Ken Corr

Fighting Relationship Fatigue

We have just concluded our quarterly seminar for premarital counseling.  It is always fun to work with engaged couples and to see their enthusiasm for each other.  Young love is a cocktail rush of brain chemicals:  dopamine, norepinephrine, and oxytocin all get released and the result is a flood of loving feelings.  Unfortunately, some of these same couples who are so in love and enthused will be back in my office within three years needing marriage therapy.  What happens to that initial passionate love?

In her book, Love Sense, Sue Johnson describes a reality that she calls, “Relationship Fatigue.”[1]  After a short while, romantic love gives way to the harsh realities of life: career demands, child-rearing, financial stress, health issues, home maintenance, and generalized stress.  Sometimes the last thing that we have energy for and give attention to is our life partner and the relationship suffers.

There is little that we can do about the harsh realities of life, but I think that there are some things that we can do to address relationship fatigue.  In the midst of the everyday demands of life together, we can intentionally shift our attention away from our needs to our partner’s.  I call this shift, “Partner Focus.”  It requires that we focus on what they want and need rather than what we want and need; we find ways to please them; we do the little things that build their esteem.  Giving compliments, speaking their love language, creating opportunities to help and support them are some examples.

I have discovered that one of the best ways to renew joy in the relationship is to look for ways to do for the other.  The biblical injunction, “it is better to give than to receive,” is true in marriage.  So, if you are experiencing “Relationship Fatigue” in your marriage, shift your focus to your partner and see what a difference it can make.

[1] Love Sense, Sue Johnson, p. 4.

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