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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Are you Hot or Cold? Keeping the Romance Alive

Are you a hot or cold person? People all express themselves differently, and as it turns out some people are less affectionate than others. There's no denying that one of the ways we feel love is through physical affection--someone holding your hand, a light touch on your arm, a kiss, a hug, etc. We all vary on an individual basis by how much we like to give and receive such affection, but what's surprising is how much of that romantic "spark" depends on it.

I was reading an article in Psychology Today about how one man dramatically improved his marriage by making a conscious effort to be a warmer husband and demonstrate more physical affection. What happens when a relationship matures and you lose all those passionate kisses, those hours of holding each other's hands, or sitting wrapped up in each other's arms?

When you think of a romantic relationship--when you think of romance period--what images come to mind? Kissing, holding hands . . . ? I can't count the number of marriages I've seen where that the physical warmth is just gone. Maybe the excitement fades, the novelty wears off, or maybe you think all of that is just part of courtship and it's meant to disappear. Well, I refuse to believe it has to disappear. In fact, I've also seen a select few couples who still have that warmth after decades of marriage. So what's the difference between them and all those others who barely touch each other anymore?

I think they just got lazy. That's not meant to be a rebuke, but maybe it is, and I have no right to talk when I haven't been there yet, but I'm a romantic at heart, and I have to admit, even in the relatively short-term relationships I've had, when the physical affection starts to calm down, I start asking where it went; I miss it; and I try to bring it back with romantic gestures and words, and by taking the lead and being the affectionate one.

It must be a hundred times harder to keep the romance alive if you have kids, if you're just plain-old busy, or if you've been together a long time and you're starting to get bored, but that just brings me to a conclusion I drew a long time ago: romance is work. Love is work. Relationships are work. But everything you put in comes back to you. Every romantic gesture I've taken the trouble to plan for my girlfriends had the desired result and actually made me fall more in love with the person I'd planned it for. But that's not to say that your partner is going to be on the same page as you or even necessarily reciprocate at first. Maybe he/she is the busy one, the cold one, the pragmatic one, and it's going to take more work for him or her to come around and see that you both need to stoke the fires together. Talk about it; start by making the effort first. Find time to be alone together. Keep it fresh and exciting. Plan a surprise trip/dinner/outing. Make the effort.

But maybe, for whatever reason, you don't feel very romantic toward your partner anymore and you don't know how to motivate yourself to do something romantic. If that's the case, I have some heartening news for you which comes from the article I read on this topic: "To my great surprise, focusing on the physical act of touching her not for the purpose of comforting her but for expressing feelings of romance and warmth actually made me feel more romantic and warmer toward her." In other words, feelings also follow their expression, not just lead to it. So if you start being more affectionate/romantic, you'll feel more like being affectionate and romantic with your partner, and it will become a self-perpetuating cycle. This has been proven in many areas of human expression, not just romance. Forcing yourself to smile actually makes you feel happier. So if in the beginning it feels like work, don't worry, it won't be long before you're both being spontaneously romantic again, and when that happens, you'll realize that the spark you've been missing from the early days of your relationship didn't go anywhere, it's just been waiting for you to light the fire again.


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