Dear therapist, My husband and I have been together for 7 years and while we have some fights and bicker, I feel like we are in a healthy relationship. I have a couple of friends who are still single, and when I see them dating new guys they are in that stage where everything is exciting and they can’t keep their hands off each other. I still have a deep love for my husband, but sometimes it makes me feel sad that we’ve lost that spark. At moments it almost feels like we're more friends or in a partnership vs being lovers. Why do honeymoon phases come to an end? Is this normal or do some couples always have that “spark”?
Frame therapist Shiva Howell weighs in...
It is safe to say that anyone who has been in a long-term relationship has felt this way at some point. My favorite psychotherapist, Esther Perel, does an incredible job of normalizing this experience in her book Mating in Captivity, which I highly recommend. In marriage, we hope for security, predictability, closeness, friendship, and so much more. However, we still experience this very basic need for adventure, desire, risk, mystery, and novelty. But how does one desire what they already have? To long for someone, there needs to be some degree of distance...yet distance is rarely found in marriage. The honeymoon stage may feel like it's over, but that doesn't mean it can't be reinvented. Here are some things to remind yourself:
4 Ways to Reignite the Spark in Your Relationship
- Relationships need to be nurtured. It is natural to have periods where you feel disengaged from your partner, times when the disagreements are endless, and days where you just miss your “old life.” These feelings don't mean there is anything wrong with you or your partner. Instead, these feelings can be used to prompt you to make some healthy changes in your marriage.
- Try to stay connected to who you each were before you were married. A healthy relationship requires us to be connected with our partners, while also staying connected to ourselves. Continue to see your friends, find ways to experience autonomy, and hold on to your identity. Continue to do things that make you feel good. You will only turn yourself off if you’re feeling undeserving of love.
- If you think you have already learned all there is to know about your partner, you will inevitably be uninterested. As humans, we are continuously changing and the man you married seven years ago is not the same man you have now. Continue to “date” your partner and be curious. Experience your partner as you would if it were the first time meeting him. Witness how your partner behaves when he is doing something he is passionate about, like playing a sport. You may want to visit him at work and notice how others experience him. See your partner from a new perspective, even if that means you have to make some shifts.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. If you feel like you need support in your marriage, see a therapist before resentment turns into contempt. Teach your partner how you want to be loved; don’t assume they already know.
In the end, remind yourself why you wanted to settle down in the first place. Ask yourself what you value about your relationship. Accept that there are unavoidable losses by not being single, but what do you gain? Be happy for your friends who are still dating because they are most likely just trying to find the security you experience with your husband.
About the therapist: Shiva Howell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Art Therapist working in the Los Angeles area. She specializes in working with individuals and couples dealing with a variety of challenges including infidelity, life transitions, trauma, and intimacy concerns. Learn more about Shiva by visiting her Frame profile.
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