Keep Passion Alive by Listening

dv1801017For those of you in a relationship, think back to the time when you first saw your partner. You see them across the room, and something inside you says, “They are the one.” There is a sense of excitement and passion in you. You eventually meet and start dating. You just cannot get enough of this person and you find yourself thinking about them all the time. Eventually you start having sex and it’s passionate and really hot. Eventually you become a committed couple, perhaps leading to engagement and marriage. Two years pass and one day you roll over, look at your partner and say, “Where did the passion go?”

Romantic love is nature’s way of bringing people together. Unfortunately, this phase does not last. It is why a number of us will find ourselves going from one relationship to another, seeking the high that comes from romantic love. Recreating these feelings in a committed relationship takes work. What kind of work might you ask? The kind of work that shows a commitment to keeping the passion and desire for one another alive. It includes thinking of your partner and their needs, consciously making choices that puts your partner first, doing things that your partner will see as loving behaviors and actions. This way of being is not easy for most of us. We want the other person to do it first. Sometimes, power struggles may get in the way of anyone going first.

The good news is that most of the power struggles we have can be overcome. Power struggles are opportunities for growth. They represent the issues we have yet to resolve from our childhood. If we can just put our reactivity on hold and engage in a constructive, safe, and open dialogue with our partner, we will eventually see that the conflict dissolves.

Imago therapy utilizes a structured process that helps couples dialogue about issues in a safe and non-threatening way. The process incorporates active listening and repeating back what is heard (mirroring). This is the first step in helping couples really listen to what is said. Otherwise, each person will listen to what is being said for about 30 seconds and then begin to formulate a response. This breakdown in communication often results in reactivity and defensiveness in both parties.

Try it for yourself. The next time you have a conversation with your significant other, take a moment before responding. Mirror back what you heard, followed by a “Did I get it?” Your partner will be delighted you asked.

© Copyright 2010 by Alan L. Marcus, PhD. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Kieth E.

    May 25th, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    I have experienced this first hand, but I just didn’t know why it happens…I get into a relationship and its all nice and exciting and a few months down the line, all the excitement is gone…like the fizz from a cola!

  • Lacey

    May 25th, 2010 at 7:46 PM

    Mirroring is also useful when dealing with your boss. It completely eradicates any misunderstandings because you run through this check with him/her. That makes it an enormous time saver too. If you’ve ever wasted time on a project because you and your boss had your wired crossed, mirroring’s for you.

  • Dana

    May 25th, 2010 at 8:57 PM

    Romance can stay alive if you work at it. Too many couples give up on the romantic gestures and compliments once they are “officially” an item. It’s as if once you’ve committed to each other, you don’t need to make an effort anymore. Guess what? You do!

  • wendy

    May 26th, 2010 at 4:32 AM

    In my marriage this has definitely been cyclical. And what I mean by this is that of course we were so passionate when we first started dating and got married. And then reality set in and the daily drudge of chores, kids, etc wore us down. But now it feels like we are right back where we started but in a good way. I have heard from many couples and they say that it has been the same for them. There are just some times when you are more passionate about the relationship than others. I am always in love with my husband and that does not change, but I guess it’s all about the heat of the moment and that I have to say comes and goes, but the underlying love and trust remain the same.

  • joejoe

    May 26th, 2010 at 6:57 AM

    Sorry if this is tmi, but a friend of mine who’s been married for 12 year still fantasize about his wife when he masturbates. Lucky guy. I fantasize about every other woman but my wife. I don’t think there are any active listening skills int he world that would remove the disgust I feel about her body. She’s just totally let herself go. I think I’m wired to feel disgust to cellulite and flab. I love her, care for her, but don’t want to have any physical touch with her. Any suggestions because this really sucks.

  • Daffney

    September 7th, 2014 at 9:06 PM

    Joejoe may I be blunt…well I’m going to be, it seems like the problem is your thoughts of other women and acting out are creating a greater wedge between you and your wife. My guess is she is depressed and unloved by you. You say you love her, but her body is not good enough! For better or worse, remember those words if something God forbid ever happened and your face was deformed or you lost an arm. Or became sick should she say I love him but I can’t stand to look at him or can’t stand I have to do everything. You see the more your lust after “beautiful” women and act out your bonding with your self and becoming more self-centered. If your wife was 500 lbs. THATS WHATS BEAUTIFUL , BECAUSE SHE IS YOURS. A little secret- the more you love her cherish her the more beautiful she will become. Stop acting out, keep your eyes on your wife only and you will see a change a big change.


    May 26th, 2010 at 7:40 AM

    @joejoe:Maybe you should talk to your wife about it because I’m pretty sure even she is unhappy with what is happening, or rather NOT happening in your marriage. Talking solves most problems!

  • Robyn

    May 26th, 2010 at 9:02 AM

    joejoe, I hope you don’t say that out loud to your wife. Saying “you’re fat” or “you disgust me” does nothing to make your wife want to lose weight. She knows it and doesn’t need you to point it out. She could well be as unhappy about her weight gain as you are. Is she a comfort eater? She may be upset about some aspect of her life and using food for that. It’s possible she’s also depressed. Some people put it on when they are, and some lose weight. Talk to her. You say you love her, so talk to her not about the weight but how she feels inside. Get her to the dr for a checkup to see if it’s a physical problem. Weight gain can be a sign of underlying conditions. Above all, be tactful. Women are extremely sensitive about weight gain.

  • hannah

    May 26th, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    It may well be because of the same-routine followed by most couples…I never get tired of my husband…we always try newer methods of attraction one another and make love in newer and innovative places…that sure helps keep the fire alive!

  • Darrell

    May 26th, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    Take a good look at yourself too. Can you honestly say you haven’t changed in any way, joejoe? Men can be hypocrites sometimes, expecting their wives to stay the same as they were the day they married while they let themselves gain a paunch and sit around doing nothing but watch TV. Don’t be casting stones until you’ve had a good look in the mirror at yourself and see how much effort you put in to your own appearance, and keeping your marriage alive.

  • Tabitha

    May 26th, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    This is directed at joejoe.

    Find out how she feels and be sensitive, not unkind in how you do it. Ask her if she’s okay, that you’re concerned about her and want her to be happy. Ask what she wants out of life and what she feels she’s missing out on. Talk about her hopes and dreams. Bet it’s been a long time since either of you did that. Open the door to discussion. You may find that’s just what she’s been waiting for, for you to show a genuine interest in her again.

    Be conscious of not turning it into an argument either. You’re asking about how she feels and she’s telling you. Your turn can come after that. This is about finding a way to improve your marriage, not fighting your corner.

  • Tudor

    May 27th, 2010 at 4:06 AM

    I have read that lust lasts for just two years on an average in a relationship.While this may or may not be true, I would like to believe that love is stronger than lust and can help keep the relationship going.

  • Charlotte

    May 27th, 2010 at 4:48 AM

    Every marriage and relationship takes work and effort. If you put in the effort then the passion will still be there no matter what else is going on. You may not be able to act on it as much as you would like but somethimes just knowing that it is still there is enough.

  • Esther

    May 27th, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    Men and women should be working even harder to maintain that closeness, not casting it aside like an out of season sweater. You get out of relationships what you put into them. Keep paying your partner the attention you did when you were courting. An old fashioned word, I know, and it’s sad that courting isn’t fashionable anymore. Because that was romantic.

  • Stan

    May 27th, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    Joejoe: if you’re not sleeping together, she’s wondering if you still love her or are having an affair. Isn’t that a good reason to talk about feelings? Assuming you don’t want your marriage to just slip away, you have to communicate. It doesn’t need to be that deep a question. It can be as simple as asking how her day was and LISTENING to the answer closely.

  • Beth

    May 28th, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    Jojoe, when was the last time you took her out somewhere nice for no reason other than to be with her? Arrange a babysitter if you need one and have a night out. Remember why you loved her before. I’m sure it wasn’t all about looks, was it? Your wife must have had many attributes that you loved or you wouldn’t have married her. Help her feel good about herself and give her a reason to want to slim down. When women feel taken for granted or unloved, they get very sad and stop caring about themselves. We need to know we’re loved. Don’t let your wife be sad. You’re a team.

  • Paulette

    May 29th, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    Joejoe, if your wife is like most moms (and I’m assuming you have family), they do put on weight during pregnancy that’s hard to shift afterward. Busy moms eat a lot of convenience foods. It’s not easy to schedule in exercise to an already busy day. If you want to truly help your wife, don’t be mean about her weight. All that does is make her feel worse and eat more.

    Instead find an activity you can do together that will help her lose it and help her free up the time so she can join you in that. Don’t specifically mention the weight as why you want to do it if you think it would hurt her feelings. If she’s said she wants to lose it, then offer the idea as a way of supporting her in that. Suggest a walk in the evenings for example where you can spend time together out in the fresh air and stretch your legs.

    The main thing is that you do it together. And don’t bring home junk food either.

  • Jacquie

    May 30th, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    Listening is such a bone of contention in our house. Both of us are guilty of multitasking and only half catching what’s being said. Sitting down together just to talk and nothing else feels weird now. When we were dating we could do that until dawn. I don’t know why it went from something that felt so natural and right to a feeling of artificialness if we try to bring that back into our lives. It can be depressing to even attempt it.

    Thanks Alan for a good article.

  • Abby

    May 30th, 2010 at 10:30 PM

    I find it hard to be the one that makes the first move. I was brought up to believe that that was the man’s job and it was up to him to be romantic and passionate. When he’s not I resent that he doesn’t show any interest in romancing me and feel taken for granted.

    After reading this I can see that I’m doing the same thing. I’m taking for granted that he’ll always be willing to take the lead. Thanks for the insight, Alan!

  • Samuel

    June 1st, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    Passion’s easy when it’s just the two of you and you’re on romantic getaways. It’s more challenging when you have kids sleeping one room away and are worrying about your mortgage.

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