Sound familiar? Bears and other animals innately choose hibernation as a practice. It’s crucial for their health. In human relationships, it just sort of happens as a defense mechanism, and it definitely is not the path towards good health.
Why do marriages go into hibernation?
We don’t plan out these down periods. No one chooses to sleepwalk through such an important relationship. But it happens far more often than any one of us like to admit. Here are some of the telltale ways to recognize a marriage gone stale:
Lack of communication
You used to stay up all night talking. You could finish each other’s sentence. Now…not so much.
Staring at screens
Phones, TVs, and computers command far more of your attention than your spouse.
You feel like you’re running a daycare center
Between dirty diapers, doctor appointments, soccer practice, and helping with homework, you’re more like business partners than lovers.
Too busy for sex
Whether you are “too busy” or not, is open to discussion. But if you can’t remember the last time you touched each other, you have an intimacy problem.
7 Ways to Wake Up Your Hibernating Marriage
1. Schedule a conversation
Stop leaving things to chance. Make a plan to meet and talk—in person. Get a babysitter. Turn off all your devices. Make this your top priority because, well…it is. Discuss where you are. Decide where you want to go, together.
2. Intimacy means much more than sex
A hug. Holding hands. Eye contact. A gentle neck massage. Begin your journey of re-connection. Discover what feels best (tip: it often changes over time) and make it happen.
3. Date Night!
Maybe it’ll be a night of baseball (or monster trucks) at the Oakland Coliseum. Perhaps you’ll prefer a day of hiking in Redwood Regional Park. Watch an indie film at the Grand Lake Theater or catch some stand-up at The New Parish. There’s no shortage of options. All that’s missing is you, the comeback couple!
4. Double Date Night!
After a few date nights, why not socialize with other couples? Let your friends see the two of you at your best. (And don’t forget to compliment each other in front of other people.)
5. Get in shape together
Join a gym. Sign up for a dance class. Try yoga. Whatever you do, do it together. Set goals together. Sweat together. Inspire each other and encourage each other.
6. Make romantic gestures
In this high-tech age, it’s never been easier to brighten your partner’s day. It could be a text. Perhaps you share something romantic on their Facebook page or Twitter. E-mail love letters are always fun! But don’t forget the real world. You can leave real love notes for your spouse to find. Also, there’s a reason real flowers and chocolate have been so popular for so long.
7. Say “I love you” often
Do not take yourself, your partner, or your marriage for granted. Speak your feelings aloud and often. Leave no doubt that the hibernation period is a thing of the past.
Since your marriage involves two people, “waking up” at the same exact time isn’t always possible. It isn’t even likely. This is where couples counseling is so helpful. Your therapist will create a safe space in which both partners can do the work they each need to do. There’s no hibernation in your counseling session! You might even call it a collective wake-up call!