It happens after spending awhile together – things feel routine, maybe there is a lack of interest or the relationship is starting to feel disconnected. The honeymoon phase of the chemicals of love last until about 18 months, and then the effort begins.
At the beginning of a relationship, everything may have a new feel to it, and that's important to creating a bond – shared experiences to look back on and remember fondly, laugh or even cry.
Going out and “mixing things up” might sound easy, but there's a lot at work to put into it. In situations where the relationship is feeling disconnected and at least one partner has thought of leaving, it may seem manipulative to throw yourself into a situation and really enjoy it and open up to reconnecting. But without the chance to let the emotions arise, we can't really expect them to just turn up in the shower or while watching TV.
Chances are the other person is feeling disconnected, too, and may have similar hesitancy. So you go and have a good time, what is the harm in trying? It gives you more information to work with: Have our interests changed? Is there something else to work on in this relationship?
At the same time, it's detrimental to put an expectation on doing this. Taking a trip or making an ultimatum out of some other experience can color the way you look at the experience. It also isn't addressing that issue that may be about communication with your partner. And sometimes it's the simple things that make the difference. Don't complicate it with expectations beyond enjoying it.
Warning: This might require you to put your phone away. The constant distractions that technology provide can fill the silence that conversation with your partner could fill for the benefit of the relationship. Ask yourself: Why do you need the distractions if you are trying to recommit to your partner?
Communication is key – it's how we learn what is going on with those around us, rather than relying on the feeling we get or the assumptions we make. And while many couples come into therapy expressing communication issues, it is sometimes more of an understanding problem - understand the reasons and outcomes.
What ultimately makes a relationship work is each person feeling the other shares in that commitment and feeling that the other person is trying to and meeting the needs they can and vice versa.
Summer is here, so take the first steps to figuring out what any rough patches in your relationship are about and find the chance to be active in trying to work past them. Doing this successfully will mean being a good listener and talker, too.
This Topic of the Week was written by Brian Swope, MFT