The first thing to consider when examining whether or not your romantic relationship needs help, and how much work it needs, is to decide whether or not your romance has romance.
Many couples are slow to acknowledge that their romantic relationship is lacking romance. It is as if the relationship will be cursed or doomed to failure if a lack of intimacy is discussed or should one partner report that they are unhappy.
Unhappy does not mean divorce. Acknowledging a lack of intimacy does not mean that the “love has died” any more than frequent sex symbolizes a healthy romance.
Over the years, couples have come to us for help with a relationship that was devastated by sexual betrayal in which both partners would have sworn a betrayal would be an impossibility given the frequency of their shared sexual encounters. We have found that regular sex is no more an insurance against marital infidelity than infrequent sexual intimacy is a predictor of it.
We are sure that you will agree with what we both learned the hard way — romance might be fairly easy in the opening chapters of a new relationship but it requires ongoing attention and mutual support to thrive during challenging times or after the newness of the relationship begins to fade. The early days of romance are so easy, in fact, that many of us mistakenly assume that the romantic attraction is natural and automatic and requires no effort.
Many couples believe, as we once did, that the need to work on their sexual or romantic relationship is a pretty unhealthy sign suggesting that they are “falling out of love.” While we are not really sure what is meant by the phrase, (in spite of the fact that it has been described by our clients thousands of times) we are pretty sure that it is not like falling out of bed or stepping in quicksand. We do not believe that couples fall out of love. We believe that when the “love” has died the cause of death is usually attributable to physical, emotional and spiritual neglect.
When the only things left for a romantic relationship to live off of are the memories of past joy, fond recollections of intimate encounters, or the fading hope that one day a new spark will ignite the romantic flames again, the relationship will begin to deteriorate as a result of a syndrome that is similar, in process, to a failure to thrive syndrome.*
A romance that is nurtured will bear the fruit of love. The nurturing process will strengthen the bond between the partners and promote deeper levels of communication and vulnerability which will make more love. The nurturing process will increases the likelihood that romantic partners will pay more attention to each other and maintain open and intimate lines of communication.
This article was written by John & Elaine Leadem, senior supervisors of the Leadem Counseling & Consulting offices in Toms River, NJ and East Brunswick, NJ. The content of this article is based on the soon to be published book and recovery course for couples from Leadem Counseling called A Decision to Be IN Love©.
*Failure to thrive Syndrome (FTT) is a term used in pediatric, adult, and veterinary medicine (where it is also referred to as ill thrift) to indicate insufficient weight gain or inappropriate weight loss.
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Last reviewed: 4 Feb 2014