"Ask Gemma" is Good Morning America's new ongoing relationship column. Do you have an issue with your girlfriend, husband or partner? Or with being single/dating? GMA wants your questions. We'll answer them with help from experts. Write in now!
Dear Ask Gemma,
My husband and I have been married for 12 years. We have a good marriage, but like any couple we have issues. Lately it feels like we have been drifting from one another.
We both work, and have a child, but lately we don't spend time together -- no date nights, no fun outings, just staying home night after night. He will be in his man room and I'm in the family room.
I'm worried he is no longer interested in spending time with me and we have just fallen into this slump. How can I fix this before it gets any worse?
Drifting Instead of Dating
Dear "Drifting Instead of Dating,"
This may sound cliché, but it's worth saying: It happens.
When you’ve been with someone for over a decade, you can go from getting to know your spouse to knowing your spouse to trying to forget about your spouse at times. Being with someone that long brings sheer familiarity. And although familiarity may be welcomed in a stable relationship, it doesn’t make the best ingredient for fostering intimacy. And it seems like you’re craving more of the latter.
So how do you get back to having butterflies when he walks in the room? How do you get back to yearning for each other when you get home from a long day of work? How do you get back to being anxious to see him just one more time? How do you get back to date nights that last well into the evening?
It's a team effort
First, recognize that bringing the spark back into your relationship requires 100% participation. You wrote, "How do I fix this," but it’s not your problem alone.
If you attempt to fix it all by yourself, resentment could build (“Why am I the only one that cares?” “Why am I the only one who craves more time together?”) So it’s best to make this a team effort from the start.
Diann Valentine, a relationship expert who's been in the business for 25 years, agreed.
"It takes two people to make a marriage work and it takes two people to make a marriage fail," she told ABC News. "Accountability is big and acknowledging [the problem] is the first step in doing your part to acknowledge what could be going wrong."
Talk with your husband and let him know how you feel. And be sure to pick a time when there’s no games on, he’s not tired and he’s not hungry. You want to be sure your partner has no trouble hearing you and understanding you.
Hopefully after this conversation, you two are on the same page when it comes to what’s needed in jump starting intimacy and you’re both on board to fix it.
Schedule date nights
I know, I know — schedule?! Although it sounds like you’re adding another thing on your long "to do" list, but oftentimes to ensure we’re prioritizing things that need prioritizing, we have to schedule them.
My boyfriend and I use this system since we both lead very busy lives and live more than an hour away from each other. For us, Monday night and Thursday night are date nights. Everyone knows it. Don’t look for me on those nights because I’m with him.
Put two to three hours of dedicated time for date night on your shared Google calendar so you both know it’s time for getting to know my partner again.
Make sure that date night, is a technology-free night. No cell phones, no work emails, no distractions.
Make sure that date night is a technology-free night. No cell phones, no work emails, no distractions.
Valentine, who also stars on Bravo's "To Rome for Love," suggests that you plan the first date "and plan it quickly." She added, "Choose something that he enjoys versus something that you enjoy."
And if you need a conversation starter, Andrea Syrtash, author of "Cheat On Your Husband (with Your Husband)," told ABC News to "invite dialogue" by asking your husband this question: "What's one of your goals for 2018?"
"Couples forget to stay curious about each other. Getting excited about a goal together can help couples mix up the routine," she added.
"Doing something small counts for a lot," Syrtash, who also created Pregnantish, said. "Small things -- [such as] nice gestures, words, [and] actions -- can lead to big changes."
The author said that date night doesn't have to be a super expensive outing that requires a new outfit and blow-out. Instead, Syrtash said try "something new and small at home -- like cooking a new recipe together."
Valentine agreed, offering another suggestion.
"Surprise him at work during ... his lunch hour," she said. "If he doesn’t have a set lunch hour, do something simple like sending him a personal note by messenger that arrives during lunch. Spray it with your favorite fragrance."
Valentine said "romantic nights at home always work," too. "Get a sitter and pull out your sexiest lingerie and plan a romantic dinner."
I'd add that you don't have to cook. Order in so you'll have more time for connecting instead of cleaning.
Be gentle with yourself
And remember to give yourself grace while you're giving your relationship a jump start.
With any shift in intentions and desires can come push back or reluctance. Expect this. Welcome this. And push through this.
It’s like starting a car that’s been sitting in your driveway for a while without having its top down, radio blaring and wheels rolling down the road.
What happens when you try to start a car that’s been sitting? It needs a jump.
The first hit of electricity may do nothing to start the car's battery so you try it again. The second time you’re closer, but you know that just one more rev of the engine might do it. And then what do you know, the third hit does the trick.
Good luck! And here’s to riding down that road to more decades in love -- with the top down, radio blaring, wheels rolling down the road.
Joi-Marie McKenzie is a relationships writer for Good Morning America. She's also the author of the critically-acclaimed dating memoir, The Engagement Game.