Whether or not we’re familiar with the term, we’ve all experienced a phenomenon known as “hedonic adaptation.” It’s basically a fancy term for the excitement of something new wearing off – it happens with new clothes and gadgets, moving into a new place, getting a raise, and unfortunately, in marriage.
As we get used to our new conditions, they gradually become less novel, and therefore less exciting. A recent article [link] published by The New York Times covered this very problem, as well as what married couples can do about it.
The first couple years of a relationship are some of the happiest and most passionate for couples, but as hedonic adaptation begins to happen, this passion transforms – the love doesn’t go anywhere, but the way we experience it changes from intense desire to a sense of companionship. This stage of a relationship is important of course, because it is when we develop some of our strongest emotional and intellectual bonds – but we can’t neglect the physical!
The solution? Keep things exciting!
Studies indicate that couples that engage in “exciting” activities retain greater satisfaction as they move into the middle stages of marriage. Researchers have also found that there is another spike in marriage satisfaction – about 20 years in. This means that when the kids grow up and leave the house, married couples are free to rekindle the passion they once had, and actually report higher levels of happiness and satisfaction than young couples in the “passion” stage.
This is important to consider for those tempted by extramarital affairs – less than 25% of relationships that begin as an affair last beyond a couple of years, and the concept of hedonic adaptation can help explain why.
Because variety, excitement, danger, and other “passion-based” emotions are heavily involved in affairs, the drop-off for dissatisfaction is that much steeper, and without the foundations to develop a companionate relationship, most romances that start with affairs simply fall apart after a year or two.
On the other hand, if you can keep things interesting even after hedonic adaptation has begun to change the face of your marriage, you can fight against its negative effects. By finding new things to do, or exciting ways to enjoy each other’s company, you can avoid the slip into the ordinary and often mundane middle stages of marriage.
With a little determination, you can even experience new peaks in your marital happiness as you rediscover passion for one another, rekindle the romantic elements of your relationship, and find all new ways of sharing your time together as the kids leave the house, retirement approaches, and you move toward the next stage of your lives together.
For more tips on keeping passion alive in your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com