In Love…but not In Like?

So, it’s almost Valentine’s Day and marriage groups around the country are celebrating Marriage Week in anticipation of increased attention to relationships and love in the media. And, since I spend a good portion of my life both living out the realities of married love and working to educate our community about the value of marriage…I read. A lot. I have come across articles ranging from top 10 Valentine date night ideas to surviving infidelity. Without a doubt, writers are clamoring for a spotlight to share with cupid this week.

This got me thinking. I’m sure there are a strong majority of couples who are far from perfect, and yet not headed for divorce court. What about those of you teetering somewhere in the middle? What about individuals who aren’t searching for true love, but rather searching for help with stale love? Your Valentine might be two inches away from you snoring loudly, having fallen asleep in the midst of yet another vaguely unsatisfying discussion. You may know you are still in love, but are still experiencing something increasingly messy. Sound familiar? Then read on. This post might be for you!

Reading this weekend with mediocrity on my mind, I came across an article slightly different than the rest. Joanne Richard writes for the Canadian newspaper, The London Free Press and focused her thoughts and words on those of you who may have lost that lovin’ feeling, right smack in the middle of an otherwise, perfectly loving relationship.

Lost that lovin’ feeling?

Your marriage is a mess?
Don’t despair. “Research shows us we can learn to love our partners again after we think we’ve fallen out of love. And that couples that stick it out end up being happy in the long run,” says Dr. Scott Haltzman, clinical assistant professor at Brown University department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior.

But you have to put the work in. Sticking it out can be tough — especially when there’s often a lack of relationship skills to boost staying power.  And it doesn’t help that “marriage is injected with the hopes and aspirations promoted by Hollywood, and expectations are so high as to what marriage will bring — or what it will not bring, like arguments.”

He adds that people often view their marriages as failing when, in all probability, they are quite normal. “I mean, ‘Love is never having to say I’m sorry.’ ” Give me a break! I must say it once a week — on a good week.”

There’s hope for marriage. “There’s still a strong core of people who want to be married, and many very happy and healthy marriages.”  So take hope, adds Haltzman, author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men: Eight Ways to Win Your Wife’s Heart Forever, as well as The Secrets of Happily Married Women: How to get more out of your relationship by doing less.

If your relationship is taking a beating, maybe your expectations are too high. “People expect their partner to make them happy, but don’t do what’s needed to nurture their relationships themselves.”

Societal mobility and lack of support systems take their toll on marriages. As well, economics put another big stress on the relationship. “Many couples are eager to live lives with lots of goodies — from flat-screen TVs to new cars. But these things cost money, and the efforts to keep financially solvent requires a lot of time outside the home.”  And while pursing these goodies, there are consequences, including less time together because of long work hours, and “there’s no energy left at the end of the day for the relationship.”

You have to make your marriage a priority to make it work. According to Haltzman, the biggest relationship killer of all is resentment. “We have internal agendas of what we think we need in marriage, and when our partner fails to meet our needs, we often assume that is intentional on their part.”
Phooey! It’s highly likely that it is not their prime directive to make you miserable. “When resentment builds up, it turns to anger and love fades rapidly, replaced with contempt and pain,” says Haltzman.
He adds that the greatest gift you can give a partner is the gift of listening without judgment.