couples therapy green hills tn


As we “fall” in love with our new partner, idealizations of them, and ourselves, and the relationship runs rampant. We can’t stop thinking and obsessing over how amazing they are, or how good we feel, or how well we fit together. But, as most of us know, as the years wane on, we lose that spark, that excitement, and that hope that THIS person is the one for us. As the spark and longings for our partner begin to fade, we start to question the validity and appropriateness of the relationship. We find other ways to be connected: through duty, responsibility, and commitment. But, as Stephen Mitchell so poignantly points out, perhaps we have more to do with desire’s diminishment than we ever thought. He writes, “Thus…the partners in many couples come to INHIBIT (sic) the appreciation and excitement they feel about each other earlier in the relationship.  They tell themselves they know the other better now.  What they know now is that the features they once idealized in the other are not all there is to the other, that the other is also disappointing, and therefore that their passion cannot be a steady state.  So they use what they know of the other as a defense against the surrender of idealization.  The adored features of the other many not have been illusory at all; what was illusory was the guarantee they sought against disappointment and perpetually regenerated solitude.  The deepening of dependency and the inevitability of episodic disappointment makes idealized perspectives and the excitement they arouse more dangerous, because they are not the whole story.  Surrender to romantic imagination is warded off by a sober, selective clinging to frailties so that excitement can be controlled.”


Could it be possible that we (subconsciously) kill idealization of our long-term partners? Could it be that we have some culpability in the death of our desire and excitement for our spouse? “No way,” we argue. What I used to feel was magical, and that magic is definitely gone. Yet, surely, some part of Dr. Mitchell’s words ring true in our gut. What we do come to discover is that our idealization simply wasn’t ALL true.   And I assert that is a tougher pill to swallow than to believe the idealization was never true in the first place. Do we really ward off idealization as a way to control and mitigate the fear of the pain of our lover’s loss? It’s a sobering thought to consider. Yet, it also puts us back in the driver seat of rediscovering a type of feeling that we once had with our partner.

He goes on to say, “We try to keep our footing sure by degrading idealization into mere intoxicating illusion; we are wiser and we know better now.  However, it is not at all clear that the solid ground we perpetually seek is any more real than the idealizations that inspire passion.  It is, rather, selected for different purposes.” Perhaps it is more true to say that sustaining that level of excitement and possibility about our deepest love is too much to bear. It is too dangerous. But, putting too much control over our fever-pitch level of desire leaves us with a blandness that drives us to a slow death.


The reality is that we all need some tuning-up in our relationships. Almost all circumstances in life drive us back to the mean, to the status quo, unless we are diligent to keep things fresh and alive. None more so than our relationships with long term partners. Nashville couples counseling can help us consider the depths to which we close off idealization as a way to protect ourselves and our investment in our relationship. We all need a hedge around our partnership for protection and safety, but we also need a good dose of change and excitement and even fear!

If you are noticing a lack of fun and spark in your relationship, there may be more you can do than you imagined. Chris Roberts is couples therapist in Nashville, TN with many years helping couples find new and different ways to find a connection that has been lost over time. Chris would love to be of help. Chris Roberts can be reached at (615) 800-9260 or

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