As you read this article, how are you feeling towards your partner right now? Do you feel you are muddling through life together and your marriage is on a treadmill or feel satisfied and enriched by your relationship despite the years passing?
Of course we can’t keep that feeling when we first fall in love going forever when every waking moment is spent thinking about the person; too excited to sleep or work! After a while many people find themselves in a rut where the relationship feels as if it is plodding, neither person particularly happy or just ‘making do’. Why do we assume that long term relationships and marriage would continue to be easy? The little quirks about our loved one, initially endearing can become annoying and then the subject of arguments. Of course we assume that we are the perfect partner to live with! A happy marriage like a garden takes time, care, attention and love, but the greater the effort the more worthwhile the results!
Apart from feeling dissatisfied with life yourself and knowing that things could be better, research has shown that divorce has serious and long-term effects on our physical and psychological heath, immunosuppression, longevity and on the children of divorce.
What goes wrong?
The Californian divorce and Mediation Project has found that although infidelity does lead to divorce, as can continual arguing and fighting, 80 % of couple cited as the main reason for their difficulties;
Growing apart and losing a sense of closeness but not feeling loved and appreciated.
Once you and your partner come ‘back to earth’ from the dizzy heights post love- land then real life takes over, work, family, financial responsibilities, children, who takes the trash out, socks on the floor etc. Rather than look forward to seeing our partner when we get home, maybe making a special effort with our dress, cooking something we know they like to eat, a card in the lunch-box or that text to say ‘I love you’, we barely acknowledge their presence and being a wife/husband/partner/lover becomes another task on the list.
So how do we get close again?
This isn’t necessarily about ‘fixing the other person’ or bending them to your will, it’s about compromise; working out what you can change, those things you can’t and how as a couple you can manage the issue without it becoming a ‘deal breaker’.
Pick your time to talk.
Starting your talk in the middle of a family dinner, first thing in the morning or during the game may not be the best time! We are all different so pick a time, or create a time; ‘I’d really like to talk to you about something, when would be a good time for you?. Don’t let the sun go down on an argument!
Rehearse what you want to say.
Relationships are personal with considerable emotional investment, and it’s easy to fall into being defensive, angry or not being able to express yourself at the time. Rehearse what you want to say in your mind, and see how it might sound to your partner, remember it’s not an attack but you’re bringing your feelings out into the open.
See if the other person feels the same.
Are they happy? To make any changes you need to get the other person on board, so take the tact of “wouldn’t it be nice if we..” rather than “you never….”.
Agree a plan once you have your common ground.
This could be verbal or written, but needs to be explicit with no room for misinterpretation with both parties understanding their tasks in the plan.
Review your relationship, what’s working, what needs changing?
We all need to feel appreciated and respected in order to get closer, are you both keeping up your end of the bargain?
Understand you partners ‘Love Language’.
Gary Chapman in his book ‘The Five Love Languages’ asserts that we all have a primary Love Language that we are most receptive to ; words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch. Show your appreciation in the Love Language that your partner responds to in order to be heard. For example;
* Tell your partner you love them even if you may not be naturally verbally expressive. It’s surprising how much hearing those ‘three little words’ can mean.
* A note, text, phone call in the day says ‘I’m thinking of you’, ‘this relationship is special’.
* Have a regular ’date night’; time without the children, friends etc. It doesn’t have to be expensive but time for you and your partner to reconnect as adults.
* Do something fun, something you both enjoy, ‘couples that play together stay together’ as the saying goes.
* Set the tone for the evening when your partner comes home, don’t greet them with a list of jobs or moans but a smile, and make physical contact, this is not your distant cousin coming to stay.
What if we need extra help?
You may want to consider couple counselling. Although this can be daunting, the idea of discussing your most personal relationship with a stranger, counsellors are trained professionals who will help you to work through your issues together. We invest so much time with our partner; don’t we deserve to be as happy as we can be?
Emma Roberts is an EAP Counsellor.
To schedule a confidential appointment with one of our counsellors contact The Employee Assistance Programme on 949-9559 www.eap.ky