I was chatting with a client the other day about creating couplehood rituals -- like binge-watching The Walking Dead on lazy weekends -- when she said, "I don't need to watch zombies. My husband and I live like zombies. Our marriage is the walking dead."
Unfortunately, just as the number of undead continue to rise every Sunday evening on AMC, so too does the number of "living dead" marriages. If you're in one, you know the signs: apathy, routine, familiarity, empty interactions, irritability, indifference and sexlessness. You don't actively dislike each other -- you've just kind of stopped showing up.
If this sounds familiar to you, don't run away (or aim for the head) just yet. Instead, try these eight tips to see whether they can bring your zombie relationship back to life.
1. Show appreciation for all that your partner does, especially those things that often go unnoticed. Praise him or her in front of your children.
2. Be affectionate outside of the bedroom. Surprise embraces, playful winks, warm smiles and loving kisses on the forehead are powerful non-verbal ways of staying connected.
3. Express desire for your partner. Let your partner know that he or she is the hottest, sexiest, more desirable show in town. Sex up your relationship by trying new things in bed, and always show sexual enthusiasm for your partner.
4. Be an interesting and happy person. Take time to engage in your favourite pastimes or hobbies and encourage your partner to do the same. After all, an interesting and happy person is an interesting and happy partner.
5. Watch your voice tone. Remove tones of criticism, contempt or defensiveness from your voice and replace them with tones of friendship, support and affection. Your spouse -- and your kids -- will love you for it.
6. Address specific areas of conflict that may be plaguing your relationship. Whether it's finances, parenting disagreements, excessive use of technology or trust issues, be sure to target and tackle those nagging problems. They won't go away on their own.
7. Have an easygoing nature. Choose laughter over arguing. Choose respect over micromanagement. Choose humility and forgiveness over narcissism and resentment.
8. Remember that nostalgia is good for the soul. Flip through old photo albums of your early days together or your children as babes. Use Google maps/streetview to take a virtual walk down memory lane and revisit the places where you used to live or vacation. A couple who has a strong sense of where they've been usually has a strong sense of where they're going.
There's one last seed of thought I'd like to plant, although it will only make sense to those who watch The Walking Dead. Let me ask you this: What quality do you most admire about our group?
To me, it's their unity. It's the way they stick together. If one of them is trapped in crazy town, about to be devoured by cannibals or being held captive in a hospital-prison, there's no question about loyalty or self-sacrifice. Those things are sacred in a natural, unspoken way. They're a team. Their survival depends on it.
Marriage is the same way. If you want your marriage to survive -- and better, to thrive -- you need to work together, as a team, in all things from trust and finances to housework and intimacy. You need to have pride in your commitment to each other and to your family unit.
Most importantly, you need to perform regular "safety checks" to make sure the fortress you've built around your marriage and family remains strong, and fix the weak spots before trouble gets through. If you can do that, your marriage will stay vibrant and full of life.
Visit Debra's practice at MarriageSOS.com
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