Like a shiny new car you just drove off the lot, the excitement of new marriage and the infatuation of new love almost always changes after the proverbial honeymoon period. That doesn’t mean it goes away; far from it. It’s just that as you begin to tackle some of your first challenges together as a couple and return to some sense of normalcy—or at least the “new normal – most couples inevitably trade novelty for the maturing of the relationship.”
It’s not a bad thing, and it is also inevitable. But in spite of the time you might now spend making grocery lists together, where before you were only concerned with making dinner reservations, there are ways you can continue to change the status quo in a positive way to keep the relationship fresh, alive and growing.
One of the most important is to talk about your dreams for the future. For a long time, marriage itself was the dream—and before that, the wedding, which can be an all-consuming period of excitement filled with dress designs, menus, guest lists and seating arrangements. Maybe before long you were dreaming of children, and you went through your first (or second or third) pregnancy together filled with anticipation and hopes for your children’s future.
Nonetheless, as couples and relationships mature, some people forget that those are in some ways “starter” goals, not the end of the line, lest you hit your 30s and 40s believing your biggest dreams are already behind you. If your relationship is going well and your children are happy and healthy, those are things to be extremely proud of. But it doesn’t stop there. Regularly taking time to explore and reveal your other hopes and dreams for the future can be a priceless bonding experience that reminds you the best may still be yet to come—together.
Otherwise, the risk is that one or both of you grow restless with the how things stand and take matters into your own hands. This could mean pursuing hobbies, friendships or even flirtatious relationships, maybe because you believe that admitting you feel bored and stuck will offend your partner. After all, the last thing you want to do is to make your spouse think that they are the reason for this restlessness, or that the relationship itself that’s become boring. The truth might be far from it.
Instead, take a risk and introduce to your partner what some call your “bucket list”—that list of audacious adventures you hope to conquer while you still can. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of visiting Africa, or writing a novel, or making plans to one day retire in another part of the country. Here’s the key: It’s nice if you have at least one goal you might pursue together, and unless you’ve married your personality-twin, that might require some brainstorming.
Even if your goals are separate, you can still experience embarking on adventures together. I knew a couple in which the husband always dreamed of hiking the Appalachian Trail. When his wife accepted a promotion requiring them to move, he was temporarily between jobs and decided to seize the opportunity. Over six months, as he undertook the challenging trek, he sent her pictures of the beautiful vistas every morning and told her stories of the people he met. Every few weeks, she got on a plane to meet him at spots along the trail so they could spend some time face-to-face and connect over his adventure. It was his dream—but she shared in it, encouraging him every step along the way.
Meanwhile, it’s not just the execution of the plan, but the time spent imagining it together that helps keep your relationship alive and exciting. You’ll be continuing to learn new things about each other, staying youthful with excitement for the future and keeping the relationship fresh….with future plans that will probably prove far more fulfilling than the time you spent opening all those crystal goblets, serving trays and salad spinners after you returned from your honeymoon.
So think beyond the routines and challenges of the everyday, have some fun and let your imagination run wild. It’s never too early or too late to dream big, together – and your relationship will benefit, too!
Your marriage was once your most important investment. We’d like to help you keep it that way. If you are considering couples counseling, let the counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County help you renew your connection. Call us today at (949) 430-7198 or book your appointment via our online calendar.