This book was written expressly to show couples how to transform their romantic love into a more permanent lasting love. It avoids the gimmicks and sexual gymnastics so common in "how to" books about love and encourages couples to consistently act on the things they already know but often fail to do. It elevates the significance of lasting love beyond just the benefits of a good relationship—to show how it enriches life as a whole. It gives practical insights into sustaining intimacy through honest communication as it guides couples in recognizing and addressing the core issues that lie beneath the surface of the nitty-gritty issues that seem to cause so many problems.
Are you frustrated by the endless stream of suggestions for magically improving your love lifelike having sex in strange places or going to motels with no luggage? Are you tired of trying all the gimmicks and tricks that make you feel foolish or embarrassedlike saran-wrap surprises, wearing no underwear, or talking dirty on the phone? Are you discouraged by seeing that nothing seems to work the way you hope it willor that it only works temporarily and then you're right back where you started?
If you're feeling desperate and doomed to a life of struggling to find and keep a good relationship, don't give up hope. You can have a lasting love. And it doesn't require any miracles. Deep down you know everything you need to know about making love last; you just forgot. What you need to do is calmly reflect on what you already knowand then act on it. That's what this book will help you do.
This is a guidebook, an instruction manual, and a source of inspiration whenever you get discouraged. You can't pick up this book and not find something you can use. And while it may not seem sexy, if you consistently follow its suggestions, it will do more for your sex life than any sex manual you can buy.
The ideas in this book come straight from our own experienceboth personally and professionally. We've been married for 41 years and have spent the past 20 working with hundreds of other couples on their relationship issues. These experiences have brought us a new clarity about what's important in making love last. But you don't have to take our word for it; you can verify the ideas in this book from your own experience.
You'll see that this stuff is not "pie in the sky." It's very basic and solid. And since it grew directly out of our own struggles to make love stay, it's based on reality. We faced most of the problems that any couple faces. We didn't have insight into how to avoid them (or how to deal with them if we couldn't avoid them), but we survivedand we learned from our experiences.
Looking back, we can see how desperately we needed a book like this when we were starting out. So we've written the book we should have had, but didn't. We know a lot of you are bogged down in the same kinds of thinking we did and facing some of the same issues we faced. But you don't have to stay frustrated and disappointed about the course of your love. You do have this book and you can use it to make your love stay.
Inspiring You to Take Charge of Your Love
Falling in love is easy, but staying in love is quite another matter. Apparently it's one of the most difficult things any of us ever attempts. Because of the high divorce rate and the large percentage of remaining marriages in which couples don't have a vital love relationship, you may have come to believe it's inevitable that love will fade with time. Or perhaps you've already experienced the discouragement of seeing the love you once shared somehow slip away.
Don't settle for thinking you really can't expect more. You can and you shouldregardless of your current situation. While no long-term love relationship is without difficulties, it is possible for love to survive and to be renewed and transformed over time. That's what this book is aboutshowing you how you can realistically aspire to something better.
Relationships can be the source of great joy or great pain. They seldom stand still; they're either getting better or getting worse. You deserve more out of love than just a few brief romantic interludes or an ongoing struggle to "get along." You don't want life to pass you by while you're waiting (and hoping) for a good relationship. You'll feel better if you're actively doing something toward that end. By paying attention to what's happeningand taking responsibility for what's happeningyou can make a difference.
If you still doubt whether you can take charge of directing the course of your love, maybe you'll find encouragement that "anything is possible" by hearing a little bit about our own struggles to change the course of our love. Even where the specifics of our experiences are unlike yours, the similarity of the struggle is a connection we all share.
When we married at age nineteen we had no real concept of what was involved in making love stay. We believed our love was so special that it could withstand anything. We had the typical tendency to take our relationship for granted and "forget" all the things we really knew were important to keep our love strong. Through the years we confronted many of the standard problems that can drive a wedge between a couple if they aren't paying attention.
For instance, early in our marriage we found ourselves involved in one of the most common problems of alllosing touch with each other because of so much focus on career and children. We didn't lose touch just because we were focusing in different areas; it was because we didn't maintain the bridge between those two areas (and between ourselves) by talking straight to each other about how we felt about the situation.
We just went along, thinking this was the way things had to be. We didn't realize that you don't have to change "how it is;" you only have to change "how you deal with it." Unfortunately, we simply didn't deal with it. So we started down a path of distance and isolation from each otherand lost that special connection on a deep level that's critical to making love stay.
The weakening of our basic connection made us vulnerable to all kinds of other problems that can create difficulty in long-term relationships. One of the most common is simply the familiarity that comes from being together over the years. We started taking each other for grantedseeing each other primarily in terms of our roles as "husband" and "wife" instead of who we were as individuals.
This shift in our thinking was gradual(we didn't even realize it was happening)but we fell into stereotyping each other as one of "them," with all the negative baggage that carries with it. This included a lot of "ain't it awful" kind of thinking and talking about each other. "Men are so distant, so preoccupied with their own interests, so insensitive, so uncommunicative..." And on the other side, "women are so emotional, so smothering, so demanding, so talkative..."
Naturally, each of us thought we were right in our assessment of what was wrong with the other one. And commiserating with others only served to reinforce these stereotypical ways of reacting to each other. Slowly, but surely, we joined the masses who view the opposite sex not as individuals, but as members of a mysterious group that you don't understand and can't changeso you just have to tolerate. This attitude further increased the distance between us and decreased the strength of the loving aspect of our relationship.
These standard problems became like a cancer, slowly robbing us of the closeness we had originally felt. It wasn't that our love was gone; it's just that it was getting buried under the sense of isolation and distance created by the mounting pressure of fulfilling our roles while losing ourselves.
What finally got our attention was a crisisdealing with the issue of extramarital affairs. It shook us to the core and forced us to learn, or relearn, a lot of the basic principles we had forgotten. We had thought we were good communicators because we did talk. We had never fallen into the trap of using the "silent treatment" to deal with differences, but it was only when we were confronted with a situation that required some really deep talk that we began to learn to communicate effectively.
Understanding how and why we had gotten to that point, working through the hurt, and rebuilding trust gave us a new appreciation of the healing power of honest communication. Since that pointalmost twenty years agowe have consistently tried to implement the ideas and suggestions we're now offering to you. We know these ideas work because our love and trust are now deeper and stronger than eversolidly based on a shared, ongoing commitment to honesty and fairness.
We're not holding ourselves up as a perfect couple. On the contrary, we fully expect to continue the process of learning and working on our relationship. We still have high expectations of love, but they're based on experience and realistic possibilities rather than magical thinking.
We invite you to use our understandings and insights, not as the final answers to your problems but as a means of helping you find your own answers. You have the power to make your love lastand this book can help you do it.
Of course, the title of this book is misleading if you take it literally; you can't arbitrarily and unilaterally make love do anything. On the other hand, love doesn't come and go capriciously. This book is about the understandings you can reach and the specific things you can do that will make all the difference in the world in whether or not your love will stay.
Understanding Love and its Place in Your Life
Throughout the book we'll be giving you all kinds of specific actions to help make your love staybut you really need a clear understanding of some basic ideas before you start. The first of these understandings is to recognize what's at stake. We're not talking about some little fringe issue in your life here. When all is said and done, having a long-term, loving relationship ranks toward the top of the list of the best of what life has to offer.
This book is different from most others in that it respects love's significance. We are presenting a way of looking at your love relationship in the context of your life as a whole. Our goal is to help you achieve a love that provides a solid place to stand in the world. Your love can be the kind of positive force in your life that lets you go out and face the world on a completely different basis than you could do otherwise.
In focusing on this goal, we are trying to avoid the pitfalls of the "romantic" approach to making love stay. We're elevating the meaning of a loving relationship beyond just achieving temporary pleasure. Part of our motivation for writing this book came from our growing frustration with the popular advice that's based on this short-sighted, superficial approach to sustaining (or reviving) love.
This is a book of substance for people who want the most from what love has to offer. It's simple without being simplistic and it's serious without being stuffy. We are suggesting a wide range of interconnected actions that are based on a deeper understanding of the nature of lasting love.
The Changing Nature of Love
The first step in making love stay is to understand that lasting love is not the same as the exciting, heady feelings of "falling in love." Love changes; it never remains the sameand trying to keep it from changing is sure to snuff it out.
Let's follow the course of the changes in the way you're likely to experience love. First, you fall in love. What a wonderful feeling! It's intoxicating and all-consuming. You can't think of anything elseand you can't keep your hands off each other. (Personally, we still refer to the beginning of our own relationship at age seventeen as our period of "young, hot love"but, of course, these feelings aren't restricted to young people; they're typical of any new love at any age.)
Falling in love, or "new love," produces some of the most intense feelings you will ever experience. At its best, it seems too good to be real. It is real, but it won't lastat least, not in that form. Enjoy new love for the fantastic experience that it is, but recognize that much of the intensity of the feeling is inherent in its newness and novelty. You may wish these feelings would never end and you may go to all kinds of lengths to sustain them or to rekindle them when you feel them changing. But the popular tricks and gimmicks for maintaining that particular kind of excitement are doomed to fail.
While romantic touches are wonderful for stimulating exciting love-making and adding spice to your relationship, they aren't sufficient by themselves to build a lasting love. They may give your relationship a temporary shot in the armbut it will quickly fade and you'll be right back where you started. This superficial approach just won't work over the long haul.
If the romantic fix doesn't work, you may wonder why there are so many books and so much advice about how to recapture the first flush of love and put the zing back in your marriage. Well, it's really not too hard to figure out. In a couple of key ways, that kind of advice about love is a lot like the books and advice about crash dietsbased on the fantasy that there's a quick and easy way to do it.
Just like you can quickly lose some weight with a crash diet, you can quickly create a spark in your relationship with a sexy gimmick. Just as it's much easier to go on a specified diet for a specified period of time than to change your overall eating habits for life, it's also easier to pursue some specific sexual encounters than to change your overall ways of relating for life. But in both cases, this approach doesn't last. With the diet, you wind up regaining the weight and feeling even worse than before. And with your relationship, the temporary surge of feelings inevitably fades and things settle back to the way they were before (or worse) and you wind up feeling even more discouraged than ever.
Every failed attempt at dieting or failed attempt at reviving the feelings of "new love" leaves you feeling hopeless that anything will really work. At some point, you need to say NO to this up and down yo-yo and get serious about making real change. If you finally feel like saying, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore," then you're ready for this book and its solid, long-term approach to making love stay.
Copyright ©1992, 2009 Peggy Vaughan and James Vaughan, Ph.D.