QUESTION: My wife and I love each other very much, but we're going through a time of apathy. We just don't feel close to each other. Is this normal, and is there a way to bring back the fire?
DR. DOBSON: This happens sooner or later in every marriage. A man and woman just seem to lose the wind in their romantic sails for a period of time.
Their plight reminds me of seamen back in the days of wooden vessels. Sailors in that era had much to fear, including pirates, storms and diseases. But their greatest fear was that the ship might encounter the Doldrums. The Doldrums was an area of the ocean near the equator characterized by calm and very light shifting winds. It could mean certain death for the entire crew. The ship's food and water supply would be exhausted as they drifted for days, or even weeks, waiting for a breeze to put them back on course.
Well, marriages that were once exciting and loving can also get caught in the romantic doldrums, causing a slow and painful death to the relationship. Author Doug Fields, in his book "Creative Romance," writes, "Dating and romancing your spouse can change those patterns, and it can be a lot of fun. There's no quick fix to a stagnant marriage, of course, but you can lay aside the excuses and begin to date your sweetheart."
In fact, you might want to try thinking like a teenager again. Let me explain.
Recall for a moment the craziness of your dating days - the coy attitudes, the flirting, the fantasies, the chasing after the prize. As we moved from courtship into marriage, most of us felt we should grow up and leave the game playing behind. But we may not have matured as much as we'd like to think.
In some ways, our romantic relationships will always bear some characteristics of adolescent sexuality. Adults still love the thrill of the chase, the lure of the unattainable, excitement of the new and boredom with the old. Immature impulses are controlled and minimized in a committed relationship, of course, but they never fully disappear.
This could help you keep vitality in your marriage. When things have grown stale between you and your spouse, maybe you should remember some old tricks. How about breakfast in bed? A kiss in the rain? Or rereading those old love letters together? A night in a nearby hotel? Roasting marshmallows by an open fire? A phone call in the middle of the day? A long-stem red rose and a love note? There are dozens of ways to fill the sails with wind once more.
If it all sounds a little immature to act like a teenager again, just keep this in mind: In the best marriages, the chase is never really over.
QUESTION: As a single mother, I'd like to leave my children with friends or relatives for a few days and get some time for myself, but I'm worried about how this might affect them. Will they feel deserted again?
DR. DOBSON: Not only is a brief time away from your children not likely to be hurtful - it will probably be healthy for them. One of the special risks faced by single parents is the possibility of a dependency relationship developing that will trap their children at an immature stage. This danger is increased when wounded people cling to each other exclusively for support in stressful times. Spending a reasonable amount of time apart can teach independence and give everyone a little relief from the routine. Therefore, if you have a clean, safe place to leave your children for a week or two, by all means, do it. You'll be more refreshed and better able to handle your usual "homework" when you return.