A common question we are asked surrounds intimacy and how to “keep the fire raging” after years in a relationship. Let us first start by saying our suggestions aren’t universal and every individual and couple is different. First, lets breakdown what occurs chemically within the brain/body when we have those first “getting to know each other’ butterfly feelings.
When people fall in love the body will release a plethora of endorphins, the body’s natural morphine and this accounts for some of those pleasurable feelings of being “in love’. The endorphins produced give almost a heroin like high! This stage is often referred to as New Relationship Energy (NRE). The drug like feeling that excitement is the prevailing emotion and every feeling is better than the last! Before getting too carried, realize this is part of our human biology. It is there to insure we continue to reproduce as species. So…while you are hanging on to that next text, email or “yes, no, or maybe” response (did we just age ourselves??) remember that our sexual energy is raging and not always rational.
This stage can be the most trying stage. The endorphins are still productive and jamming away but instead of just going wild at every opportunity they choose to wait until the time is “right”. Which, at this point, can become less common. This can be steady and productive or scary and disconcerting… much like the feeling after last call when all the lights in the club illuminate whatever dim light dream you were dancing with looked unrecognizable thanks to Thomas Edison (or Nikolai Tesla whichever side you choose). This is the point where blind infatuation is met with real life responsibilities and action and keeping it sexy could go from “Netflix and Chill” to “New Kids and Bills”. That OMG feeling can go hurriedly by the wayside when the relationship becomes more familiar. Getting to know the person, and discussions of old relationships as well as exhibiting behavior that is a result of past pain and hurt from prior relationships or childhood can become more difficult to conceal. We are no longer on our best behavior.
This stage can be a tad more complex to explain because it involves the hope and dreams of most when entering a relationship but can be a little more subdued when compared to initial stages. We typically teach couples that this is the stage where you usually see what you are and what you have in your relationship. This is when you discover if you are accepting of your partners limitations and imperfections and your partner generally discovers if they are accepting of you as well. Your disagreement can be more detailed and the recovery after intense discussions can be both numbing and lonely or infuriating at times.
As a couple, we are big fans of this stage. This is game time as we like to call it, presenting couples with every opportunity to truly build the relationship they feel they deserve. The highs of the OMG NRE stage is still available but now they are with a familiar person that you know well and hopefully trust without exception. The trust piece is the most important. If relational trust has been damaged or has been lacking the couples approach to communication will reflect the same. Trust is a one-way race and can involve many spectators. Damaged trust equals dissolving intimacy which directly effects your level of relationship satisfaction. We have all heard the phrase, “the grass is not always greener on the other side”. The problem with that philosophy in a long-term relationship is this; If you stop watering your own grass that statement will hardly hold true for you and your partner for very long.
When meeting someone new and those endorphins are flowing, it can seem easier for us to throw caution to the wind, try something new, workout, explore experiences, and communicate at great lengths with that new person. Notice we say it can seem that way, not that it is truly. Over time, we can place our relationship struggles into a box of sorts mixed with things like childhood issues and past relationship disappointments. This can be a large mix of things we choose not forgive that we inadvertently hold against our new partners. STOP IT. That’s a choice and always will be regardless of what we try and convince ourselves. Discussing and being open about past hurts is instrumental in the recovery process but be careful not to hold your partner responsible for things they had no part in.
Go back and read old love letters, pictures, and Facebook posts. Rediscover old hang outs and routines that were part of the first stages of your relationship and revisit them with HUGE energy. Create new memories and experiences. Role play meeting again as your homework.
Take notes and send us a summary! We may just send back our own version!
With degrees in Psychology, Clinical Mental Health, and over 25 years of direct care clinical experience as psychotherapists. Charlie and Arienne are true clinical professionals with a passion for life and each other that’s only equally matched by their humorous, lighthearted demeanor and wit. As keynote speakers they are an entertaining and informative twosome who are as comfortable on...