THAT LOVIN' FEELING
Get the joy of romance back into your relationship
Creators News Service
If you feel like your marriage or long-term love affair is suffering, concentrating on it for one day, such as Valentine's Day, won't solve anything, said Vicki Huffman Pruitt, a licensed clinical professional counselor associated with The Therapy Center in Springfield, Ill.
When romance is on the wane, couples need more than candlelight and soft music. "That's all superficial," she said. "You're not going to be having romance if you don't have a healthy marriage or relationship. That's why I think it is so important to know yourself and your partner."
However, you don't have to wait for a special occasion like Valentine's Day or an anniversary to put a little romance back into your relationship.
Huffman Pruitt recommended that partners ask each other this question: What are the first five words that come to mind when someone says romance? Couples who can communicate these thoughts are on the right track.
"Some people are uncomfortable talking about things like this," she said. "Yet if you don't talk about it, then you won't have a real definition of romance."
Marilyn Stevens, a clinical social worker and trained facilitator for the national PAIRS (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills) Foundation, agreed. She and her husband of 26 years, Matt Stevens, facilitate retreats and sessions through their central Illinois practice ConnectEd Pairs.
Thousands of men and women are participating in PAIRS courses all over the country to improve their relationships, Stevens said. Facilitators undergo extensive training so they can lead classes that help couples work on building happy, healthy, lasting relationships. "We see couples who are dating, engaged and in all stages of marriage," she said. "We also see couples who are in a second marriage who really want to make this relationship work."
A healthy marriage is hard work, noted Huffman Pruitt, who is currently writing a book on relationships. However, there are many people that never took the time to sustain their relationship.
"There is a new phenomenon going on now with couples who have been married many years," she said. Baby boomers in particular have traditionally put a lot of time, effort and emotion into raising their children. Suddenly those children are grown up, in college or becoming more independent -- and their parents are not-so-eager empty nesters.
Even younger couples sometimes have trouble talking to one another when their children are not around. "All of the sudden they are sitting at dinner with their husband or wife and they think, 'Who are you?' They don't know what to do," Huffman Pruitt said.
The solution is simple. "What I have found is that people are stuck in a rut. What people really need to do is take care of themselves first," she said. "Taking care of yourself is going to make it easier to be a good partner in a relationship. You have to take an honest look at yourself to see if you have a hard time receiving love and giving love."
Stevens agreed, adding that a marriage might need a little push. "It could be that a relationship has moved into such a comfortable pattern that you forgot what it was like when you first fell in love," Stevens said. "Or maybe you just go through the day and night in the same routines and you think, 'There has got to be more!'"
That's why couples who attend PAIRS meetings learn a skill called "taking a daily temperature reading," in which they vow to take five to 10 minutes a day concentrating on one another. The five steps to a temperature reading include sharing an appreciation of the spouse or partner; passing on a bit of new information; speaking about something that is puzzling or worrisome; raising a complaint with a request for change; and finally, sharing a wish, hope or dream about something the couple can look forward to.
"Sometimes people who are not communicating about difficult things are also not communicating about things that bring them pleasure," Stevens said. "They have not fallen out of love, they are just losing communication."
Huffman Pruitt agreed. "Basically I think it all comes down to communicate, communicate, communicate," she said. "Take and make the time to get to know your partner. Be creative. Be thoughtful. That is such a gesture of kindness, I think. It's really all about making somebody else feel good."