There’s a moment in every marriage when the relationship shifts from Phase I, where everything your partner says is oh-so-witty and even his breathing fascinates you, to Phase II, where the love, although deeper and fuller, feels a little less “hot.”
Maybe it happened overnight after a single, unfortunate event (the night he got drunk at your office Christmas party and told everyone you’ve been wearing Depends for the last five years) or gradually, from years of tiny irritations (must he clip his toenails at the dining table??) that have built up into a lengthy list of Things You Do That Piss Me Off.
But Phase I, while exhilarating and exciting, is not practical over the long haul. Fueled by 24-hour-a-day endorphins (often accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol), Phase I is suspended reality. Long nights of endless gazing at each other like besotted teenagers who’ve recently discovered sex eventually gives way to jobs, bills, friends, and family obligations. A too-lengthy Phase I would inevitably find us living in our cars, unemployed, and friendless on Facebook.
But with the passing of Phase I, new, less positive feelings can emerge. Previously cute quirks often now start to become annoying. That joke he tells at every single party just isn’t funny anymore. His once-comforting snoring now sounds like a bullhorn, and you haven’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks. And if he doesn’t stop drinking the milk directly out of the damn carton, you’re going to knock out a wall and install your own refrigerator. Suddenly, “till death to us part” seems like a long ways away.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to remember how we ended up married in the first place. Assuming this union wasn’t prearranged by your elders, a marriage of convenience, or a business merger, experts offer a few tips to help keep the passion alive.
1. Once a week or two, spend one evening together without discussing whose purchase overdrew the checking account, how long your mother intends to stay when she comes out next spring, or whether or not it’s time for Johnny Junior to start posting his own bail. Movies, travel, books, hobbies. Dating stuff. FYI, this is harder than it sounds.
2. If you fight, try to keep it from escalating into an all out street brawl, where things get blurted out that can’t be unsaid. “Yes, I did sleep with your best friend, but it was only because you were going through that freaky male menopause thing and you couldn’t get it up” is not helpful if you were originally arguing over why he didn’t take the dog to the groomers.
3. Pick your battles. It’s not necessary to point out every single thing he does that annoys you, every single time. (“Must you leave your wet towel on the floor every. friggin’. day?” “Seriously?? You forgot to get bread again?”) Little bitches, if repeated often enough, can make you seem like a big one.
4. Ask for what you want. It’s been scientifically established that men don’t get “hints,” no matter how obvious we think we’re being. (“I dragged you past that necklace in the window eight times, and you bought me a blender??”). It’s the same for household chores. Want him to fold that pile of laundry you dumped right next to him on the couch? Ask. Preferably without sarcasm or eye-rolling.
5. If you forgive, forget. Forgiveness of another’s transgressions doesn’t mean “I’ll let you off the hook for drunk flirting with the hot new neighbor at the 4th of July block party, but I reserve the right to revisit this grievance whenever I’m pissed off or hurt by another stupid thing you did.” This is not “forgiving.” It’s stockpiling another grenade in your marital Waco arsenal to be used whenever you want to really nail his ass.
6. Every once in a while, be the woman he fell in love with. The one who adored him, who laughed at all of his jokes and bragged about him to her girlfriends. Many of us can instantly verbalize our partner’s top 20 faults, but are inexplicably tongue-tied when asked to come up with his 5 best qualities. Ouch.
7. Stop trying to change or improve him. When we get married, we profess to love someone “just the way they are,” but then launch a Def-Con 10 makeover the day after we say “I do.” He needs to quit smoking, join a gym, sell his Harley, and stop wearing those ridiculous fraternity t-shirts. Maybe so. But imagine your reaction if he rolled over the morning after the wedding and said “You know, babe, it’d sure be great if you could knock off a few pounds.”
8. Strike while the iron’s hot. Too often, with so many other tasks clamoring for another chunk of our day, we wait for “the perfect moment” to have sex, to connect and be together. Perfection is not only overrated, it’s rare. If the mood hits you and you two aren’t alone? Stuff the dogs in the bathroom, send any offspring with a driver’s license to the store, and plop the wee ones in front of the big-screen TV for the 300th viewing of Frozen. They’ll still go to college someday. Spontaneous play is important for big people, too.
One evening, as Hubs and I were driving home from a restaurant, I commented (okay, whined) that he didn’t seem to be paying much attention to me lately. As we pulled into the driveway and got out of the car, Hubs’ Chihuahua, Chi Chi, tore out of the house, yapping and twirling, tail wagging and body shaking with uninhibited, eager delight to see him, until finally she air-Jordaned over the porch into his arms, proceeding to enthusiastically lick his face like he’d been gone for months instead of hours.
Hubs looked over at me and grinned, “When you start greeting me at the door like this, I promise you’ll have my full attention.”
10-lb dog. 120-lb human missile. It won’t be quite the same, but I’m willing to give it a try.