Most relationships begin with the eyes. Whether you share the proverbial glance across a crowded room or see an attractive face that prompts a Tinder swipe (no judgments), the first phases of attraction are often intensely visual.
When I first met the man who would become my husband, he had a shaggy red beard and long sun-bleached shoulder-length hair—a sort of backwoods lumberjack style that suited the single, outdoorsy lifestyle he had at the time. It wasn’t a great look, I thought, and it obscured much of his face. Our relationship was unusual in that we began with a platonic friendship and slowly grew into our love. But one day, when we were just starting to develop feelings for each other, he showed up to the house I shared with my roommate clean-shaven with short-cropped hair. For the first time I got a good look at his handsome face. I blushed so intensely that I had to leave the room out of embarrassment.
I was already falling in love with his character and personality, but now my physical attraction to him was growing as well. I still remember the butterflies I felt when I caught his glance and the way a smile would steal onto my face when I thought of him at work or during my commute.
But something strange happens as time passes and the thrill of first attraction gives way to the steadiness of married love. I find I can go whole days without really seeing my husband’s face – days that we spend in the same house, sharing mealtimes and talking finances and household chores. Even kisses good morning and goodnight can sometimes feel mundane, rather than an affectionate expression of our love and commitment to each other. The more I focus on daily tasks and the business of coordinating our household, the more our relationship can seem transactional. Often, caught up in the motions of ordinary life, I look past my husband instead of at him.
They say familiarity breeds contempt, but I find complacency to be a greater danger. Marriage brought us so close, but sometimes I forget to step back and actually look at my husband. And when I realize that’s happening, I get more insecure, because I wonder if I’m becoming invisible to him too.
Our marriage is young and we definitely haven’t figured out how to keep our marriage fresh and engaged all the time.
But I’m finding it helps to stop and choose myself to see—to meet my husband’s eyes and smile. To take a moment to do a waltz and a twirl together in the kitchen while we’re chopping vegetables for dinner. To eat our evening meal by candlelight at the table instead of watching Netflix side-by-side on the couch.
Routine, banality, and apathy are enemies to vibrant romantic love. Playfulness, intentionality, and spontaneous affection are at least part of the solution.
Even if you’re still in the honeymoon phase of love, don’t take anything for granted. Nurture your romance. Don’t just do the necessary; love gratuitously. And don’t be afraid to step back, look in your loved one’s eyes, and say, “I see you.”