Q. I want to spice up my relationship with my partner. We’re not affectionate or sexual the way we used to be in the beginning. I feel like the “spark”is gone. Can you help me?
A. There are many reasons why things may have changed and many possible solutions. Firstly, as we know, relationships usually do not remain the way they were in the beginning. Life intervenes. Things change. The chemical/hormonal rush diminishes over time.
As the “falling in love” stage diminishes, the issue of mature love comes into play. That takes work, attention, energy, motivation, and communication. It’s usually easy to be affectionate in the beginning. Later on, we need to make deliberate and conscious efforts to be giving and loving when at times we may feel that we have other priorities. That is the nature of the word “sacrifice.” This may sound like work and in a sense it is.
Healthy relationships require work. So we need to be deliberately aware of and attentive to our own and our partner’s needs, which usually include, among other things, physical affection and sexual intimacy. For many, many couples the so called “spark” diminishes over time and sometimes disappears altogether.
Consider letting go of seeking to find or reignite that “spark” and open yourself up to seeking a higher level of and perhaps a a different level of intimacy than you have experienced before. Perhaps you’re not as affectionate as you used to be in part because you’re losing “touch” or connection with each other. How often do you talk about what’s important to each of you and what’s going on in your lives? Are you staying in touch with each other’s feelings and needs on a regular basis? Do you feel that you both often know what’s going on behind the eyes of the other?
You’re a team and you need to see yourselves not only as individuals but also as a team that works together for both of your highest goods. Your relationship is a gift if you view it as such, and a vehicle for greater joy and meaning for both of you. On a spiritual level, be open to the notion that relationships can hasten our own walk to God, to Spirit, to Truth.
Indeed, it has been said that this is why relationships exist. Sharing your experience with your partner in a kind and loving way is where you start. But you can’t communicate your feelings and needs if you don’t know what they are. The first step is, therefore to get in touch with what you’re feeling and what feels like it’s missing for you.
When you mention spicing up your relationship, I wonder if you are seeking more physical affection, sexual playfulness and excitement. If so, this requires (again) good communication. Have you and your partner ever really talked candidly with each other about what turns each of you on sexually and what you like — or don’t like — sexually and also in the ways of affection and connection? How much detail have you gone into?
There’s a book called “The Five Languages of Love” by Gary Chapman which describes how different individuals place value on different sorts of things as demonstrations of love. It is true that some of us place more value on “quality time” together, however defined, physical touch, or emotional intimacy, i.e. talking about feelings. Others place more emphasis on gift-giving, or on sexual intimacy, etc.
It’s important to ask, to learn, and to be mindful of what your partner considers to be important as expressions of love just as he or she should do the same with regard to your wants and needs. In this way, you can both be conscious and deliberate about giving the other not what you may want or need but what your partner wants or needs — which may or may not be the same thing. This is an act of compassion, of devotion and of love. Just as giving your wife a power tool for her birthday may not make her happy (unless she does carpentry work, etc.) or giving your husband a scented bath oil may not do the trick (unless he loves baths), so we need to be conscious of giving what matters to him or her — not what we would want.
Many who complain that the “spark is gone” in their marriage or partnership complain of a lack of, or a lessening of sexual intimacy in the relationship. Even where there is tremendous love and caring in a relationship, the subject of sexuality is often still very awkward, uncomfortable, and taboo for so many couples. Instead of talking about it, many experience themselves “doing” their sexuality in the same ways they’re accustomed to, without ever really checking out if it’s meeting each partner’s needs.
In my years of experience working with so many couples, very, very few are comfortable with actually talking openly about their sexual relationship. When it comes down to sharing what things are “turn-ons”for them, it’s almost like we’re living in the Victorian era. There’s apparently still a lot of shame associated with revealing sexual thoughts, feelings, and ones sexual past; candid talks about sexual fulfillment and eroticism are still far too rare between couples. Yet it’s so very important that couples do discuss their sexual needs, desires, thoughts and feelings.
Thomas Moore has said that sexuality and spirituality are flip sides of the same coin: when one side is blocked, the other side is directly affected. This is very insightful, because our sexuality is a very deep and core part of our human selves and of our souls.
Perhaps a good way to start this dialogue, if it is awkward, is to talk about the awkwardness, the sense of discomfort or shame, simply as a starting point. We each need to confront our own shame or discomfort and work through it in order to be able to communicate openly with our partners. And our partners are the best persons to do such sharing with (in addition to ones counselor, coach or therapist) because it leads to increased emotional and, of course, sexual intimacy.
Start where you are, but have as a mutual goal revealing more of your sexual needs and desires, thoughts, experiences, and preferences. Do it in baby steps if necessary. Plan a “date night” to not only have dinner but also to share these topics with your partner. Be courageous and open up that compartment in your brains that, for so many, has remained locked and separate from all that is shared. It is my hope that, by doing so, you will feel closer with your mate, more loved and loving, and more joyful.