IntroductionIt's not unusual. The glow of a new relationship begins to dim as time goes by. As excitement and novelty turn to contentment and familiarity, the relationship begins to shift and become more predictable.
Excitement wanes and you may begin to wonder how to get it back. This is normal. But whether you have been married for 20 years or dating for 2 months, it's the responsibility of both partners to keep the fire beneath the glow burning. Most happy couples will tell you that maintaining that glow is grounded in taking care of each other and taking care of the relationship. It's important to maintain physical and emotional connection. Here are a few strategies to consider.
1. Keep in touch.
I mean that literally! Take time to cuddle, kiss and hold each other. Studies show that couples who share in physical intimacy are happier in their relationships. Touch doesn't have to end in sex, (but it can be fun when it does). The important thing is that physical contact keeps you intimately connected. A touch can melt away anger and fear and speak volumes about how much you care.
2. Be happy to see each other at the end of the day.
Remember when you first met, how exciting it was to see each other? Greeting each other with that same kind of interest at the end of a busy day will set the tone for more pleasant and enjoyable evenings. How your partner sees you behaving -- body language, tone of voice, facial expressions -- tells him or her how to respond to you. Step outside of yourself for a moment and be aware of how your partner is seeing you. Are you walking in happy, sad, stressed, or angry? Place troubles and worries on the back burner for just a brief time. Take a few moments to reconnect with each other before you start delving into issues about the kids, the bills, the in-laws, and whatever other challenges you're having. The issues will still be there when you are ready to address them. Keep it light and loving.
3. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need.
A good marriage or relationship is based on how well partners are able to negotiate and navigate through challenges and disagreements. It's unrealistic to think that you will never be disappointed or hurt. If your partner doesn't know what's troubling you, it might be difficult to help you feel better. Sometimes couples are fearful of saying what's on their mind and in their hearts because they're afraid of disappointment and rejection. The challenge is to share your thoughts in a way that demonstrates compassion and empathy, rather than criticism and judgment. When you are both able to create a safe, respectful environment in which to talk, you open space for intimacy and trustworthiness.
4. Be aware you may be sending mixed messages.
Yes, it's true. Research shows that the more couples know about each other, the closer they feel and that's good for the relationship. But sometimes couples unconsciously send mixed messages to each other, especially when emotions are intense. If you don't ask for (or even know) what it is that you need, how will your partner know? For example, it's difficult to know that "I'm angry, go away" really means, "I'm hurt and afraid, please hold me and love me." But sometimes that's exactly what it means. So, help your partner help you. If you are angry or sad, invite them in to be part of the solution, invite them in, rather than pushing them away by criticizing or judging them. Be positive, talk about times when you felt connected and intimate and what made you feel close and safe.
5. Pay each other compliments, show your appreciation and express gratitude.
Who doesn't love a compliment? The next time you have the urge to "nag" your partner for something that really bugs you, try something different. Focus on the times when you really appreciate their behaviors. In other words, turn a negative into a positive. If it really rattles you that your husband is constantly checking his Blackberry, point out the times when he's not and let him know how much you appreciate it and how much closer you feel to him then. Paying compliments and showing appreciation for each other is extremely effective in creating connection. The best part about compliments, appreciation and gratitude is that the benefits go to both partners. The giver is encouraged to focus on what's going well in the relationship -- that makes for more positivity; and the receiver is invited to do more of what they're being complimented about. It's a win-win!
6. Focus on giving rather than receiving.
By letting go of the idea of "what's in it for me?" and adopting the idea of "what can I do for you?" generosity and concern cultivate connection and intimacy. Think of it this way. If you can make your partner happy, you have a much better chance of having them return the favor. A client of mine once said, "A happy wife is a happy life." When you think about it, this is very true for both of you. If you focus on giving rather than receiving, the rewards will come naturally and effortlessly.
7. Create time for peacefulness and stillness.
Life is stressful and the day-to-day challenges of money, career, children, and family can be extremely demanding. It is really important to have time each day to "just be present," to let go of the demands of life and to let go of anger, stress, and frustration for just a little while. Sit together as a couple in the stillness. Take a walk; watch a sunset, cuddle on the couch. Take time each day to physically and emotionally reconnect. Spending 20 to 30 minutes a day touching -- talking, or just being alone together can make a world of difference in your relationship.
A relationship, like anything else requires patience, encouragement, compassion and self-awareness. If you're finding it difficult to accept your partner's flaws and imperfections, it may be time to get some help so that you can gain some new perspective. In the meantime, try a few of these exercises on for size. You may find yourself glowing again sooner than you think!
Dr. Laura Richter is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include: surviving infidelity, improving communication, beginning again after divorce and effective co-parenting after divorce. She is also a trained mediator, qualified parenting coordinator and collaborative law mental health professional. For more information, please call or text us today at 561-715-6404 to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.