Where is the love in your marriage? Could it be that you chased it away?

Looking for a simple technique to turn back the clock on your marriage — maybe all the way back to your honeymoon? Would you like to get back to the love and respect the two of you knew every day when you were first wed?

Try this: Treat your spouse with the honor and dignity you would show to any stranger.

That’s obvious, isn’t it? It’s hard to whisper tender, loving words when your voice is full of hostility, when your mind is rank with rancor, when your remarks consist of one bilious rebuke after the next.

I doubt you want to admit this, but there is probably no one else in your life that you treat with the casual contempt you express unthinkingly, as a matter of long-standing habit, to your spouse. You may mutter under your breath about your boss, and you may shout at the television when your least-favorite politician comes on. But there is no one else you know whom you would even think to treat with the withering scorn you display routinely to your best-beloved.

How can this be? You met and fell in love — fell hard. You dated, courted and coupled, all the while feeling like you were made for each other. You made your vows to each other — to love, to honor, to protect — ’til death do you part. You went on that grand and perfect honeymoon — and yet that may have been the beginning of the end of the happiness in your marriage.

Familiarity breeds contempt? Maybe. But contempt definitely feeds on itself. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about half the time, and he tells the same boring stories over and over again. She’s always complaining that she’s too tired to do anything fun, but, after all, he thinks it’s fun to watch paint dry. She’s not nearly as hot as the women at work, and he’s not nearly as thrilling as all the guys she didn’t date before she got married.

If you want to cultivate an enduring enmity for your spouse, it’s easily done: Fixate on some habit or mannerism or affectation you don’t like and then blow it out of all proportion. Add more pet peeves as you go along; everyone is annoying when you resolve to be annoyed. Answer every entreaty with a grumble and every grumble with a growl. Treasure every injury and disappointment; that stuff will be good ammunition for your next fight.

Is this really what you want in your marriage? Is that why you got married, so you would always have someone to hate at home? Someone to pick at, claw at, slash at? Someone to despise? Someone to make you despise yourself and every detail of your life?

Of course that’s not what you wanted. You’ve just gotten yourselves into bad habits. Love begins with respect, and you can very easily fix what’s wrong with your marriage with one new good habit: When you talk to or about your spouse, speak only with the highest respect.

Angry? Bite your tongue. Feeling smug or superior? Contain your inner ugliness. Impatient? Count to ten. Work on speaking only with honest, heartfelt love and respect, and acknowledge and amend your errors when you catch yourself slipping back into your old habits.

Surely the love of your life deserves your utmost respect. Love, yes. Tender devotion, always. Romantic ardor when the moment is right. But in every interaction between you, there should be an honor and an admiration that eclipses the simple respect you would show to any random stranger.

Build that love and respect back into your marriage and every day can be a honeymoon.

What does an ideal love look like? The Unfallen is my answer.

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