals. The wants, needs, wishes, and fantasies have to be updated. The definitions of what is romantic, what turns the other on, and what is the best time must be shared. Trust me. She’s changed. Trust me. He’s changed. Even the spouse that is comfortable with boredom is finding something new that tickles the fancy. Talk it out.
The goal of this grand conversation is to identify elements that can be integrated into daily life. This is the key to a sustainable intervention. It cannot be a one-and-done intervention. It has to be a lifestyle evolution. It must be fully integrated into the schedule. It should satisfy a specific, measurable, relevant need for each member of the couple. Some of my favorite examples are wardrobe changes, hair style updates, bedding refreshing, bedroom redecoration, writing projects, television dates, video game snuggles, scheduled body massages, workout partners, cooking chefs, board game challenges, truth or dare, and “watch me while.”
It seems a scary proposition to change, grow, and develop away from the person you were in the beginning of the relationship. That person was the original who captured the heart of your spouse. But, take your cue from the example of plants. When they grow together in close quarters, their roots share nourishment. They communicate more effectively. They anchor one another.
This growth can be similar to your growth as a couple. Your growth supports and inspires growth in the other. Be the type of person that provides nourishment, communicates, and anchors your spouse. Achieve together beyond what you could achieve alone.