Living in Egypt is not easy. With all the uncertainty, social obligations, stress factors and instability the country provides, it’s easy for a marriage to be drained of the spark it once had.
Or so Tarek and Sarah felt, as can be the case for any random couple. The couple had been married for seven years and their complaints are quite commonly heard. Between family activities, friends, dinners, parties and weddings, kids and other social events and obligations, their relationship has become off balance. What used to be considered fun is now taking over their lives. They have slowly drifted into two individuals leading parallel lives, yet living under the same roof.
Studies have proven that couple-hood needs space and mystery in order to survive. It can feel like a challenge to manage the balance between space and connection, public and private, and others and selves, but for Tarek and Sarah when did it drift from healthy space into complete, familiar distance? How can they maintain this connection they once had, and still wish to have, when they are this busy in their lives?
It goes without saying that the first recommendation is to actually make time for being alone together. Unfortunately, it won’t come by default like when they first met. There are events that are just going to have to be moved around, squeezed in, or canceled. Put it down on the calendar and make date nights a once or twice a week ritual.
Novelty, curiosity, and excitement
Let’s face it, by the end of the day everyone is beat. The easiest and most satisfying date night can sound like a new movie in the living room, with the kids asleep in bed. That’s a big no-no. That is not date night, that’s just unwinding. Exploring new places, ideas and different areas that interest each other can tingle excitement. Putting a tiny effort into leaving one’s comfort zone into new experiences can trigger adrenaline levels in the brain that are also associated with heightened excitement and rush. For example, there are always new museums and cultural events around the corner, or exotic new restaurants to try. The eroticism is based on novelty, and it is nowhere in between pajamas and Games of Thrones.
Celebrate each other’s successes
Celebrating each other’s successes can be easy when there are so many public events to cater to that. But how much celebration is going on between the couple in private? Feeling the support and appreciation of a partner can always keep two people connected and fulfilled, which couples take for granted sometimes.
Rekindling intimacy and desire can sound like mission impossible. After a few years down the line, sex and intimacy can feel boring and like more of a routine. Sex and desire need to stay fiery to keep the couple’s connection intact. Eroticism lies in originality, imagination, and exploration. Through therapy, clients come to understand how important keeping this eroticism and anticipation alive is. They also learn new tools and techniques to build on that. Again, if the bedroom has become too mundane, get out of the bedroom. For example, the couple can create an email that is private for the two of them where they can share sexy messages. The deeper they both explore their wants and needs, the more they try out new things, the better for both sides. But do remember, both partners need to be okay and comfortable with every step.
This means that sex is not just in between the sheets. Sex is also the foreplay that can go on for days and weeks between encounters. Foreplay includes building anticipation, and playfulness being kept alive between the couple. Studies have also shown that playfulness is a major ingredient in resiliency after hardship. Couples who tend to be more playful are able to get through the struggles in a more efficient way.
Be attentive to change
Helen Langer, a psychologist at Harvard University, put it this way, “The fact that you stopped looking doesn’t mean they stopped changing”. Human beings evolve, change, and become different people with time. Not only do we need the flexibility to allow for the fixes and turns, but we also need to admire our partner’s changes by being attentive and observant from a healthy distance. This is better than waking up one day next to a total stranger, as can happen after years together.
Tarek and Sarah can be any couple in Cairo, whose relationship isn’t doomed if action is taken. With a bit more focus on the small details in daily life together, a bigger and healthier picture is formed.