A new relationship has natural momentum: the chase, the uncertainty, the delicious unfolding of each stage of intimacy. Decades into your romance, however, when children are nearly grown and careers are pretty well defined, it can be difficult to maintain that same fresh, dynamic quality. Settling into a cozy groove isn’t all bad, but there are many good reasons to occasionally shake things up.
Unfortunately, it is easy to mistake boredom, lack of motion and momentum, for an “out of love” feeling. Women, especially, are prone to panic when they feel any emotional flatness creeping in. Wives sometimes conclude, wrongly, that their spouse “has fallen out of love” if he seems a little distant or has downshifted, temporarily, due to auto-pilot. Actually, the romance switch is often still there, just waiting for you to flip it.
Many years ago, I worked for an engineering consulting company. Along with sales I was responsible for project planning and delivery. At that time, the engineers were predominantly male; I was often the only woman in the room. Most days I felt like a hamster on a wheel; flying across the country to secure future projects, while simultaneously planning the ones already in queue. For me, the creation of a project plan was neither joyful nor exciting, just one more task in an endless to-do list.
My male colleagues had a completely different view of the planning process. For them, the act of collaborating on a roadmap was both exciting and energizing. They could look ahead to the future—project commencement! —and envision that THIS particular engagement was going to be a career highlight and their dream job. The challenges of budgeting, staffing, and accommodating the client’s daunting specifications fueled their anticipation. And their positive energy was contagious: I came to look forward to these planning sessions as much as anybody.
What did I learn from the experience?
- An emotionally healthy man craves newness and fresh possibilities. That feeling of anticipation is what makes him happy.
- It is nearly soul-crushing for a man NOT to have access to a flow of new opportunities and adventures.
- Problem-solving activities provide a safe zone for sharing difficult feelings. Guys who barely grunted during a regular work day would open up quite willingly during a planning session, sharing their hopes, dreams, and fears, with the team.
Tip: While creating a formal life plan might not be your thing, it can be a wonderful tool for bringing momentum back into a long-term relationship.
As a relationship coach, I’ve found that experience to be invaluable, and it’s still part of my toolkit for married clients.
If you want to reignite your husband’s passion—as odd as it may sound—initiating a short-term planning session is a wonderful first step.
To start, sketch out a simple 3-year life plan (pencil and paper only) that features fresh experiences, big and small. Include at least one trip that you’re sure he’d be excited about. Then ask for his help in completing the plan. If he’s very receptive, you might tape it up in your kitchen so you can each add to it as you think of new milestones.
Don’t force it. At first, your draft may just hang there, forlornly, waiting to be fleshed out. Give him time to digest the idea. The plan is there to pique curiosity and get the two of you conspiring.
To get your creative juices flowing, here are some milestones that my female clients included in their plans:
- Go camping
- Take the kids to Europe
- Go on a cruise without the kids
- Pay off my student loan
Here are goals that their spouses contributed:
- Contribute 5% more to college savings
- Go parasailing in Maui
- Grab lunch together once a month, during the work week
- Install a wet bar in the basement
So, if you’re missing the romance of the early days—those long walks, just the two of you, plotting good times ahead, don’t despair. Remember: the two of you are on the same team. You’re still his favorite partner-in-crime.
He just needs to know you’re up for a little adventure!