Life was supposed to be much better, right?
We found the partner that seems to be right for us. Sure, not perfect, but good for us.
We thought we’ll be able to have a good time with them. We thought we’ll be able to sail the rocky seas of love and life with them. We thought we’ll be good together.
And now, a few years down the track, something doesn’t really tick. A piece of the puzzle is missing.
We realize that life with them might not be as rewarding as we thought it would be: perhaps they leave their dirty socks on the floor. Perhaps they don’t show us that they appreciate us the way we want them to. Perhaps it feels like they prefer doing anything but spending time with us.
This is not how we envisioned our life with our significant other to be.
How about utilizing the upcoming holiday season to take a little break from life’s everyday pressure to reconnect and reestablish the passion between us?
Unfortunately, taking time off together is not a full-proof plan for rekindling the desire for being with our partner.
According to Fiona Craig, a Sydney-based life coach and author of “Stuck in a Rut: How to Rescue Yourself and Live Your Truth”, sometimes quite the opposite is true. She has had many clients coming back after the holiday season saying that they felt more disconnected and more confused after spending some “quality time” with their partners.
Where did we go wrong?
Somewhere along your life together, either one of you or both of you have started prioritizing anything but your relationship. The relationship stopped being the most important aspect of your lives, and it has been stripped of its ranks sort to speak.
Deprioritizing the relationship is a natural process that happens once the excitement and the initial enthusiasm wears off. Well, it might be natural, but that doesn’t mean we should accept it.
If we have let the relationship become last on our priorities, it’s time to intentionally move it back up to where it should be: at the very top.
Let’s see how we can change the dynamics of our relationship and shift it to a most rewarding, satisfying one.
Is my partner still the ideal partner for me?
There’s a saying that men marry women hoping they will never change, and women marry men hoping that they will change.
Both expectations are unrealistic: we all do change to some extent. And not always in the directions that our partner would want us to.
Now we need to figure out if the partner we are with, is still the right one for us.
If you feel repulsed or disgusted by your partner, there is not much anyone can do to save the relationship. In this case, you better invest your time in learning how to break up with dignity and compassion.
However, if you can think of a few traits that you still like and appreciate about your partner, then, most probably, you can restore your passion and learn how to live an amazing life together. Dr. John Gottman, who has studied thousands of couples and has developed the Gottman Method for couples therapy, suggests that you only need a tiny amber of affection to grow a wildfire of passion.
Should I make the effort and reawaken a struggling relationship? Or should I call it quits?
You are the only person who can answer this question. It obviously depends on your life circumstances, and how much is on the scale. Separating is technically easier if there are no kids involved and no mutual high-value investments such as property. But it doesn’t make it easier on the emotional side of things.
There’s an effort involved in working on a struggling relationship, and there’s an effort in having a break-up and finding a new partner.
And no one guarantees you’ll find someone that is better for you anyway. You can always find people that are better: more intelligent, more attractive, more sexually compatible, more agreeable, more empathic, better listeners – whatever you feel is missing with this current partner. But will they be better for you? Will the relationship with them be easier?
In any relationship that you’ll end up being at, there’s always going to be a component of dissatisfaction. Stan Tatkin claims that conflict between people is unavoidable, as I mentioned in a previous post. How about deciding to embrace those conflicts as opportunities for growth and development? You could do it in your next relationship, with someone else, or you could do it in this relationship that you have in front of you.
OK, I want to stay. How do I make this relationship thrive?
Rewriting the Fairy-Tale.
In fairy-tales, people fall in love and then live happily ever after.
In real life, we learn that happiness is not something that happens to us. Instead, happiness is something we actively seek. Ongoingly. And a good relationship is one that supports us in the evolution of that ongoing search.
Now let’s get real. For a relationship to be supportive, there needs to be safety and trust between partners. If you are in a relationship where you don’t feel safe, you will need to see a therapist to work this through.
But if you’re in a space where you’re mostly getting along with your partner, and just want to make it much better – then please know that you can definitely make your relationship super-fantastic.
Contradictory to popular culture belief, that being in love is a phase that goes away after a while, research has shown that being in love can last for a limitless amount of time. This is backed up by Helen Fisher’s work who have compared brain scans of people who have fallen in love recently and people who claim to be madly in love even after decades of being together.
So your action plan is now to learn how to fall back in love and stay in love for a long, long time.
What is being in love?
People that are in love with their long-term partner have the ability to focus their attention on the traits of their partner and to over-evaluate their partner. They show activity in a brain region that has been described by researchers as “positive illusions”. That means, they suspend negative judgment towards their partner.
This is something that you can practice intentionally for a while until it becomes a habit and happens all by itself.
To start with, spend 5 minutes every morning and evening, reminding yourself all the beautiful things that you appreciate about your partner. It’s best to have a little notebook beside your bed that you dedicate to this only. And you could enhance the practice by sharing what you wrote with your partner.
People that are in love feel desire and passion for each other.
Here I would like to focus on the sexual aspect of your relationship.
If you followed my blog for a little while, you already know that I’m a huge fan of slow sex. Slow sex is the type of sex that fosters a deep connection between two people and helps strengthen the bond way beyond conventional sex. Once you become intimate with your partner in this way, you can expect to feel a gradual increase of affinity between the two of you.
Nonetheless, I want to add a conventional piece of wisdom.
13 habits of long-term couples with a great sex life:
(According to a study that was conducted in 24 countries)
- They say “I love you” every day and they mean it.
- They kiss one another passionately for no reason at all.
- They give one another surprise romantic gifts and/or compliments on a regular basis.
- They know what turns their partner on and off erotically.
- They are physically affectionate, even in public.
- They keep playing and having fun together.
- They cuddle often.
- They make sex a priority.
- They stay good friends.
- They can communicate comfortably about their sex life.
- They have regular romantic dates.
- They take romantic vacations.
- They turn towards their partners’ requests.
This list is surprisingly simple. You might not relate to every single point on the list, but I bet you could pick a few that are relatively easy for you to do. My suggestion would be to add those to your calendar until you get used to practicing them without reminders.
And of course, take the free e-course that will teach you how to have a lifetime of fulfilling sex.
When sex becomes deeply fulfilling and meaningful, you will naturally want to invest in it.
It is time to live the reality version of the fairy-tale.
(A version of this article was originally posted on the Life Balance Coach blog)