“A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.”
Andre Maurois

Remember Oreo cookies? What was the part you ate first, the best part? Most people would remember that to be the cream filling inside. Sometimes it was so thick that the two chocolate crackers resisted being pulled apart. Other times you felt cheated. The cream was almost non-existent as if someone at the Oreo factory forgot to join them together.
A strong marriage is like an Oreo cookie. It presupposes a healthy (and delicious) bond between two individuals. This filling is made from a rich understanding of the beliefs, expectations and behaviors of each partner that develops over time from effective communication. And it is preserved from spoilage by a variety of conflict resolution techniques.
However, each partner enters a marriage with his (or her) own set of needs, values and expectations that when combined with those of the other may create pressures which can cause the cookie to crumble. In the beginning, there is romance. Each person enters wearing his Sunday best; cleaned and pressed. Swept away by a sea of endorphins, the last thing either person wants is to aire his dirty laundry. That is, demanding fulfillment in the form of nurturance from a present partner, in order to heal "wounds" from the past.  These wounds are often represented by unpleasant experiences from our reinforcement histories of childhood such as, repressed emotional expression, fear of being abandoned by a loved one and a variety of trust issues.
As time passes, however, and endorphins settle down, couples often shift into a power struggle, each trying to get the other to meet his (or her) needs. Believing they each fail to accomplish what they desire from the other, the cream filling deteriorates creating more friction between the two sides. The result is mutual feelings of despair and hostility that often lead to a lot of dirty laundry...and then, separation.
What can be done to keep a marriage from going stale?

  • Ties that bind. Make time for the pause that refreshes—active listening. Making time to exchange ideas and listen to each other fosters the mutual perception that each partner is valued by the other. The stronger this perception, the less likely the opportunity for marital power struggles involving attack and counterattack responses that arise from feeling one’s needs are not being met.  Active listening is not the same as listening. Does this scenario sound familiar? “What-- am I talking to myself? You haven’t heard a word I said!” “Yes I have, I listen to everything you say.” A common complaint of marital partners is the failure of one or the other to listen. But is that what is really at issue? More than likely, it is attending. Validation. Acknowledging the other person’s communication with comment or question. The latter is a way of pacing someone’s ongoing experience; of showing interest and therefore value for that individual.
  • Enrich the bond between you. Each marital partner comes with his/her own ideas about what constitutes a deeply satisfying, loving relationship. Share your ideas. Write, then exchange, your list of ideas. Then find ways to combine and display them as much as possible.  Do you remember what it was like when you first met? How about when you first fell in love? How did you behave toward each other? How did it feel? Take those passionate feelings with you now and visualize treating your spouse in those ways again. Include the unanticipated pleasures you provided with little surprises. Imagine his/her reactions as you do so. How do those reactions make you feel? Repeat this process as you go through your day driving to and from work, shopping, or during leisure time. Then try it out for real! Treat your spouse in loving ways in order to feel more loving.

Pique your pleasure with high-intensity fun and activities. Shared physical activities such as sports, outdoor biking or hiking excursions—even massage, get those endorphins flowing between you to promote greater passion and understanding and make your marriage a mouth-watering delight!