"It's very fixable," says Hallowell. "We just need to re-create some boundaries by reserving some time for each other and not giving in to the seduction and distraction of modern life."

That may mean turning down worthwhile opportunities.

"We're victims of our own enthusiasm," he says. "Turn down the committee you'd love to serve on. Turn down the team you'd love to coach. Turn down the good things — great things — that are not time-wasters at all, but when you have too many of them, they choke out the intimacy."

It may also mean diving in to some touchy territory.

"A lot of marriages can survive if we're willing to be somewhat imaginative or flexible within them," Haag says. "The first step is to have that difficult conversation and actually hazard some honesty with your partner. 'You know, I need more from my life than this.' The important thing is to not get into this celebration of mediocrity and sticking it out, but to have a conversation about some simple ways, or big ways, to change."

By contemplating changes that will improve our marriage — big or small — Cohen Praver says, we can train our brains to once again swoon for our same ol', same ol' partners.

When you're in love, mirror neurons trigger certain brain chemicals that bolster emotional attachments, she says.

"Dopamine is activated, oxytocin, vasopressin — which triggers loyalty, attachment, bonding — testosterone, estrogen, serotonin," she says. "When the marriage is eroded, all that's on hold. But when you start to bring the marriage back, even in your imagination, the chemicals begin to get active again.

"Imagine a different kind of relationship — imagine skinny-dipping with your partner, imagine being a more powerful person in your relationship," she says. "And begin to model it. As you change your behavior, you can unlock your brain and revitalize your marriage."

Which makes sense, she says, in an evolutionary sense.

"For the survival of the species, nature had to ensure that we love and we're bonded and we're attached," Cohen Praver says. "Things go awry, but that's our basic nature. We were born to love."

hstevens@tribune.com

Fix your marriage. Now.

At the end of "Married to Distraction," authors Edward M. Hallowell and Sue George Hallowell offer a list of 40 ways to make your marriage great. Five standouts:

Remember that the key to romance is attention. Nothing is as romantic as having someone give you their undivided, sustained attention.

Never let your spouse see you roll your eyes. Contempt breeds contempt.

Divide labor evenly, trying to have each person do what he or she likes to do or dislikes doing least.

Learn to control anger. Anger should be like a sneeze, brief, clearing the air, then forgotten.

Take one half-hour and talk about "stuff," not about work, chores or conflicts, but about stuff you're interested in. Tell stories, ask questions.

— H.S.