Last week, I wrote an article about job burn-out, and some tips to help cope with it. This week I was going to write an article about marriage burn-out, but I didn’t bother because someone else already did in yesterday’s Washington Post!

While the Washington Post article by Abigail Trafford focuses mostly on long marriages, I think one can have that “burned out” feeling doing anything for even just 5 or 6 years, much less 20 or 30. I think marriages, unlike jobs, are far more challenging to maintain, and beyond just maintaining it, actually helping to nurture it and watch it grow over the years.

It can be done.

The article mostly focuses on describing how and why many marriages burn out after decades of togetherness, often due to two people growing apart over the years and not doing much about the lack of intimacy (which is different than sex). But it also offers these tips:

It’s about getting playfulness, humor, a sense of adventure and gestures of courtship back into the relationship.

Couples who have been together for many years have a joint emotional bank account. You can draw on that account to jump-start affection and institute rituals of connection — a daily walk in the park, a weekend away.

Do you have a sense of shared meaning and purpose? Shared values and activities? Do you have “we-ness,” the mind-set of being a team that has gone through a lot together?

To help you answer these questions, we have two relationship quizzes that may help. The first one is long — 41 questions — but the Romantic Attachment Quiz may help you better understand the type of romantic attachment you’re seeking in your life. The second one is more of a fun quiz, Feeling Connected?, to help you do a quick check on how emotionally connected you feel to your significant other right now.

What makes a long lasting, strong marriage?

Our good friend Clay Tucker-Ladd, Ph.D. looked at the research and wrote in his book, Psychological Self-Help, that men and women give many of the same kinds of reasons for their successful marriage:

  • My partner is my best friend and I like him/her as a person; I put him/her first over all others, over my work, over TV, over everything. It isn’t just “you’re #1” in spirit; I actually give him/her my whole attention and make time every day.
  • I regard marriage as a deep, almost sacred commitment; we’ve had some disagreements but never for a moment did I seriously consider divorce. We worked it out. To love, you must feel emotionally safe — totally accepted, respected, and supported. Therefore, we don’t criticize or strike out in anger, instead we gently request a change
  • I enjoy my partner, we laugh and touch, we confide, we agree on values, goals, and sex. We look for the good in each other and in life; thus, we are optimistic. We have wide interests and try new things. We try to have fun.
  • We have equal power; we respect our partner’s wishes and know we can’t always have our way; disagreements are negotiated. Decisions are made fairly, some together, some by me, and some by him/her. We both make changes when needed, tolerate losses, and accept unresolved conflicts. We are patient and forgiving.
  • We accept and trust each other, permitting honesty and security; I tell him/her everything. I love the closeness; we share our minds, hearts, and souls. We listen to the other.
  • We are equally dependent on each other in ways that enrich our lives; and we are equally independent from each other in ways that enrich our lives. We do so much together and agree on most issues, but we have a clear sense of self and do things by ourselves. Clearly, we think for ourselves.
  • We cherish our time together, expressing our appreciation of each other for little acts of kindness as well as major sacrifices. We treasure our memories and frequently remind each other of the good times.

We highly recommend reading the entire section of the chapter this entry appears in, Handling Marital Problems.