Louisa Kamps has an essay up on MSN about the year she and her husband both forgot their anniversary. They each tried to laugh it off and make a joke out of it, but Kamps stayed awake that night wondering what it meant for her relationship. She seems like a woman after my own heart, because she immediately decided to do something to pull her marriage out of what might have been a long, slow nosedive. In her search for actions to take, she came across a book (that I'm definitely going to order) called How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It by Steven Stosny and Patricia Love. I'm not going to get into a book report here, but let's just say that the excerpts that Kamp included in her story hit me like a sucker punch to the ovaries.
Here's just one example: "When females signal that they're feeling anxious or fearful -- by directly complaining about their partners or merely chronicling the bumps and stresses of the day -- men immediately try to figure out how to protect or soothe them. And when they can't? The typical guy feels ashamed of his own inadequacy, Stosny says, and masks it with low-grade aggression (criticizing or otherwise behaving contemptuously toward his wife) or by withdrawing (tuning her out to avoid what feels like an assault on his manliness)." I know, right?
Anyway, Kamp also started setting aside 10 minutes a day to talk with her husband about things not related to house, home or kids -- in short, the kind of stuff you talked about when you were just dating and falling in love. The experience was eye-opening and profound. Kamp found out some big things about her husband (that he longed to play in a band again, for example) and says she rediscovered that old curiosity and excitement she'd felt in the early days of their relationship. The couple also began spending more time separately with friends (a big theme this week! Separate, separate, separate -- stop doing everything together, America!) -- something they'd let slide.
I'm a big proponent of all of these tips. First, I find that the more I expand my life outside of my marriage by investing time in meaningful friendships and pursuing my own artistic dreams, the less pressure I put on Jack to be my everything. Second, I find that the casual, just shidt-shooting talks Jack and I have are the most memorable, and they often cause me to fall in love with him all over again. I'm always delighted to find that a person I've been with for nearly 12 years can still surprise the hell out of me. But I wouldn't know that if we didn't make time for those laid-back, non-logistical talks. In short, it's a great essay. You should read it. I dug it because Kemp and her husband could totally have just kept laughing off the lack of romance in their marriage and kept on sailing. After all, nothing was terrible. They'd seen worse. Their marriage wasn't that bad. Sound familiar? Here's to working on things WAY before they get ugly! Who's with me?
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