THERE IS NO such thing as a perfect marriage. “The key is to let go of minor issues and remember this is the person you love and cherish and come back to the relationship,” said Dr. Christina McKinley, family medicine at Lakeview Medical Center. Every couple is going to disagree from time to time and that is okay. “Try to discuss things calmly because nothing is going to get accomplished when you are angry or hurt,” said McKinley. Some struggles are just part of the life journey but there are solutions. “For financial strain you can work on the budget together and minimize expenditures. If you are spending too much time apart you can carve out time for the relationship each day. If you are spending too much time together you can leave time for individual growth. And if you are not each pulling your weight with day-to-day chores, assign tasks to share the burden and work as a team,” said McKinley.
When you hear the word spark, sexual attraction and desire may come to mind but they are really two separate entities with desire being more of a conscious choice. “If you are in a long-term monogamous relationship and only feel desire once every three months and are waiting until you are feeling desire, you are skipping out on a good sex life,” said Dr. Tiffany Anton, psychotherapist at New Orleans Sex Therapy. You can compare this to waiting to vacuum at home. “It is about having the conscious choice and changing your thinking so you prioritize intimacy,” said Anton. Intimacy should include both affectionate touch and erotic touch. “I want couples to do more hugging, kissing and handholding so they strengthen the affectionate touch, because when touch is equated to sex, women can become touch avoidant which is toxic in the marriage,” said Anton. The goal is to be touch responsive.
To maintain the spark you want to focus on emotional and physical pleasure. Everyone has their own love language and it is important to figure out what yours is. If sexual issues arise over time, they do not have to be permanent. “Women should have a gynecologist who takes their concerns seriously and men with erectile dysfunction should have a urologist that looks to see if anything is anatomically wrong and then does a hormone panel,” said Anton. If your hormones are on the lower end, there are things that can be done to get your numbers stabilized. This is especially critical for menopausal and postmenopausal women.
Take time to share fresh experiences and create memories on a regular basis to keep your relationship fun. “In order to have a good sex life you have to actually enjoy the partner you are with, so the more emotionally connected you feel the more open you will be to sharing your body,” said Anton. You want to trust your partner so you can feel vulnerable. “Have regular, healthy communication and date nights where you stay away from discussing kids, household tasks or work,” said Anton. Make compromises when you can. “Some of your time on dates should be adventurous. During the first two years of your relationship, you feel attracted and interested in the person. This is influenced by the neurotransmitter dopamine, which increases oxytocin. That leads to feelings of bonding and increased libido,” said Anton. This means you do not really know your true libido until after two years. “Doing something adventurous will increase your adrenaline and dopamine which will help mimic how you felt in the beginning of your relationship,” said Anton.
Remember that you and your partner are equals. “We are in a society where we really need to open up to the multitude of emotions that we have and we can even have opposing emotions at the same time,” said Anton. Consider the amount of energy you may put into your job and add just a little bit of that into your relationship with your spouse. You will be amazed to see how easy it is to reinforce one another’s love language and how healthy and connected you can be