A relationship can be the most wonderful thing in the world. It can start magically but it requires a significant investment of time and energy to keep it vibrant. Here are 12 major challenges for you to address.
Many couples drift apart because they are not communicating well with each other, they expect their partner to read their mind and they get locked into battles over blame about ‘stuff’. Resentment can then start to grow.
Find time and space to talk about how you are both feeling. Maybe once a week set aside an hour to share what are three things that have gone well in the relationship in the last week and one thing that needs to be dealt with. Do this from the perspective of ‘I feel’.
The Visceral connection that may have been there when you first got together may fade quickly; the passion, hours making love, kisses, gifts, hours talking may get swamped by dull routine. You may look back at a forgotten time and look forward with a sense of ‘is this all it is’.
Create moments of intimacy where you connect, and it is as if the world stops and nothing else matters. It can just be a few seconds; a real hug or meaningful kiss on leaving or returning from work. Or it can be just time where you are together, free from distractions and just be with each other.
As a couple get used to each other and make the transition from ‘being in love’ to loving each other’ the magic can fade and be replaced by the ordinary. I believe that one of the greatest gifts in life is a loving and fulfilling relationship with another person. We are not taught how to have a great relationship and they are hard work, because nothing stays the same. Commitment is essential so that both see the relationship as being important and one that they are both working to improve.
Once a week set aside about an hour for a ‘State of the Union’ meeting. Reflect on what has gone well in your relationship and what could be even better. Share appreciation of 5 positive things your partner has done and then choose one issue in your relationship that could be better. Explain why this is important to you and what you would like.
When did the two of you last have fun together? Sadly, many couples forget to have fun because they become overwhelmed by work, family, children and other responsibilities. They often come to believe that they do not deserve to have fun, or the guilt monster tells them that grown-ups are not allowed to have fun.
Unleash the child within. Make a joint list and do things, often, that will make you both smile and laugh.
For a relationship to thrive there are three parts that need to grow; You, Me and Us. If there is no growth the relationship will wither.
Talk with your partner about how you would like to grow and develop and what you would like for the relationship too. Talk about your values, what is really important for you and get your partner to do the same. Explore where you overlap, where you are different and how you can both get what you need.
Trust is normally assumed to be there until something happens to rock the foundation. It can be something small like your partner becoming secretive about phone messaging.
If you are uncertain and feel that something is wrong; bring this up and talk about it, otherwise it may fester and get out of proportion.
Sex often fades fairly quickly, and I am shocked by how few couples are able to talk about something that is really important to both of them. There is often the belief that the other should be able to read their minds about when and how to make love and what specifically they would like.
Create the time to talk about it; a few minutes embarrassment is much better than years of frustration, disappointment and resentment. A gentle way in might be to calibrate each of your scores out of 10 for frequency and satisfaction. Then open up the conversation to what is good and what could be even better.
Social Media can be a way of unwinding after work, but the Dopamine hit of instant gratification when our phone pings to say we have a new message can also be a distraction from our partner (and children). It may make them feel less important and wonder who is that you are spending time communicating with.?
Let your partner know what you are doing and create device-free times and places where you as a couple and as a family are the priority.
9. Different Perceptions
There is no reality, only perception. In any relationship there are at least two perceptions, often very different and equally right. You need to accept that your partner is not you.
Try and understand their ‘map of the world’ and explore how they feel about things where you have a different perception.
10. Mind Reading
When things are not going well, it is common to start blaming the other for not understanding them, not knowing what they want, not listening. We expect them to mind read us and, if they can’t then clearly, they don’t love us!
Break the myth of mind-reading. Express your needs clearly and kindly. If you are not sure what your partner really wants it is much better to seek clarification than create disappointment.
11. Fading Dreams
We often go into a relationship with big dreams about love and an amazing future. Over time the clouds of reality start to drift in and our dreams for a wonderful future fade.
We need to have dreams and work towards achieving those. Find a big sheet of cardboard or board and put this somewhere that you both can see. Find or draw pictures that elicit those dreams, whether it be places, things, people or feelings. Co-create one shared dream.
12. Life Changes
Nothing stays the same, life changes, disappointments and tragedies happen. Work, children, families and communities may take us in different directions. Is our relationship a safe harbour in the storms or is it a boat drifting at the mercy of the winds, waves and currents?
Put your relationship at the centre of everything and invest time, love and energy in it. If it is your safe harbour, then you will both be able to cope much better with the storms.
Read more about Neil Wilkie and his other articles HERE
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