But I decided to go ahead with it because I’m constantly hearing about baby mama problems, wives being “bitches”, and just general discord between addict and female companion. I was naïve in that I just assumed these guys knew better and just chose not to engage their knowledge about healthy relationships the same way most of them probably knew that heroin was a bad idea.
Well, I was pleasantly surprised when I started teaching Gottman and I pretty much saw 30 minds just explode in front of me. I finished up the managing conflict portion of The Sound Relationship House on Monday and most of them were pretty excited, if not incredibly skeptical about some of the stuff I was teaching them.
Their first concern was that the theory is naturally designed for a couple in couples counseling. I began the group by prefacing that I was aware I was addressing only half of the problem and I knew many of these guys were in relationships in which they felt the other partner was just as messed up as they were. I figured it was better to educate them about a healthy relationship, than to forgo the opportunity all together.
So they ranted and raved about this issue for a while until it was determined that most likely everyone in the room now had the opportunity to change their relationship or for those not coupled, to find a healthy one.
Finally, someone spoke up and said something like, “Jen, this is great and all, but you’re telling us that love is a science. I don’t see anything on here about passion and all the stuff that makes being with someone exciting.”
Touché, my friend. Touché.
My biggest gripe with Gottman is what this guy brought up. I really like his theory and I often use it to understand my own relationship. Unfortunately, Gottman doesn’t directly address the passion issue in his Sound Relationship House. Sure, in the training stuff for counselors he talks about sex and passion and how those things need to be in place and how the Sound Relationship House addresses the underlying issues that may inhibit sex and passion, but he doesn’t make it a focal point and I have a problem with that.
Luckily, I read an article a few weeks ago about the power of novelty in a relationship and how novelty and experiencing new things with your partner builds up that zesty feeling you get when you look at him/her. Seeing your partner in a way you never have before invigorates you and triggers that part in your brain that says, “This person is exciting and interesting!” I reflected that information to the room of guys and they understood. They totally got it.
Then, I read this story, which I also posted on my Facebook. The woman who wrote it described 15 things she had learned in her 15 years of marriage. I liked it because it was real and lined up very much with how I view the future of my relationship. There were two specific things she mentioned that line up with the novelty piece of the puzzle.
1. Get really good at sex.
You’ve got all the time in the world to get really, really good, not just at sex in general, but at having sex with your one particular husband. You should make it your life’s mission to become the perfect sex machine exactly for him. And he for you. There is no reason to hold back, or be embarrassed, or not ask questions and get everything working properly. There’s absolutely no excuse for letting years drag on without becoming fully skilled, gifted sex partners for each other. It makes everything so much better. Does talking about this make you uncomfortable? How uncomfortable would it make you to know that your spouse is secretly, silently “just okay” with your sexual performance? Yeah. You want to last 15 years, remember? That’s a long time to be mildly happy.
Live in different houses. In different parts of the country. Travel. Make it so that you can look back and divide up your life into the years you spent in different cities, or different houses. If you’re feeling stuck geographically or physically, you can confuse yourself into thinking you’re stuck romantically. See your husband in different places, in different contexts, in different countries even. Try it. Take him to a mountaintop and give him another look. Pretty sexy. Take him to a new city and check out his profile. Along the same lines, don’t be afraid to change personally, or let your wife change as a person. Don’t worry about “growing apart.” Be brave and evolve. Become completely different. Don’t gather moss. Stagnation is unattractive.
Being open-minded to change and letting new experiences happen are a huge part of making a relationship work in the long term. It’s what creates passion! Our brains are hard-wired to learn and acquire new information. We crave knowing more about our partners and when we do novel activities and have new experiences with our partner, we feel closer to them and we also get to learn more about them. When we have good sex, we facilitate connection with our partner because we release all those brilliant love hormones that facilitate bonding.
One of my greatest fears in my life has been a worry that I’ll wake up one morning and look at my partner and think, “Oh my god, who are you and why am I in this relationship?” I’m personally quite terrified of stagnation and having a relationship that makes me go, “Meh.” In the past, I’ve confused chaos and emotional instability with this need to not feel “meh,” about my relationship. Chaos isn’t necessary to feel passion and invigoration from your relationship – novelty is the answer.
It doesn’t have to be something crazy in the bedroom, it can be traveling, trying new food, trying a new sport or exercise, or just learning something new like how to cook. In another study I read recently, couples actually rated their overall view of their partner and their relationship higher after having to problem solve an obstacle course in which they were Velcroed together. You want to like your partner and feel that zest? Solve a fun problem together.
Since knowing and dating Jesse we’ve traveled to Mexico, L.A., Boston, Seattle, New York, Jamaica, and San Fransisco. We’ve become vegetarians. We’ve moved in together. We’ve gotten a cat together. He’s educated me about music I probably would have never considered before dating and now I really enjoy it. We’ve gone to tons of concerts. He’s helped me start this blog. He’s gotten his master’s degree. I’m getting my master’s degree. He wants to take me camping, which I’m hesitant to do because I like showers and not being bitten by bugs and sweating through the night. He has assured me Washington camping will not be like Florida camping. I’m staying open-minded. He wants us to learn how to sail. We cool new things together. We’ve probably tried 50 new restaurants together. I’ve turned him into a wine enthusiast. He’s taught me about good scotch.
The list goes on and I can honestly say that in each of those moments I learned something about him that I would not have learned if we hadn’t done it together and I liked him just a little bit more. I felt my heart beat a little bit faster when we drove up the PCH for the first time on a foggy May morning to go wine tasting in Sonoma. I was impressed with how calm he stayed as we drove on the edge of a cliff. I was thankful to have him there with me, guiding the way. The first time I visited L.A., Jesse took me on a bike ride to the Santa Monica pier. I felt close to him that day and grateful to have someone in my life who was cool with riding our bikes to the beach. When I brought up being vegetarian, Jesse was open-minded because he knew it was something I was invested in as a lifestyle choice. He was willing to join me.
I don’t worry too much anymore about the whole “Meh,” thing. I’ve got novelty and someone willing to partake in life’s adventure with me. I’ll be just fine.