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5 Tips for Preventing Marriage Burnout

Unrealistic ideas of "happily ever after" can ruin a good relationship.

Have you ever fallen in love with someone at first sight – maybe your eyes locked, a tingle went down your spine, and you somehow “knew” that this person was going to be “The One”? Sometimes only one partner in a couple “knows” that there is something there before the other even recognizes that their fates might be linked together.

On the other hand, it might be a case of mutual attraction and the sparks that fly when the couple first meets can turn into a “3-alarm fire” before the evening ends. Other couples might simply realize that their platonic friendship has grown deeper and the desire to transform the relationship into sometime more romantic arises. For other monogamous couples, it may just be the fear of being single or not ever experiencing commitment or marriage that cements their bond.

Happily Ever After is not an Easy Deliverable

Unfortunately, regardless of how hot the relationship felt early on, white-hot romance will burn out and turn to ashes unless a couple continues to fuel their relationship.No matter how much passion was generated by the relationship as the couple grew more intimate and committed early on, the long haul of marriage can transport a couple far from their romantic beginnings or fantasized “happily ever after.”

Two Relationship Facts to Remember

There are a couple of important things to remember about marriage when the honeymoon phase ends and the real world crashes into the idyllic fantasy. First, remember that time will take its toll and the relationship will probably get worse in some ways, but also remember that over time, it's also going to get better -- if you're willing to put in the effort.

5 Tips to Help you Prevent "Marriage Burn-Out"

  1. Explore ways to offer your partner “gifts of service” on an everyday basis. This might involve waking up first and getting the coffee or tea brewing so that it’s ready when your partner rolls out of bed. It may involve taking responsibility for making the bed every morning without asking for or expecting your partner to pitch in. If you have pets, perhaps you might take on the morning feeding/walking duties. Choose something that you won’t feel the need to boast about doing, either. When a “gift” has the “string” of expected praise attached to it, the gift loses value rather quickly!
  2. Couples are encouraged to develop practices, or rituals, that become a reliable narrative in the story of their relationship. These practices provide a sense of stability and permanency to relationships and this provides a strong framework from which the relationship can function. Rituals are beneficial components of healthy relationships and each couple or family can develop their own unique family rituals. These might include sharing a cup of coffee every morning – at the breakfast table or standing in the kitchen, location is not important, the activity’s predictability is more important than its substance.Some couples develop rituals of shared meal preparation, household chores, pet or childcare, etc. The value of these simple activities arises from the sense of connection and stability that a ritual provides, so each couple can create and enact the ritual behaviors that make the most sense for their own relationship.
  3. Another way to encourage relationship longevity is to find a way to amuse or entertain your partner each day. You don’t have to be a stand-up comic or be a violin virtuoso; you just need to understand your partner’s sense of humor and share stories, memes, jokes that will appeal to your partner. This also implies that you won’t intentionally annoy your partner by trying to “force” your partner to laugh at the same things that you might find funny. If your partner prefers videos of cats in ridiculously captured escapades to slapstick or scatologically amusing images, be sensitive to his preferences. Avoid trying to get a rise out of your partner for shock value. Even if you know every line from Wayne’s World or every Family Guy episode by heart doesn’t mean that your partner is amused when you recite them.
  4. Tell each other what you appreciate most about the other at least every week or two and tell your partner how much love you feel for her each day – more than once, if you can! This not only reinforces your commitment to your partner, it also reinforces your commitment for yourself. The human brains seem programmed to become stuck on the negative events or comments we hear; one researcher suggested that it takes 5 “positive strokes” to undo the damage of a single “negative strike.” Although mathematical equations don’t always necessarily factor into relationship quality or equity, it can’t hurt to remind both you and your partner of the love and appreciation you feel – especially when you’re experiencing frustration or disappointment in the relationship or your partner.
  5. While communication is the key to healthy relationships, there are ways to communicate with your partner when there is little time for face-to-face discussions. One useful behavior involves “surprise texts” or Instagram or Snapchat messages. By sending upbeat, pro-relationship messages or “inside joke” texts, you are strengthening the bonds as well as shoring up your “couple identity.”

Relationship Math: 1 + 1 = 3

It’s important to believe that you and your partner are more than two separate individuals and that your relationship has blossomed into a shared, couple's identity. This does not imply that you “lose yourself” in the relationship, but that you and your partner have created a shared identity that co-exists along with your separate individual identities.

Although splitting up or divorcing takes a lot more paperwork and effort than picking up a marriage license and tying the knot, keeping the relationship strong can be demanding work, as well.

Marriage is about commitment and it requires both parties to recite their vows and promises aloud.

Marriage is serious business that involves a lot more than just a U-Haul and a dozen cardboard boxes.

Vows are Promises that Involve Commitment for the Duration

The mere fact that marriage involves a legal procedure provides a clue that it is not necessarily going to offer “peak awesomeness” 24/7! The word “vow” finds its origin in an Anglo-French/Old French word that means to pledge or promise solemnly or to bind oneself. Solemn promises usually connote that there will be some work involved in the honoring of the promise or in delivering on the promise. Might as well accept that nothing good comes easy and focus on doing what you can to ensure that your primary relationship is strong enough to weather the inevitable challenges that even healthy relationships will face.

More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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