How You can put Romance back in your Sexless Marriage
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
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
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
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
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 www.HopefulSolutions.net.
Dr. Andrew D. Atwood, LMFT. 534 Fountain St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI
49503 - Voice 616.456.1178 - Email DrAtwood@HopefulSolutions.net.
©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.