Falling in love is the easy part. Staying in love is the challenge.
How many times have you looked at your partner and thought, how did we even get here?
You’re not alone. The national divorce rate in the U.S. is 50 percent. That means there are several couples asking themselves that same question.
What you really want to know is, "Once we fall out of love, can we fall back into love"? And science says "Yes."
Arthor Aron, author of "The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness," created a series of questions designed to cultivate intimacy between two people and even in some cases cause strangers to fall in love.
Writer, Mandy Len Catron spoke about her experience using this intimacy building exercise in her popular article published in the New York Times Magazine and her Ted talk (see below to watch the video). She admitted to exploring this technique with huge amounts of skepticism and admitted that it worked. She fell in love with a complete stranger and is still with him today (9 months later).
That begs the question, if two complete strangers can meet for the very first time, perform this exercise, and fall in love (through the act of creating intimacy) what says a married couple that has fell out of love couldn't do the exact same thing? It turns out they can and you will.
Please note: There are limitations on how successful this can be for your relationship. This exercise will work ideally for couples that still respect and care for each other but life simply got in the way of their relationship.
For couples that have mounds of pain and resentment stemming from betrayal, mistreatment, and other dysfunctional behaviors, the end result will likely be different.
I say this not to dim your hope light but to make sure you understand the importance of going into this exercise not carrying loads of anger towards your spouse. The questions are designed to make you open up and be vulnerable with each other. But if you fear your spouse will turn around and sucker punch you for sharing, this won't work.
To create intimacy you must be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable you have to feel safe. So if you are in such a relationship that you do not feel safe. I do not recommend this exercise. For everyone else, let's get started.
Before we get to the 5 steps (and the experiment) let's answer your very first question and look at how your marriage ended up getting to this point in the first place.
What Did Go Wrong?
To put it bluntly, you’ve been too worried about appearing like the perfect family and forgot to actually be one.
It’s become an eerie automatic ritual to capture “perfect” memories to post on Facebook. So much that you don’t even realize that you’re missing your life's sparkle moments.
The constant distractions that pop up, steals your attention away from your spouse. Making you feel like it’s impossible to connect long enough to feel “in love” again.
It becomes too easy to say “Yes,” to commitments you don't give a $h*t about because secretly fear that others will judge or reject you if you actually say “No”.
You make excuses to calm the worry, “this is what marriage is,” “it’s supposed to be all about the kids right now,” or “everyone is busy. That’s life.”
But deep down you wonder, “Will there be an us, when this is all over"?
You try and reconnect but are yanked apart by looming commitments. AND that damn nagging voice reminds you of the judgments lingering in the back of people’s minds.
So you concede and reenter the rat race only to feel hopeless and stuck. The truth is that you miss the "us" you used to be.
What Are The Top Distractions Stealing Your “US” Time?
Extra Curricular Activities
There are a million things kids can do after the final school bell rings.
Not only can they play basketball for the district, they can play weekend ball, traveling ball, and just for fun ball. It’s all consuming and it’s absolute insanity.
Kids can be at events passed 9 o’clock on a school nights. Then it’s up to you two to scramble home, feed them, check homework, then look at each other and collapse.
And for what!? So that everyone can see what amazing parents you are? So you can provide every opportunity possible for your children so that they have a chance to succeed at life?
Unless your child is truly passionate about the activity say “No”. It eats up every second that you have as a couple to reconnect.
The big damn house and the fancy cars that you two thought you needed to have, now keeps you working you’re a$$’s off trying to pay for it.
You accumulate the show off accessories (needed to keep up appearances) and rock a killer body to boot, which requires you to keep pouring precious time into work and time to maintain everything.
Tragically, stuff has hijacked your marriage.
Perfect Contributing Member of Society
You slap the white stick figure family on the rear window of your tricked out Expedition, along with your “I love Jesus” bumper sticker from your favorite perish and you’re ready to roll.
Volunteering for ditch clean up, PTA president, bake sales for the hockey team, and secretary for the church. You are a shining example of someone that doesn’t know how to protect his or her time.
Seriously, you are the only gatekeeper of your time. Start doing your job.
The End Result:
You wind up feeling exhausted and wear the phrase “I’m busy,” like a badge of honor. You cuddle up to your electronics rather than your spouse because it’s just easier. You get busy doing random stuff so that you don’t have to feel the pain that comes when you actually slow down and realize how lonely you are.
It breaks your heart to recognize the shell of the couple that you once were. Now, you don’t know each other at all. Years pass and you simply keep busy.
Until today, today you have your eyes wide open, searching for proof that you can actually fall back in love with your spouse.
The truth is that you can 100 percent fall back in love with your spouse and here’s how:
Take the 36-Romantic Love Questionnaire Challenge:
- Agree to have a 1-hour block of uninterrupted time. No phones, no kids, and no distractions.
- Go into this exercise with the intent of getting to know each other again. Don’t respond to any of the questions with painful events that will upset your partner. That can be a different exercise.
- Ask each other the 36 questions designed to make you feel reconnected on a more intimate level. This test was part of a study that attempted to hack the falling in love process. In fact the hypothesis was to see if complete strangers could fall in love after performing this exercise.
- Stare into each other’s eyes without saying a word for four minutes. You will squirm, but trust the process. This step is incredibly powerful.
- Craft a better lifestyle and invest more in the interior of your life as a couple rather than solely focusing on the exterior facade.
Stop Being a Poser and Start Being a Partner
Anyone that wants to judge you for choosing your marriage over volunteering, running a simple efficient home rather than an oversized glamorized box, or being and attentive parent rather than the best shuttle service in town, is not a person that you need in your life.
Facebook makes it seem like everyone can keep up this pace and that their families don’t suffer. Don’t forget that their perfect picture only captures a snap shot of their faux existence. Put down your rose colored glasses and remember that they only show you what they want you to see.
Lean into each other, slow down, and simply connect.
Romantic love needs attention. If you want to find out if you can fall back in love you must give your relationship the time it deserves.
Be Diligent. It’ll Be Tricky To Keep Up
Just like those other times that you tried to stay reconnected but were torn apart by commitments, kids, and nagging guilt.
This time do it differently and agree to keep the ritual of connecting at the end of the day and maintain that solid eye contact. Keep focused on the ideal lifestyle that you’re co-creating and work as a team.
You’ll stumble. Simply self-correct and reconnect—don’t wait years to address the slip up.
At the end of this life it’s not about being recognized for your good works at the Rotary club, or being the best soccer mom. It’s comes down to the two of you and how many chances you got to choose your partner.
As Cantron said, "The funny thing is, you didn’t realize how many times you would get to make that choice."
Jessica is the author of Back 2 Love and How to Start a Mental Health Private Practice. She owns a private practice in Minnesota where she lives with her husband and two kids. Join the conversation on Facebook.