Dating can be so fun and a top priority before marriage. It’s a time when our greatest desire of being known and accepted is met, and we enjoy the rush of flowing oxytocin. Partners study each other’s likes and dislike, intentionally listen and question as well as creatively express their affection. If the process goes well, couples will commit to marriage and enjoy new experiences of the wedding, honeymoon, and life planning together. Then there is a subtle fork in the road.
One direction is a slippery slope wherein there is the growing assumptions you “know” your partner and they intuitively will “know” what you’re thinking and wanting without having to communicate. Busy schedules, saving for the house, and starting to expand your family can get in the way of intentional connection. As humans, we are prone to change and also to forget. Intimacy is like just like learning a new language, if you don’t use it you lose it. Before long you are functioning as roommates or business partners with potential growing resentment for lack of felt love, validation, and passion. Without help, this direction can lead to potential affairs, no-fault divorces, an increase in depression, and feeling isolated and alone.
The other direction requires continued dating as keeping the romance alive is a real thing. Dating your spouse doesn’t have to mean an expensive night on the town but it does mean carving out “couple time” away from distractions and others to have meaningful connections. A study done by the National Marriage Project at University of Virginia showed that weekly date nights increased communication, eros, commitment, quality due to shared novelty, and decreased stress. Who doesn’t want that for the years to come?
You and your spouse have the option at any point to change the course of your relationship. If you feel you need assistance in doing so, couples therapy serves as a safe context in which to reflect, reroute and shore up the foundation of your marriage.