In her latest film, Hope Springs, Meryl Streep plays Kay, a wife who desperately wants to reignite the intimacy of earlier years with her husband, Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones.) Lots about this movie rings true, and there are many great lessons real-life spouses can take away from the film. Here are five of them.
It’s okay to want more out of your love life–even after decades of marriage. There’s no shame in admitting that things may have gotten a bit stale and stuck. The first step is for you to get clear about what you want from your partner, what you expect from your marriage, and what’s important to you–your key life values. That’s the starting place before you take the next step.
Share your expectations:
Make a date to talk to your spouse about your needs and hopes. Like Kay and Arnold, you may decide to use a third party–a mutual friend or couples counselor–to help you clarify your feelings and come to a mutual agreement about how to proceed. One of the best ways spouses can refresh their marriage is to share their top two or three marriage expectations with each other. This simple activity does wonders for opening up dialogue and generating new ideas.
Start with small endearments:
If your love life has been in a rut, it may take time to turn up the heat in bed. In my long-term study of marriage, the happiest couples were those who regularly shared small endearments such as a compliment, a reassuring hug, holding hands, and daily interest, attention, and encouragement. If you get the bond and intimacy going again in your relationship, sex will follow. There’s nothing sexier for a man than knowing that his wife notices him. My study shows that husbands crave this attention even more than wives do!
Keep things positive:
One of the most common mistakes made by couples who are in a relationship rut is that they focus on the problem–the lack of communication, the infrequent sex, the separate lives, and so on. Alternatively, the happiest couples in my long-term study focused on what was good and working well in the relationship. Even if you’re not having a lot of tumbles in the hay lately, consider what you love about each other. Good conversation? Reliability? Happy demeanor? Look at what’s positive in your relationship and try adding more positive elements, such as adding new activities or spending more time sharing your thoughts and daily experiences.
Talk every day:
Believe it or not, one of the best ways to spark new passion in an old relationship is to talk for 10 minutes a day about anything other than work, domestic obligations, family, or money. Watch what happens! The couples from my long-term study who enjoyed a sexy marriage after many years were also the ones who regularly conversed with their spouse and knew all about each other’s stressors, friends, dreams, and daily life. Ten minutes a day is all it takes.
Passion fades over time in every marriage. All couples go through dry spells. But it is possible to revamp your love life by following a few simple strategies. Kay and Arnold did it in Hope Springs, and many couples in my study did too. Pay attention to and appreciate your partner–and have more fun in bed.