You've moved past that giddy "honeymoon phase" and settled into a comfortable lifestyle with your spouse. You revel in each other's company and companionship but....dare we say it, life is getting a little, uh, boring.
It’s a problem researchers at Stony Brook University found in a 2009 study on boredom in marriages. In fact, they concluded the ennui leads to a decline in marital satisfaction.
Many couples experience this "marriage boredom" at some point. It seems to be a natural outgrowth of a stable relationship. In particular, once children come along, routine and regularity become necessary.
So gone are the days when a couple could just head out to a spur of the moment long (or short) drive. Now, diaper bags and detailed planning are a must to pull off this feat. Or just going out for dinner at a new restaurant requires careful preparation around nap and feeding times or exams and extracurricular activities.
The key to reestablishing some kind of fun and excitement in your relationship doesn't require much money or even time, something busy couples today are often short of. But it does call for a little planning, as counter-intuitive as that sounds.
Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
1. Imagine your spouse as a kid
Kids are often considered part of the reason for "marriage boredom", but in fact, they help spouses see each other in a new light. Parenting reveals not only more about a person’s character, but also, personal history and likes and dislikes, whether that’s a favorite childhood cartoon or toy, or even a game played with their own parents when they were young.
Use this new knowledge to your advantage. Surprise your spouse on a Friday evening once you have some alone time by making or buying their favorite childhood snack, and playing a game of Pac-Man or Donkey Kong for good measure.
2. Start a new good deed together
This can range from going to Friday prayers together and teaching at a weekend Islamic school, to taking turns caring for an elderly relative. Choose your deed and watch your blessings and your bonding increase.
3. Start eating together
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "Eat together and not separately, for the blessing is associated with the company" (Tirmidhi). Studies in the United States over the last decade have also noted that when families eat together, everyone’s nutrition improves, along with communication between family members.
While this may not be possible everyday, especially between jobs, extracurricular activities and other family commitments, make it a priority at least one day on the weekend.
Also, if dinner is not possible, consider eating breakfast or lunch together if the later hours are too busy.
4. Make Umrah or Hajj together
A brother I know once remarked that making Hajj with your spouse is the ultimate bonding experience. Facing Allah together is bound to strengthen your relationship and remind you not only as individuals of the purpose of life, but how you both, as a couple, can help each other reach that goal.
5. Pray together
In situations where you cannot pray in the Masjid in a congregation, make Salaah with your spouse instead of individually. There is power in the Jam'ah (group) even when it is simply the two of you.
6. Engage in some "Halal dating"
Muslims born, raised or living in Western countries have grown up watching or regularly witness couples date. Dating is a staple of teenage life, as expressed in high school hallways, on television shows, in movies, and in novels. It is part of the working world, where co-workers often date each other. In 2007, the Oregon-based Online Dating Magazine estimated that more than 20 million people visit at least one online dating service a month.
For Muslims, marriage is the ultimate dating opportunity. So go ahead, use those cheesy pickup lines you heard on your favorite sitcom; find a babysitter and go out on a date at a swanky restaurant; bat your eyelashes; flirt. Do all that stuff that was off limits before marriage but totally Halaal with your spouse.
7. Write that "heartfelt letter", preferably by hand
In his book Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...and it's all small stuff, Dr. Richard Carlson encourages readers to write a heartfelt letter to those in your life who have influenced you positively. The letter is an expression of appreciation and thanks. Draft a letter (preferably by hand versus email, and no tweets or Facebook wall posts allowed) to your spouse, sharing why you're glad to have them around.
8. Imagine your last day together
The Prophet advised Muslims to pray each of the five daily prayers as if it is their last one (Ahmad). Taking this ideal into account, imagine your last day with your spouse, cut short by death. As morbid as this sounds, it will give you and your significant other a new appreciation of what you have and what will eventually come to an end.
9. Switch roles for a day
On a day when neither of you have to work outside the home, take on the tasks the other would normally do. This will not only add that much needed "spice", but possibly, a zinger and reality check as well.
10. Travel together
Umar ibn al Khattab once said that to truly know a person, an individual must travel with them, do business with them or be their neighbor. Since you already live together and deal with money issues regularly, don't neglect the third way to better know your spouse: travel.
Even if it's just a day trip, make time to check out a new destination, be it a natural wonder, a new point of interest in your state or a Masjid or Islamic center in a neighboring town. Seeing new sights together is an adventure that will add excitement to your relationship.