I knew the honeymoon had to end sometime. But I was still shocked the day I realized my wife had become a sort of business partner in the enterprise that was our family. Careers, kids and endless logistics had squeezed out our passion.
We had, almost imperceptibly, changed from being lovers to being close friends. The tingling excitement we once enjoyed had turned into something more like an endless trailer of “On Golden Pond.” Yes, we’re told that’s the way love goes — on the road to maturity, passion dies and our best hope is deep affection.
Back to Dirty Dancing
But as comforting as our partnership was, Meg and I decided we wanted passion back. The trip back from “Golden Pond” to “Dirty Dancing” turned out to be surprisingly simple and even fun, especially when our nest emptied. We’re still inventing new ways to stoke the passion, but here are our top seven so far:
1) Appreciation: This is more than just saying something nice. Appreciation requires placing sensitive awareness on our partner and noticing something that really grabs our attention. And while we do this early on in relationships, time tends to curdle appreciation into entitlement. So pick something that your partner does regularly that maybe you’ve fallen asleep to — the way she makes the morning coffee, or the fact that she always asks whether you want a ride to the train instead of walking — and then call it out appreciatively.
2) Reveal, not conceal: This means taking the chance to be vulnerable and say out loud all those things we keep inside — fears about the future, anger about past slights and the good things we’re thinking about, too. What’s important is not so much the content of the sharing, but the fact that we’re willing to be more fully open with our partner.
3) Wake up together: I used to get up hours before Meg and go work out, read books, email, etc. Now I’ve flipped my schedule so we can wake up together — I love nothing better than starting the day looking into my lover’s eyes.
4) Hug and Snuggle: Non-sexual physical contact like an impromptu hug, holding hands, or snuggling without sex reinforces romantic connection, respect and basic delight with being together. It also makes clear there are more ways to connect than sex (this takes a lot of the pressure off sex, too).
5) Time for intimacy: This may or may not include sex, but it does mean setting aside time (when you’re not too tired) for deep focus on each other. Meg and I sometimes even block the time on our calendar, prepare food ahead of time, pick our favorite music, and then just hang out together for whatever time we have (or until the kids come home).
6) Family business meeting: Set aside time to cover the business you have with each other. Conducting those conversations at one time instead of letting them bleed into all your conversations allows a focus on conversations you enjoy. A great conversation starter could be “What’s exciting you most right now?”
7) Connecting first: Whenever Meg or I want to connect — talk, cuddle or whatever — we make time for it right then, even if it’s brief or to at least say that’s what we want. Sending the clear message that your partner comes first goes a long way to relighting the fires of passion, and builds a solid foundation for everything else that comes along.
We’ve got probably a dozen other moves we’ve used to get back to being lovers instead of housemates. But what’s more exciting is hearing your favorites. What moves have you used to put the spark back into your long-term relationship? Let us know in the comments.
Tim Peek is a certified executive coach who advises leaders and their teams on using disruption, consciousness, strategy and even love to create their desired future. www.peekdisruption.com and www.conscious.is/who-we-are
Meg Dennison is a certified conscious leadership coach who has reinvented herself many times. She coaches busy women midpoint in their life or career to consciously create their next step based on genius and life goals. www.megdennison.com
Together, Meg and Tim write about how they turned around what had become a stale and uninspiring 28-year marriage to return to the passion and purpose to their lives. Motivated executives come to Meg and Tim for help reinvigorating their careers, companies and intimate relationships.
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Couples From ‘Commitment’
“Commitment,” by Morton I. Hamburg and Kashmir Hill is a follow-up book to Hamburg’s 2000 book, “Couples: The Meaning Of Commitment.”
Architect Evan Galen and retired advertising executive Steve Novick have been together for 37 years. While the New York couple is legally married in California, in “Commitment” Galen asked, “What does that piece of paper mean after 35 years?”
Arnold Scaasi, a fashion designer, and Parker Ladd, a retired publishing executive, have been together since 1962. “If you care about someone, you commit to them. If you don’t care, you don’t commit,” said Scaasi in “Commitment.”
Artists April Gornik and Eric Fischl met in 1976 at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. While Gornik was a student at the school and Fischl was a teacher, in “Commitment” he described her as “the most beautiful girl up there.”
Former accounting executive Don Aronson and television producer Joan Gelman got married in 1986 according to “Commitment.” “Commitment makes you a full person. It’s part of your identity,” said Aronson in the book.
Comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara met in an agent’s waiting room in 1953. The couple described their shared humor as what helped them triumph over obstacles, according to Hill in “Commitment.”
Singer Judy Collins and designer Louis Nelson got married in 1996 after 18 years together, according to “Commitment.” Of their relationship, Collins said, “When I met Louis, I realized ‘Oh this is how it’s meant to be.’ If you find the person who’s right for you, you’re supposed to get into it and enjoy it.”
Comedienne Joy Behar and former schoolteacher Steve Janowitz met in 1982 at a singles weekend in Woodstock, New York, according to “Commitment.” They dated for two decades before moving in together in 2001, and the couple got married in 2011.
Actor Bryan Batt and former actor Tom Cianfichi met while working on a production of “Evita” in 1989, although Bryan’s sexual orientation was a secret at the time, according to “Commitment.” “Tom was the first guy that, when I met him, I thought to myself, ‘Oh this is what it’s like. I can have love in my life,” said Batt in the book.
“Although you have your own beliefs, dreams and aspirations, you start looking at the two of you as one unit. You think of yourself as ‘us,'” said advertising executive Marty Greenhouse of his longtime marriage. Marty and his wife, Linda, have been married since 1973, wrote Hill in “Commitment.”
Actors Mandy Patinkin and Kathryn Grody met in 1978 while performing a show called “The Split” in Manhattan, according to “Commitment.” While Grody initially had a rule against dating actors, they still ended up together.
Actress Susie Essman and real estate developer Jim Harder met in 2003 and got married in 2008, wrote Hill in “Commitment.” In the book, Harder describes commitment as “covering each other’s back, being patient, working to understand each other.”