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8-Step Program for Getting Unstuck from Your Sexless Marriage

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How You can put Romance back in your Sexless Marriage

Online Advice
From Dr. Andrew D. Atwood, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist


This material is presented for educational and informational purposes only. No other claims are made. Always consult your health care professional for specific personal care recommendations.

There are two ways to put the romance back in your relationship. One way is to move back, and the other is to ahead.

Do you recall what it was like when the two of you first began your relationship? Sure you do. Everything was new and exciting, there was a special “something” going on between the two of you, and there was a sexual energy that went along with the newness.

Your relationship was in the early part of the honeymoon phase. You were both on your best behavior. In fact, there was a measure of pretense – you were both putting your best foot forward in an effort to impress and win the other.

During this time you were also very attentive to each other – you listened to each other with great care. Your listening was so carefully tuned, that you actually were able to read each other’s minds. Many people report that during this early period of courtship there is an occasion when they reach for the phone to call their beloved, when low and behold, guess who is already on the other end of the line! It is like magic.

That magic is what we call “enmeshment.” In this early romantic period of a relationship a very tight bond is being formed. Much of it is sexually charged, as you recall. There is a great deal of mutual dependence being formed at this stage in a relationship. You become dependent upon your partner, and your partner becomes dependent upon you. It is as if two are becoming one.

In fact, in many wedding ceremonies in the Christian tradition there is a point where a “unity candle” is lit. In some weddings there are two separate candles representing two separate people. Those two candles are picked up by the bride and groom and then used by each to light the unity candle, and then the separate candles are extinguished. Two have become one.

What is missed here is how vulnerable each is upon the other. If one has a bad day, there is a tug upon the other. If one can’t come home on time, there is a felt reaction in the other. If one gets angry with the other, there is anger fired back. When enmeshed, a couple acts and reacts with great energy.

When most people ask me about “rekindling romance” they are talking about this period of enmeshed emotional energy.

The key is this: the relationship is in the honeymoon phase – it is unstable and each person is working hard to make the relationship secure and stable. To make it secure they create romance.

Couples want to “rekindle romance” when they have reached one of two points – either the relationship has become unbearably boring (good), or the relationship is threatened with dissolution. In the first case, you and your partner have settled into a pattern of mediocrity where rules and roles are followed well, but there is no passion anymore.

In the later case, there has been poor communication and/or lousy conflict management, and your relationship is in obvious trouble. In either case, one or the other of you begins to push for change and you know that things are heating up between the two of you. Your relationship cannot continue as it has been, or you will end up divorced. This is the time when many people come to me for marital therapy. The magic is gone.

At this point you might well be yet enmeshed with each other, but not in a way that is creating positive emotions. In fact, you might be negatively enmeshed. You get angry, and then your partner gets angry. You want some distance, and your partner starts to cling. Your partner wants distance, and you chase after your partner.

You try to get your partner to be more open and intimate, and your partner stays away from you. You are still enmeshed, but instead of moving close to each other during the honeymoon of romance, now you are acting and reacting to each other in some sort of painful dance.

Interestingly, some couples rekindle the romance of enmeshment by breaking up, by putting distance where there once was togetherness. Maybe it is with an affair. Maybe it is with fights that end in a kiss-and-make-up acts of eroticism. Something happens to put distance and insecurity, so that you can feel uncertain and enter back into some sort of courtship. This is a very emotionally draining way to live.

Other couples decide to move ahead. They decide to grow up. Technically we call this “a move to greater differentiation.” When you can learn to be “a part, and apart – at the same time” then you have become more well-differentiated. As you read this you might be able to get your head around this concept, but maybe not. You see, you have to be slightly well-differentiated to understand differentiation itself.

When you can be yourself with others, you are well-differentiated. It takes a great deal of maturity to do so. Most of us, because of our enmeshment, tend to twist ourselves out of honest shape so that we can be with others.

That is, we modify ourselves into something less authentic so that we can belong. Or, we manage others emotions by changing our behavior. That is, we change ourselves so that our partner isn’t so upset. A well-differentiated person doesn’t do that anymore. Instead, a well-differentiated person is honest at all times, but never rude.

Couples that have become well-differentiated go through a period of instability when the relationship is frighteningly close to destruction. You each have to be the real people you are, and with each other. Respect for the separate people you are is built, and a new kind of love and affection is created. This time, the romance is born of a deep and profound appreciation for the unique people you each are.

Now you are together out of nothing more than desire. You are aware that neither of you has to be in this relationship, but you are in it freely. You are strong, and your partner is strong. As a result, your relationship is stronger than it ever has been. There is little sense of vulnerability because there is little enmeshment. Desire and respect hold you together.

So, if you want to rekindle the romance you can either destabilize your relationship by moving BACK to a time of insecurity and fear, or AHEAD to a time of great security and confidence.

You get to make the choice.

And if you want some help with the work of creating a more well-differentiated relationship, check our my eBook You Can Save Your Marriage. It has been written to help you, and your partner, along the journey of life toward greater maturity.

Dr. Andrew D. Atwood
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Hopeful Solutions for Your Sexless Marriage is the BIG, 137 page eBook written by Dr. Atwood. The companion volume is You Can Save Your Marriage. You can find both, and more, at Dr. Andrew D. Atwood, LMFT. 534 Fountain St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 - Voice 616.456.1178 - Email ©2002-2004 Save Your Marriage, PLC. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The material presented on these pages if for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It may not represent your true individual medical situation. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified health care provider in person. Please consult your health care provider in person if you have any questions or concerns. Always use common sense and research your own personal situation thoroughly.


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