Relationship Therapy is a column from relationship expert, Andrea Syrtash.
Remember when everything your husband did was adorable and awesome? How you would lose track of all time and space because it was so exciting to just be together? The days when you had marathon make-out sessions and didn’t even care if you were exhausted the next morning because you had so. much. fun?
When I was falling in love with my husband, everything was romantic. I remember having classic movie moments with him, like the time my flip-flops broke and it was pouring rain and he boosted me over his shoulder and we ran back to my apartment laughing hysterically. (Now, if that happened, we’d both be totally annoyed that we were soaked and didn’t bring an umbrella.)
There’s a difference between falling in love and being in love; and too often, I speak with couples who worry they’ve lost that loving feeling and don’t realize that it’s not necessarily them — it’s that their brains have changed. Literally.
I call romantic love ‘ro-manic’ love because we’re all a little crazy when we fall in love. The brains of people falling in love follow the same patterns as those who are high on cocaine or who have obsessive compulsive disorder. Everything is heightened and our brains are occupied with non-stop thoughts about our paramours.
Things even taste better.
When my husband and I were falling in love, we had the most amazing pizza slice in New York City. It was so incredible that I dreamed about it when I moved back to Toronto and talked about it to others visiting the city. I was so passionate about this pizza, I even tried to figure out the magic ingredient.
A year later, we moved to New York and visited this pizza shop almost immediately. We took a huge bite into the pizza and it was…positively mediocre. We asked if the recipe had changed or if the management was different. It turned out that nothing changed with the pizza — our brains had changed.
On average, after about 1-3 years with someone, your brain will look different than it did when you first fell in love with your partner. It will settle into a more stable and predictable state called ‘attachment’. This stage of love is comforting and great; but now that the rose-colored glasses are off (and there might be kids in the picture), things are not always as exciting as they used to be.
So – what do we do with this information? Do we resolve ourselves to a life of blahs? I hope not! I wrote, Cheat On Your Husband (With Your Husband) because I realized a number of us are more interested in renewing our relationships than ‘rescuing’ them. Things are working with our partners; we just want some of that excitement again, which is especially hard to come by when most of your time together is spent dealing with your children.
The quickest way to jumpstart the old exciting feelings of love in your brain is by introducing novel activities and experiences to enjoy with your partner. When you have new experiences with him, your brain actually associates the newness with your partner. (One reason travel sex is often so good.)
So – find something novel that you can do together this month. Something after the kids are in bed or by some miracle, while they are occupied with something else. It can be as simple as cooking a new, slightly intricate, recipe together or learning a language together online.
The point is to light up our brains with that loving feeling again, and nothing does that like a little novelty.