Rule #4: Love Is Like a Snow Globe
It's way more fun when you shake things up. And a marriage that's boring now only becomes less satisfying over time, according to a study of married couples in Psychological Science. Spending time together helps, but falling into dreary, moldy-marriage traps — meeting with a tax attorney is not a date night — will not rekindle passion. Try something new! When my wife and I taught English in Costa Rica, it was exciting to see us escape our usual roles: to watch her play dodgeball and bowl with kids using a tennis ball and soda bottles for pins.
"I think you need real change to spice up a long-term relationship," says AARP relationship expert Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D. "Boredom is the enemy, so creativity is the rejuvenator."
What's the wildest rejuvenator Schwartz has seen? One couple, she says, became swingers in their 60s (which, I'm sorry, is a bit too far outside my comfort zone). Another couple studied aikido, a Japanese martial art. Easier alternatives include traveling to an exotic destination or creating a joint enterprise, like a small business or foundation. The point, says Schwartz, is to try new things and gain new intimacy: "Change the mind," she says, "and the body follows."
Rule #5: Feeling Stupid Is Good
This one I feel strongly about. Each time I volunteered, whether building rock walls in the West Bank or working at a school in China, I felt very much like a bai chi, which is roughly the Chinese word for idiot. Every experience was new, from the food to the language. In Kenya, I tried to say the Swahili word for shared taxi — matatu — and instead said matiti, which means … boobs. As in, "Wow, the boobs are nicer here in the city .…"
But I came to cherish my stupidity. Every time I felt dumb, I learned something. As Alina Tugend writes in Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong, "the fear of making mistakes is a cudgel that hangs over so many of us," preventing us from taking risks. So here's my risk-taking, rut-breaking advice to you: Don't be bludgeoned by fear. Embrace every opportunity to be a bai chi.
Ken Budd is author of the new memoir The Voluntourist – A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate, and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem. He is giving his earnings to the organizations and places where he volunteered.