When couples get married, nothing can match the excitement of a lifetime together. For many, marriage is a commitment built on connection, trust, and admiration – the culmination of a loving, vibrant relationship.
However, as time goes on, those heady feelings can turn into distant memories as the toll of daily life takes over. When passion fades, even the most loving couples can find themselves in a rut.
Luckily, there are ways to avoid the trap of mundane life, especially for spouses ready to work on keeping romance alive. Gottman’s principles – developed across 40 years of clinical research – offer a roadmap on how to rekindle love in your marriage.
This guide breaks down every key point, from why it matters to practical steps you can practice today. Here’s everything new and long-term couples need to know about reigniting their passion for each other.
Why keeping the spark alive is important in a marriage
There’s a lot to be said for stability and comfort in a healthy relationship. Knowing your partner better than anyone else and feeling equally understood is a form of intimacy, but we still balance. Passion helps us find that sweet spot between secure and exciting, reliable and refreshing.
It’s easy to keep the spark alive in the early years. Everything from the first date, to sharing new experiences and learning about each other creates emotional intimacy. Falling in love feels effortless and the rest of the world falls away.
When couples stop nurturing that passion though, the relationship stagnates. Responsibilities like work and kids demand more attention. Money stress and burnout make it harder to be vulnerable.
In the end, spouses spend less time fostering the emotional intimacy that keeps a marriage strong. They lose touch, become distant, and fall into frustrating patterns. So what should couples do to keep the spark alive?
Ways how to rekindle love in your marriage
Gottman’s principles emphasize three qualities a healthy marriage needs: deep friendship, mutual respect, and a positive attitude. These are essential for making a marriage last. They guide couples on how to connect, work together, and fall in love time and time again.
The insights below are based on Gottman’s principles and offer practical ways to rekindle love in your marriage. Here’s how:
Making the most of quality time
A deep friendship comes from spending time with the person you love. Making time to bond shows a commitment to your spouse. It’s one of the best ways to close any distance before it grows too wide. While you should take quality time seriously, remember that it’s meant to be fun!
- Get proactive about date night
Don’t just set aside a day in your weekly schedule though. Date night should be fun and exciting like it was at the start of the relationship. Get spontaneous! Plan around things your partner appreciates, like celebrating a milestone or a surprise night out.
- Try a new activity together
Nothing rekindles the spark like making new memories together. Our interests change with time, even in a relationship. Trying a new activity is an amazing way to acknowledge growth and show an interest in sharing that journey.
- Plan a vacation
When you’re trying to break out of a routine, nothing does the trick like going away together. Planning a vacation isn’t a small task, but it doesn’t need to be a surprise to work. Collaborating on plans gives you plenty of time to share the excitement and build anticipation.
At its core, emotional intimacy is about positive expression. Dr. Gottman describes “everything positive you do in your relationship [as] foreplay.” How you communicate your needs and invite your partner to do the same can foster closeness out of conflict.
- Send that flirty text
Don’t let the mundane things dominate your conversation. A flirty text is a great way to keep things playful and brighten your partner’s day. It’s a more emotionally engaging form of communication. Flirting isn’t just about what you say, either – tone can convey just as much meaning.
- Show your appreciation
What do you love about your partner? Specifically, which traits do you admire in them? When was the last time you told them you appreciate who they are? Showing appreciation for your partner is a powerful form of validation. Gratitude reminds us that we’re loved when doubt tells us otherwise.
- Focus on foreplay
While everything positive can be a kind of foreplay, sexual intimacy should still be a priority. Treating foreplay as a prelude limits the time you spend building intimacy together. Being able to enjoy it for its own sake goes a long way in keeping the passion alive in the bedroom.
Growing with your relationship
In our hierarchical modern society, respect is often used as another word for deference. But in a loving relationship, respect is a two-way street, one that steers you towards your partner when life tries to turn you away. Mutual respect is crucial for a loving marriage because it’s founded on trust, fondness, and shared values.
- Take a trip down memory lane
We can’t grow if we’re stuck in the past, but that doesn’t mean abandoning it. Going over fond memories together reminds you of the positive things that made you fall in love. The past also highlights how far we’ve come, especially with photos, videos, and mementos to document the ride.
- Plan for the future together
Appreciate yesterday, but don’t forget to work on tomorrow as a couple. Future planning involves listening to each other’s dreams, desires, and support needs. It creates intimacy because you’re building a future that matters to both of you.
- Keep learning about each other
You’ll never know everything about a person, even a spouse, so it’s important to keep learning! Pay attention to the news they share with you; these are the things that tend to matter. Not sure about personal changes in your partner’s life? There’s nothing sweeter than asking!
Gottman’s principles on making a marriage work
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is the ultimate guide for long-term couples. In the book, Dr. Gottman details his Sound House Relationship Theory, where each principle is a building block from foundation to finish. The 7 principles include:
1. Share love maps
A love map is a collection of all the things we learn about our partners: their likes, dislikes, passions, ambitions, and quirks. Sharing love maps helps couples know each other more deeply and bond over what truly matters.
2. Nurture your fondness and admiration
Being fond of your partner is healthy, but it’s important to share that with them too. We all appreciate being admired out loud, especially by people who know and care about us.
3. Turn towards each other instead of away
When issues come up, partners should turn to each other for support, encouragement, and comfort. Stonewalling and defensiveness are both reactions that drive partners further apart during difficult times.
4. Let your partner influence you
Don’t be afraid to turn to your partner for advice too. Family, friends, and society, in general, have a habit of trying to influence couples from the outside. But decisions are meant to be shared by the two people in the marriage and approached from a place of mutual respect.
5. Solve your solvable problems
Some relationship problems can’t be solved because they come down to fundamental differences. Even then, perpetual problems are much easier to manage when you get the solvable ones out of the way.
6. Overcome gridlock
Unsolvable problems aren’t fatal so long as they don’t keep the relationship from progressing. Gridlock happens when innate differences leave spouses feeling trapped by their marriage. Couples overcome gridlock by sharing their unmet needs and supporting each other’s goals as individuals within their union.
7. Create shared meaning
Shared meaning comes naturally in a loving relationship. We create meaning every day in the jokes, rituals, and inner lives we bond through, from subconscious but intimate gestures to bold and deliberate statements.