Year-round romance | Kitsap Week
By ERIN JENNINGS
North Kitsap Herald Kitsap Week
February 9, 2011 · Updated 2:35 PM
Local relationship experts agree: Cupid should aim his arrow year-round, not just on Valentine's Day.
"People take their relationships for granted. The reality is you have to be mindful and proactive. Put energy into your relationship, just like you do to the other priorities in your life," said Marilyn McIntyre, a Kingston therapist.
In his Poulsbo office, Dr. Roger Libby often counsels couples who get married and end up taking each other for granted.
"Marriage becomes a boring relationship without any real lust or romance. 'You do the garbage and I'll do the grocery list.' That's not exciting if that's all it is," Libby said.
DATE: NOT THE CLOSE RELATIVE OF THE FIG
Couples need to be aware of how they prioritize their time and energy. Sure it's important to drive the kids to soccer practice and piano lessons; to help with the science fair project; to prepare a four-square meal and mow the lawn. But what about each other? Where do you and your spouse fit in?
"We have to find a balance," McIntyre said. "With the divorce rate the way it is, you end up with children not having the one thing they really need the most: their parents being happy and staying together."
Libby said it's all about choices. Couples often lose the excitement and adventure in their relationship because of the poor choices they make. He believes people often make decisions without fully being aware.
"When they say 'I don't have a choice,' it's not true," said Libby. "When they say 'I can't date my spouse because I can't find a baby- sitter or I have to work,' what they are really saying is: 'Nothing else matters but money, work and children.' If nothing else matters, they end up getting divorced."
McIntyre suggests having out-dates and in-dates. For out-dates, go have fun. Do new activities and mix it up. Don't get in a rut of dinner and a movie. Take dancing classes. Go see live music.
For in-dates, schedule the time before hand. Create a calming space in your home that is all yours. Put away your cell phone and be present. Talk, play games and relax. If you have children in the house, over time they will learn to respect your "date" and not interrupt it.
IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
Poulsbo Therapist Dan Pippinger, said it's important for couples to be conscious of their communication. Are you caught in a criticism-defensiveness cycle? Beware. Criticism can lead to contempt. Defensiveness can turn into stonewalling. When you are aware, you can avoid the cycle or respond to it in an unexpected way. If your spouse is criticizing you, the expectation is you will defend yourself. If you don’t defend, it breaks the cycle and stops the negative pattern.
Pippinger said it's important to look at yourself closely and your role in the relationship. For the most part, (putting abusive relationships aside) both partners equally share the responsibility when a relationship deteriorates.
Libby also stresses that romance is a two-way street. It shouldn't be left to the men to be romantic. Women need to play their part as well.
WHEN TO CALL THE RELATIONSHIP MEDIC
McIntyre said most clients call on her when they have reached a point of crisis. Ideally, she would like to see them before they get to that stage.
"If you continue to have re-occurring fights that you can't manage yourself, or if there is a re-occurring pattern and people can't manage their negative emotions and it's causing pain and damage, then it's time to seek help," McIntyre said.
She also helps couples who have lost their spark. They aren't fighting, but they feel more like roommates than lovers.
Pippinger said a clue to needing an expert is when you no longer see the role you are playing in the relationship; instead, you are caught up in what your spouse is doing to you.
Libby urges couples to remember there is more to life and relationships than "work and wiping noses." He urges couples to find a balance between lust, romance and love.
Cupid, take note and take aim.Contact North Kitsap Herald Kitsap Week Erin Jennings at email@example.com or (360) 779-4464.