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Healthy Marriages Need Novelty

A big part of why people feel the desire to get married and remain married is the very pleasant boost of the neurotransmitter dopamine. New experiences, different from those we've previously experienced, and the anticipation of such new experiences both cause the release of dopamine in our brains. Over time, even an enjoyable activity loses its ability to produce dopamine. This is why healthy, long-lasting, happy marriages require novelty.

Novelty can come from trying new hobbies or foods or experiences as a couple, but they can also come from one of you seeking out new experiences and sharing stories of them with your spouse. Your new stories become your spouse's new experiences.

During a period like this pandemic we're living through, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for novelty or anticipation of novelty. So, let's get to work and create some!

If neither of you is an opera fan, find an opera on demand on cable TV, Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, or YouTube and take time to watch and listen together. Not sure you're like it? Good! As a friend of mine once said when his wife offered an odd new way to spend a weekend, "I win either way. Either I discover something unexpectedly wonderful, or I have a great story to share at parties for the next couple of years."

How about buying a couple of Hula Hoops or Slinky toys to play with? Anything playful has lots of opportunity for boosting your dopamine levels and feeling closer.

Or maybe one or both of you would like to try your hand at crochet or wood carving or watercolor painting? Just remember to share the activity or your stories of how gratifying or amusing you found your new activity.

Or how about a progressive dinner, pandemic-style? Find a few other couples on your street. Each one is assigned a course of a meal and a time to deliver it. The first might be wine, the next an appetizer, the one after a salad, then an entree, followed by a dessert, and perhaps followed by coffee or an after-dinner drink. At your designated time, instead of the group coming to your home for the next course, as usually happens in a progressive dinner, you deliver your course to each of your fellow diners' front door. They'll know when to expect it. No need for contact. But you might also want to use video conferencing to chat with each other throughout this multi-course meal.

Want to make your progressive dinner even more fun? When you deliver your course to each of your neighbors, attach a note saying what makes them a great couple.

I would love it if you share more ideas for putting a little novelty into a marriage in the comments on the Assume Love website,


Dancing is very romantic and one can take on a slightly different persona, maybe even call your spouse by a new name while you do the tango. Lots of great dance instruction vids available on youtube. Put a flower clip in your hair, present your wife with a single rose, call her Natasha and him Raul. Ole!

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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