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January 19, 2017

What Real Love Looks Like (for both husbands and wives)



Question: Dr. Dobson, my wife and I love each other very much, but we're going through a time of apathy. We just don't feel close to each other. Is this normal, and is there a way to bring back the fire?

Answer: This happens sooner or later in every marriage. A man and woman just seem to lose the wind in their romantic sails for a period of time.

Their plight reminds me of seamen back in the days of wooden vessels. Sailors in that era had much to fear, including pirates, storms, and diseases. But their greatest fear was that the ship might encounter the Doldrums. The Doldrums was an area of the ocean near the equator characterized by calm and very light shifting winds. It could mean certain death for the entire crew. The ship's food and water supply would be exhausted as they drifted for days, or even weeks, waiting for a breeze to put them back on course.

Well, marriages that were once exciting and loving can also get caught in the ro-mantic doldrums, causing a slow and painful death to the relationship. Author Doug Fields, in his book Creative Romance, writes, "Dating and romancing your spouse can change those patterns, and it can be a lot of fun. There's no quick fix to a stagnant marriage, of course, but you can lay aside the excuses and begin to date your sweetheart." 155 In fact, you might want to try thinking like a teenager again. Let me explain.

Recall for a moment the craziness of your dating days—the coy attitudes, theflirting, the fantasies, the chasing after the prize. As we moved from courtship into marriage, most of us felt we should grow up and leave the game playing behind. But we may not have matured as much as we'd like to think.

In some ways, our romantic relationships will always bear some characteristicsof adolescent sexuality. Adults still love the thrill of the chase, the lure of the unattainable, excitement of the new and boredom with the old. Immature impulses are controlled and minimized in a committed relationship, of course, but they never fully disappear.

This could help you keep vitality in your marriage. When things have grownstale between you and your spouse, maybe you should remember some old tricks. How about breakfast in bed? A kiss in the rain? Or rereading those old love letters together? A night in a nearby hotel? Roasting marshmallows by an open fire? A phone call in the middle of the day? A long-stem red rose and a love note? There are dozens of ways to fill the sails with wind once more.

If it all sounds a little immature to act like a teenager again, just keep this inmind: In the best marriages, the chase is never really over.

Question: Dr. Dobson, tell me why it is inevitable for couples with good marriages to go through "flat spots" or "the blahs," and can you offer more adviceabout what to do when those times come?

Answer: Romantic love is an emotion, and as such, it has a way of coming and going.Emotions tend to oscillate from high to low to high, etc. One of the best ways toregenerate "that lovin' feeling" in the down times is to talk about the time and place when passion ran high. Do you recall those days when you just couldn't wait to see each other, and how each minute away seemed like an eternity? Re-calling those moments together is one way to regenerate what you felt before.

Even better than talking about them is re-experiencing them. My wife and I celebrated a recent wedding anniversary by exploring what we called our "old haunts." On a single evening, we went to the Pasadena Playhouse, where we had our second date; we ate at the same restaurant for dinner, and the next week we visited the Farmer's Market where we used to stroll on lazy summer evenings. We talked about warm memories and relived the excitement of those days. It was a wonderful reprise.

Another suggestion is to return regularly to the kinds of romantic activities that drew you together in the first place. You need to put some fun and laughter into your lives, which otherwise can get dreary and oppressive.

A few years ago, Shirley and I found ourselves in that kind of situation where we had almost forgotten how to play. We finally got fed up and decided to do something about it. We loaded the car and headed for a winter wonderland in Mammoth, California. There we spent the weekend skiing and eating and laughing together. One night we built a fire in the fireplace and talked for hours while our favorite music played on the stereo. We felt like kids again.

The next time you feel that you're losing that closeness you once shared, try talking about your memories of earlier days and revisit the old haunts, sing the old songs, tell the old stories. It's the best bet to rekindle the sparks of romance that first drew you together. To keep a marriage vibrant and healthy, you simply have to give it some attention. Water the plant, place it in the sunlight, and it will grow. If you put it in a cold dark corner, however, it is likely to die.

With a little effort and creativity, you can keep the fireworks in your marriage . . . even when the Fourth of July has come and gone.

From Dr. Dobson’s resource Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide

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