Starting in our formative years, most of us are taught that achieving the things we dream for in life will take hard work. Whether it is attending college, getting that dream job, or buying our first house, we have been told that these milestones cannot be realized without determination and perseverance. What often gets overlooked is the hard work and dedication that is necessary to be successful in LOVE.
Let's face it, there are nights when your partner's unique animalistic snore at 3am might just send you over the edge. Images of long nights by the fire and luxurious vacations are quickly replaced with worries about 401K contributions, the furnace that needs repair, and saving college tuition for our children. The truth is, we put so much energy into managing life's everyday challenges, we forget to do the work at home with our partner. We forget to communicate, connect, and make time to enjoy each other.
If you are reading this and thinking, "Yes, this is me!", the good news is there are a number of little ways to try to reconnect and re-engage with your loved one.
1). Communicate with Vulnerability
"Often people will criticize as a way of describing their needs." (http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/07/29/7-small-simple-habits-for-a-happy-marriage/.) Think back to the last time you felt frustrated by your partner. Maybe they have been spending many late nights at the office working on an important project. Or maybe they have spent dinner time on the phone all week putting out work fires. Instead of saying, "All you do is work", think about how you actually feel first. Maybe start instead with "I miss you. I know you are busy at work, and would like to try to find some time to spend together." Identifying your feelings and sharing those from a place of vulnerability can allow for your partner to better understand where your frustration is coming from.
"You may know your partner better than anyone, but making assumptions regarding what the other person intends to communicate is a potentially damaging mistake." (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-cloud9/201306/12-thirty-second-ways-connect-your-spouse.) Simply put, make sure you are actively listening to your partner. Check in during conversation and ask questions about what your partner is sharing with you. Don't assume that you know how they feel or where these feelings are coming from. Active listening allows for you to better understand your partner, and allows your partner to feel as though what they have to say is important and valid.
3). Touch Each Other
Not to worry, if you are reading this at work, you many continue reading. This blog will be the PG version. In all seriousness, maintaining physical closeness is an important part of emotionally connecting with your partner. This does not include that late night jab with your elbow to your partner's back to interrupt the primal snore. "There are many ways to show affection to your partner: hold hands, sit together while watching television, tell each other, I love you." (http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/CFS/CFS-744-W.pdf). Maintaining regular physical closeness will support the individual's need for attention, security, and connection.
"Be playful, joke, and enjoy each other's company. Keep things light. Find ways to do things together that are fun for the both of you." (http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/CFS/CFS-744-W.pdf). With all of the external stressors that occur on a daily basis in our lives, it is so important to find those small moments to just laugh. While it is crucial to be able to share difficult feelings with your partner, it is also equally as important to share the moments of joy, happiness, and humor.
If you are reading this and thinking, "Where do I start?" or "This seems overwhelming!", you are not alone. Working on re-connecting with a partner can be challenging. For some couples, it is helpful to seek the support of a trained clinical professional. Couples therapy can be extremely helpful in facilitating partners to "Change perspectives, modify dysfunctional behavior, decrease emotional avoidance, improve communication, and promote relationship strengths." (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201203/5-principles-effective-couples-therapy). For some, the extra support and encouragement from a trained professional allows for a space to learn and cultivate skills (some noted above) that can help you to reconnect with your partner in a meaningful way. And while it is work, no great successes can be achieved without a little elbow grease (and maybe a good set of ear plugs).
For more information on couples counseling, please feel free to contact www.fca-andover.com. Thanks for reading!