That romance often fades in a relationship is not new information. However, the fact that we continue to crave romance in long term relationships is one of the big reasons for infidelity. Often, one seeks from outside what one is not getting in the relationship. But how do those who crave romance and are keen to remain loyal to their partner get what they are seeking, especially if their partner is non-responsive to their efforts, or is not in the same place as them?
45 year-old P, has been married for 22 years. Her husband was her senior in college. They fell in love when they ended up working together in the same firm two years after P graduated. Within a year, they were married. P says that the early years of their marriage was pure bliss. Making a home together from scratch was something both of them enjoyed. Three years after that came two children, and both P and her husband became very involved parents. Careers were going strong for both of them, too. P calls the two decades after her marriage the golden years of her life.
For the last two years though, things have been a little different – it is in this time that P says she started feeling the lack of romance in their marriage. She clearly remembers the day it started as well. They were on a family holiday in Thailand, one evening P was looking forward to spending some quality time with her husband. The kids had other plans and P had booked a table for her husband and herself at the seaside bar. At first her husband was reluctant to step out of the room, he didn’t want to change out of his shorts. When P said that it was a casual place and he could come as he wishes, the husband said he was too tired and wanted to just watch some television and sleep. P did not think much of it then – she did feel bad, but at that time it seemed right to be an “understanding” partner.
Things only got worse since then. Their sex life is almost non-existent. Even after P directly expressed her desire for occasional sex, P’s husband would make some excuse or the other. Her husband has also stopped noticing and acknowledging any changes in P’s appearance. Their anniversary celebrations seem transactional to her, as he will buy her some thoughtless gift. P says that it seems like he only sees her as someone who is sharing life’s responsibilities with – bringing up children, managing finances, parents’ health etc. P feels that to her husband she’s no longer the woman he loves and the romance in their relationship is over.
P’s first instinct was to check his phone to see if her husband was having an affair. He wasn’t. She then had honest conversations with him about how she feels. P’s husband heard her out. He agreed to make an effort for her sake – they went out alone a couple of times. Her husband even complimented her on a few occasions either on how she was looking or for something that she’d cooked. Unfortunately however, all of this lasted only a month. P says she has made every effort she can possibly think of. She’s had honest conversations, tried to dress suggestively to seduce her husband, tried to have romantic evenings alone with him at home since her husband does not like to go out anymore and even tried the silent treatment. With each effort, things changed but only temporarily. P is frustrated as her husband’s reactions all seem fake to her – it is as if she is forcing him to do this at gunpoint.
P’s come to me to break this deadlock and to determine what she needs to do. She is also exhausted by the efforts she has made so far to re-ignite romance in her relationship. She is unhappy, yet P is clear that she wants to stay in this marriage. I had even asked her what about her husband makes her still want to be with him. Love, familiarity, common interests and meaningful conversations, P says.
It’s great that she is able to still enjoy conversations with her husband and has common interests that she shares with him. I suggested that she concentrate on these two aspects of their relationship. Plan activities around their common interests and have conversations by design rather than wait for them to happen naturally. Making too much of an effort on all fronts might have resulted in P’s husband feeling pressured and because of that pressure perhaps he was unable to be his authentic self. Doing something together based on common interests will ease off the pressure on both. Having meaningful conversations, even if they are by design will definitely add to the good times that they spend together. That’s when romance can grow again. Romance can’t be forced; romance grows when you are having a good time together, where the atmosphere is lighthearted and positive.
There is a lot that could affect romance in a marriage that crosses a certain threshold of time (22 years for P). For example, either of the partners could be facing pressure at work, have medical issues or even depression. Such issues need to be understood, accommodated for and/or be treated. If you are seeking romance in your relationship and have made all efforts like P has, and you know that both you and your partner want to be in this relationship, then start from that one thing that you still enjoy doing together. Do it as often as you can. Build on that. It will surely take you a step forward in your endeavour to revive romance in your relationship
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached on email@example.com