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Are there more fireworks going on outside the bedroom than inside? Probably, say marriage experts.

Data collected from the 2014 General Social Survey indicates that married couples have sex approximately 58 times a year. If you are under 30, however, it’s around 111 times. Approximately 15 percent of married couples haven’t made love with their spouse in the last six months to a year.

In a TEDx talk, therapist Michele Weiner-Davis describes this phenomenon as the sex-starved marriage. It’s a marriage where one spouse is longing for more touch and passion and the other is thinking, “What is the big deal, it’s just sex?”

“When disconnect happens in a marriage, intimacy on all levels goes out the window,” says Weiner-Davis, whose life work is to help resurrect flat-lined marriages. “These couples are the ones who have stopped laughing at each other’s jokes, sitting next to each other on the couch, holding hands or looking into each other’s eyes.”

Many people automatically assume that all men think about is sex. But according to Weiner-Davis, low sexual desire is as much an issue for men as it is for women; it’s just a well-kept secret.

Weiner-Davis says it is not uncommon for even long-married couples to never discuss sex. (Here are 10 Things Every Married Couple Should Know About Sex.)

In a session with Weiner-Davis, a husband of 15 years shared that there is only a two-hour window on Friday night when his wife might be interested in sex. He turned to his wife and said, “When I reach out to you in bed and you aren’t there for me, the only thing I think about is, do you find me attractive anymore, do you still love me, do you want to be with me? I lie awake thinking at night that this is the loneliest place to be.”

Surprised, his wife responded that all she ever considered was whether or not she was in the mood. Never had she ever thought about what it must be like to be in his shoes. This was the beginning of a breakthrough in their marriage. But, Weiner-Davis cautions that it doesn’t work this way for all couples.

“It’s interesting that couples share decision-making on so many things. But when it comes to sex, one person makes the decision and expects the other person to accept it, not complain about it, and be monogamous,” Weiner-Davis says.

Weiner-Davis contends that the primary cause of a sex-starved marriage is easy to fix. A few basic changes can help you move from little sparklers to fireworks in the bedroom:

  • Everybody has different ways of feeling connected to one another. You need to become an expert in making your mate feel connected to you.
  • If your spouse wants sex more often than you do, don’t delude yourself into thinking, “It’s just sex.” Sex is a powerful way to connect. (Here’s how to have better sex.)
  • When you understand your spouse’s way of connecting, you don’t have to agree with it or understand it. You just need to do it.
  • Healthy marriages require mutual caretaking. Take care of each other. It is an act of love.

“When we learn to be better caretakers of each other, we will make this world a better place one marriage at a time,” Weiner-Davis says.

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Is your marriage unexciting and dull? Have the feelings you had for each other on your wedding day become a distant memory? Do you ever look at other people and envy the spontaneity and freedom they seem to have? If so, you aren’t alone.

According to marriage experts, many couples enter into marriage with the expectation that it will always be exciting and romantic.

Then careers, children, in-laws, and other demands come along and often throw couples for a loop. They begin asking themselves questions like, “Did I marry the wrong person? Why should I stay in a relationship when I am not happy? Did I marry for all the wrong reasons?”

“Love is an interesting emotion,” says Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages. “It begins with what I refer to as the ‘tingles.’ You are emotionally obsessed with someone. You go to bed and wake up thinking about him, and have a hard time getting anything done because you can’t get him off your mind. This is accompanied by irrational thinking, believing that this person is perfect and there is nothing more important in life than being with him/her. Some people tell themselves that they will never be happy without this person in their life.

“This is accompanied by an illusion of intimacy. When you encourage couples to attend a marriage education class, they look at you like you are crazy to suggest working on the relationship since they believe their relationship doesn’t need any work. The illusion of intimacy blinds people to their differences in things like taste, values, music, priorities, etc.”

Emotional obsession, irrational thinking and illusion of intimacy lead to faulty conclusions such as, “I will never be happy unless we are married.” According to research, these feelings are not always permanent. The average lifespan of an obsession is two years—then people come off their high.

How does this relate to a ho-hum stage in marriage, you might ask?

When the “in-love obsession” subsides in marriage, people begin to see what they didn’t see before. All those things that were so cute when you were dating now get on your last nerve.

“Many couples are shocked by their loss of feelings for each other and are traumatized by conflicts,” Chapman says. “In many instances, they have no idea how to deal with the conflicts. The conflicts lead to fights. Then they think things like, ‘I wish I had married the other person.’ Walls go up and there is a loss of intimacy. Each person can give volumes of evidence as to why their spouse is at fault for the failing marriage.”

Then it happens. In the midst of your marital struggles, someone else comes along. The person is funny, spontaneous, full of life, neat, etc. He/she seems much more exciting than your current spouse. This person seems to have all the qualities you love in a person and you get the tingles all over again.

“This is when people start thinking ‘I never did love her’ or ‘I got married for all the wrong reasons,’ to convince themselves that their marriage was not right from the beginning and to somehow justify divorce,” Chapman says. “The problem is, they don’t understand that in two years they could potentially be in the very same place. Some people marry multiple times because every time they get the tingles they think they’ve finally found the right person.”

So, what do you do?

  • Recognize the tingles for what they are—they aren’t always trustworthy.
  • Keep your guard up—when there are troubles at home, you are vulnerable to misinterpreting the attention of others.
  • Seek out professional help from someone who is marriage-friendly.
  • Be leery of those who want to give you advice—even people with the best intentions can give you BAD advice.

Understand that it is normal to experience ho-hum stages in your marriage. Even the healthiest of marriages go through this. The key is to recognize it and do something about it. The ho-hum phase should be temporary. You really can feel the tingles again for your spouse.

Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

When it comes to romancing your mate for special holidays like Valentine’s Day or birthdays, some couples have a head start on the celebration. Why? They’ve discovered that making regular time for each other is linked to lots of relationship benefits.

According to The Date Night Opportunity, a 2012 report released by the National Marriage Project, couples who manage to devote time specifically to one another at least once a week:

  • Are markedly more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates, compared to couples who do not devote as much couple time to one another;
  • Are about three times more likely to report that they are “very happy” in their marriages;
  • Report higher levels of communication and commitment;
  • State that they have a highly satisfying sexual relationship compared to couples who spend less couple time together; and
  • Take that time as a chance to de-stress and engage in novel activities that are fun, active or otherwise arousing – from hiking or dancing to cooking together or playing cards.

Regular date nights can for sure boost your relationship, but they probably benefit couples most when they do more than dinner and a movie. Doing fun things together feels good, and your brain associates these times with pleasure.

Report co-author W. Bradford Wilcox states that:

  • The couples who find date night particularly valuable are those who are less integrated into the local civic or religious fabric of their communities and those who are less committed to one another; and
  • Couples with a more fragile foundation for their marriage need to devote more time to one another to keep their marriage strong.

It is always a good time to celebrate your own marriage and/or the marriages of those around you. Marriage is like anything else in life… cars, plants, or your body. If you don’t do preventive maintenance, a major overhaul could be on the horizon.

Most marriages begin with romantic love that is linked to passion, excitement and an overwhelming attraction to each other. Over time the passion fades, but date nights have the potential to make your ho-hum marriage spicy and meaningful again.

Date night can really boost your relationship. If couple time hasn’t been a part of your regular routine, here’s a challenge:

  • Start by making a 6-week commitment to set aside an hour or two each week for a date night.
  • Agree that you won’t talk about the kids, your job or the in-laws. You don’t have to spend a ton of money. Just play together.
  • At the end of the six weeks, take time to discuss any changes you have experienced in your relationship.

Who knows? “Couple time” might surprise you with the difference it makes in your relationship.