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Ask any woman who’s been married longer than 20 years and she’s likely to admit that the romance has dwindled over the years. Long conversations, cuddles on the couch, and time spent doing fun activities together that was once effortless now seems like a distant memory. Between the demands of raising children, careers, and caring for aging parents, it can take almost Herculean effort to stay connected to your partner.

If she’s lucky, the marriage survives those stressful years and once the kids are grown, she and her husband come together in the later years for coffee and dinner dates, conversation, and fun.

Unfortunately, by the time a couple is finally ready to direct more energy toward each other, they can have very little left in common. Years of separate activities, friends, and interests have eroded the connection they once shared, and conversation is awkward, or lacking. Or worse, like a friend recently told me over lunch, “We are two ships passing in the night. We haven’t had sex in years and he doesn’t even want to hold my hand. We don’t go on the same vacations either, since I have no interest in going on a fishing expedition and he’s not into yoga retreats. I plan trips with my girlfriends instead.”

No wonder the divorce rate among older couples has doubled since 1990, and 1 in 4 divorces in 2010 occurred in couples over age 50, according to this study in the Journals of Gerontology Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

But there are ways to avoid a similar fate in your marriage and Dr. Willard Harley, a licensed clinical psychologist in Minnesota shows couples how in his book His Needs, Her Needs. Dr. Harley says that most marital therapy programs fail because they focus on a couple’s problems, instead of helping them learn how to fall in love again.

Couples who make the effort to stay connected enjoy happier, more successful marriages. Remember the person you married, the one you’d talk with late into the night and do anything to make happy. Buried under the daily stress of family life, your partner is still there.

A successful marriage is one that meets the emotional needs for attention, affection, sex, and fun. By taking exceptional care of your partner, you’re showing them that your relationship is worth it.

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