Sarah awoke with a strong feeling something was missing. She looked over at Ted's empty pillow and realized that something had been missing for a while. Teary eyed, she called her mom.

"I don't think Ted loves me anymore. We never talk anymore and he's never around." She said.

"Oh, honey. Calm down. It's not gone; it's a spark waiting for you to give it back its life. All relationships mature in phases. Your dad's and mine did and heaven knows you're no different."

The first phase of a marriage is the romance, passion or honeymoon phase. This can end as early as just before the wedding - cold feet - or last as long as a couple of years. If this happens prior to the wedding, it may be a sign the relationship may not last, or it could simply be that the relationship is maturing into the next phase. The ending of this phase is often when many couples think they have fallen out of love or the spark is gone.

"Do you remember all the hours you spent picking out the best outfits and getting your hair just right?" her mother asked and continued, "Ted called you his little angel. I knew better."

Sarah nodded even though her mother couldn't see. "I remember my heart wanted to burst out of my chest. My brain was mush and the only thing I could think about was Ted."

Her mother laughed. "Yes and you glowed with new found love. I even noticed you overlooked and ignored things that normally bothered you."

Sarah smiled, "Yeah, like the fact he's always late. You know how much I hate being late."

Sarah's marriage is not over and neither is yours. It's maturing into the reality or realization phase. Once tolerated habits are now intolerable. Sex is routine, if it's happening at all, and if children have come your focus is on them instead of each other. You've discovered love, by itself, cannot sustain a relationship. Commitment and action must follow love.

"When's the last time you told him you love him? Or went on a date?" Her mother asked.

"Date? We're married and he knows I love him."

"After all these years, your father knows I love him, but this morning I kissed him and told him so. I love to hear it from him. Those words brighten my day and help me to recommit my love for him. Promise me you'll call Ted as soon as you hang up the phone. Tell him you love him and take him on a date. I'll watch the children Friday night. How about it?"

Date nights

Date nights help strengthen a marriage at any phase. Feel free to go all out as you did in the past or to let it be as simple as sitting together on the porch. Time spent together is an important part of reigniting the spark. Return to places you dated or establish new ones. Talk about and respect your similarities and differences.


Your spouse has learned to read your posture and facial expressions sufficiently enough to know many of your thoughts, but not all of them. You must talk to work out your concerns. I learned I had to change myself to change my husband. Listening was an important part of this and we changed in ways that strengthened our marriage.

Short Getaways

Romantic getaways are important. Throughout our marriage, these getaways have occurred as close as the nearest hotel to a day's travel. Sometimes our stays aren't in hotels, but camping in a nearby or upstate campground or a day spent together. Lately it's been driving through the Everglades taking photos. Communicate by telling each other your concerns and talk them through, hold hands, hug and kiss - even in public.

"Other" outings

You may also wonder, what about me? You are important, but not as important as the "us" that strengthens your marriage. Do something your spouse likes - an outing that focuses on the interests of the other spouse, rather than on your own interests. And don't act like it's misery. You may find you actually enjoy yourself. I have. Still, don't forget to treat yourself at least once a month.

The last phase occurs once your children are grown and gone. Some say the "nest is empty." It's not. There are still two of you, and it's time to romance each other as in the beginning and spend your golden years holding hands, hugging and kissing. Even in public and even if your grandchildren say "ewwwww."

How are Sarah and Ted doing? They're working out their differences and hope you can too by following their example. They ask you to share this with other couples so together all will understand the foundation set during the first phase can last with communication, both verbal and physical, listening and working through the problems that enter at each phase of a marriage.

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