The beginning of a new year is a wonderful time to take stock of what we have achieved and those things that we would like to work on. Did you make a list of resolutions early this month only to realize that 2 weeks into the month they have already fallen by the wayside? We often focus on exercise and weight loss, but relationships need resolutions as well. It is far too easy to be busy with other things and not make a conscious commitment to our relationship.
Many couples come to my practice in distress because they haven’t paid enough attention to their primary relationship and are realizing that they are disconnected from their partner. If you do not water and weed the plants in your garden, do not be surprised if they shrivel and die! Relationships are just like those plants.
The relationship with your spouse is the underpinning of your deepest need for security and comfort. Neglecting your relationship will cause distance and disconnection. Affairs will often arise in this arid landscape. Couples admit that they are attentive to their children, to their siblings, to their parents, and to their work colleagues, but they have not been as thoughtful about their marriage. We are beings who need others. We need to be loved. If we don’t find a loving connection in our primary relationship we will often look elsewhere. This is the reason why affairs (both physical and emotional) are rampant in our society.
One woman in my practice admitted she was getting the warmth and affection she needed from her children. This helped her to overlook the fact that she wasn’t getting the love she wanted from her husband. Another person mentioned he would never allow a misunderstanding in his office to go unaddressed without taking his colleague aside and discussing the situation. However, it never occurred to him to address misunderstandings with his wife in the same way.
Why is it easy for us to focus everywhere else before we focus on our spouse? The reason we find it difficult to give our time and energy and attention to our spouse is because we are vulnerable with our partners in ways that we are not with the others in our lives. Our mates know exactly what makes us tick. They know how to push on our vulnerable spots and trip our switches. “Danger, Danger, Danger!” our brain says when we don’t sense that our partner is there for us. We defend ourselves from this hurt by either withdrawing or by becoming aggressive or angry. Before we know it, we are in a destructive cycle with our spouse who responds in kind to our unconscious defense.
So how do you avoid this harmful cycle? Amazingly, the solution is rather simple – spend some time together!
4 Ways to Nurture Your Relationship and Tend the Garden That Feeds Your Very Essence!
- Commit to taking at least a few minutes each day to talk to one another. Do not talk about logistics, bills, or problems with the kids. Talk to each other to learn about what the other is thinking. People often think that they know what their partner is thinking because they have been together for many years. Unfortunately, that is not always true. We grow and change as the years go by and something that we felt when we were in our 20’s isn’t necessarily what we think about the same issue in our 40’s and beyond. Can you remember what you used to talk about when you were dating? At that time, you were focusing on getting to know each other so that you could unravel the mystery of this fascinating, new person. Surprisingly, bringing this level of curiosity back into your relationship will strengthen your bond – even after many years of marriage.
- Create a date night each week. Create a time to have a date. Go out on the town or set aside time to cherish each other at home over a glass of wine and a special movie. It is not what you do that counts; your partner needs to know that you care enough about him or her to have set aside a special time that is just for them.
- Check in with one another during the day. Leave a voice message, an email or even a text message letting your partner know that you are thinking about them. Simple messages are wonderful, as long as they are authentic. People can sense when someone is checking in merely to check a box.
- Create rituals for when you part ways in the morning and when you come back together in the evening. Creating personal rituals in this manner helps couples to feel connected even after a day apart. This is especially important for couples in which one spouse travels extensively. How do you come back together after a prolonged separation? What can you each do so that each of you feels honored and acknowledged when you see one other again? Just like the idea of dating is not about what you do, so it is with rituals. It may be a simple “Hello” or “Goodbye” but looking at your partner and acknowledging the upcoming separation or the coming back together will surprisingly go a long in building connection.You will be pleasantly surprised that these simple tips will go a long way to help smooth out some of the rough patches in your relationship.
You will be pleasantly surprise that these simple tips will go a long way to help smooth out some of the rough patches in your relationship.