You’ve heard it said that familiarity breeds contempt. Taken literally, that means the better you know someone, the more contempt you’ll feel for that person. I dunno. I know my husband really, really well and I’m not contemptuous of him at all. I think, however, that in a relationship, familiarity can breed boredom and laziness.
Nobody knows for sure what causes the first spark of attraction to fly. What we do know is that once the spark flies, your brain goes into overdrive. It oozes a hormone cocktail that has the same affect as cocaine. Really. That’s why new love is so seductively intoxicating, why you can’t think of anything else, and the air is alive with the snap, crackle ‘n pop of sexual energy. You’re quite literally high on your own hormones. It’s the best feeling ever. We never want it to end.
We like that feeling so much that we’re afraid it’ll slip through our fingers. So, we do everything within our power to “secure” the relationship and in so doing unwittingly destroy the very thing we hope to capture forever. Here’s why:
Dating and falling in love is a phase in the continuum of a long-term relationship that has exactly the opposite attributes of a marriage. What we love (and crave) about that phase is the adrenalin rush, the excitement, the spontaneity, the edginess of being vulnerable and emotionally at risk, the mind-blowing desire for the object of our obsession. What we want in marriage is safety, security, predictability and routine. Do you see the problem?
Sure, you read somewhere that it’s a good idea for married folk to have date night as a way to keep the sparks flying. So, you have an occasional (or regular) night out. You do your best to tune out distractions, focus on each other, and spend quality time before returning to reality. That’s a good thing—well, at least it’s better than nothing. But here’s the deal: you can go on 50, 500 or even 5,000 “great dates” that include everything from an intimate home picnic to a Paris junket and still be left wondering what happened to that indescribably delicious feeling you had back when you were 24/7 dating. So let’s not confuse an intermittent dinner-and-movie date night with “dating.” Dating isn’t a thing you do from time to time. Dating is a mindset coupled with behavior.
When you were dating you were eager to impress and to please. You put your best foot forward. You were generous, attentive, and quickly stepped up to any plate. Of course you did, you were doing your best to win the heart of your beloved. Once you won that heart, sealed the deal with a ring, and were secure in the relationship, what happened? You stopped putting your best foot forward so that your less attractive attributes showed up. You weren’t quite as eager to please or impress. You got lazy and complacent.
If you want to keep the spark alive, then adopt a dating mindset. Treat your spouse the same as you did when you weren’t so sure that he or she was part of your happily ever after. Be eager to please and impress. Be attentive, generous and quick to step up to the plate. If you don’t, then the end of your story may be just the opposite of what you hoped back when you were falling in love. Oh, and while you’re at it, as the married-you, be just as creative in the romance department as you were when you were the dating-you!