No matter how long you've been together, interest in and excitement about your spouse strengthens your bond.
At the beginning of a romantic relationship, couples seek to know everything about each other: their preferences, dreams, projects, habits, their current state of mind, the feelings that move them, and so on. This curiosity tends to fade with time.
Perhaps we think we know each other well enough already. Perhaps we no longer want take the time, or we may even be afraid of what we might discover. But when spouses keep alive a healthy curiosity about each other, it helps them to strengthen their relationship.
Raphaëlle de Foucauld, marriage and family counselor, offers Aleteia this advice:
Remaining curious about each other is one of the secrets of happy couples. Asking yourself every day, “What new things can I learn about my spouse?” is a way to nourish your relationship, to keep your marriage alive.
Curiosity about each other needs to be constantly renewed as both spouses evolve. After all, we can never learn everything there is to know about our spouse, no matter how many years we’ve been together.
In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, psychologist John Gottman identified seven keys to a happy marriage, based on a longitudinal study of 650 couples over 14 years. From the similar behaviors he observed in happy couples, he came to describe a successful marital lifestyle. Gottman’s seven principles include the following:
- Knowing your spouse and “enhancing your love maps”
- Nurturing your fondness and admiration for each other
- Turning toward each other instead of away
- Letting your partner influence you
- Solving your solvable problems
- Overcoming gridlock
- Creating shared meaning
The curiosity we’re talking about here is a way of “turning towards each other instead of away.” This requires a proactive attitude that involves taking an interest in the other person, and in their activities, concerns, and feelings. Neglecting to pay attention to each other can lead to the couple drifting away from each other without realizing it.
Gottman says that the real secret to rekindling the flame doesn’t necessarily lie in a candlelit dinner or a romantic vacation. “Turning towards your spouse” through small daily gestures, he says, is key to true love. It’s not a question of being intrusive or invasive by bombarding each other with questions, but simply being curious about each other, about your spouse’s inner world and thoughts, and creating moments where active and positive listening can take place.