Life gets in the way of relationships. There is no getting round it. We can spend time sorting out our kids’ problems, our friends’ problems, perhaps even those of our work colleagues, only to arrive home in a heap exhausted. The trials of the day have left us with nothing left for the most important person of all. We often assume that our partner can read our mind and know that we love and care about them. Unfortunately, we are all guilty of taking our loved ones for granted.
No matter how secure someone is, if they constantly feel that they are at the bottom of a very long list of priorities, they may leave. Feelings of resentment can grow over time – small niggles to start off with but soon developing into serious issues until eventually they become too much to bear.
The good news is that if you both want to, the actual process of fixing a relationship is not too complicated. If both of you still want to be life partners then you know that you love each other; it’s just that for some reason are finding it hard to communicate right now.
The first thing many people think of to fix their relationships is to try and bring back some of the magic and intimacy. Candlelit dinners and provocative underwear are great ways to bringing you closer again physically, but they don’t address the deeper, more emotional reasons why the relationship may be strained. Having said that, endlessly going on about how you need to fix your relationship could potentially drive a wedge between you and strain the relationship even further.
So what you really need to do first, if you want to have a healthy relationship, is to define the relationship. You will never be able to fix your relationship if you have different expectations and assumptions about what kind of relationship you’re in. Putting it bluntly, if you think you’re on the road to marriage and children and your partner is just there for a few dates and a bit of fun, it’s not going to work.
The need to define the relationship is so great because other people are, well, other people. Even if they are happy in the relationship, they may be happy for different reasons and about different aspects of it. If this goes on too long, the differences tend to be blown out of proportion because, whether we realise it or not, we all use ourselves as the baseline for other people’s behaviour.
When you define the relationship, however, you are taking the reins, allowing you to see where you are and where you are heading. This, in turn, will allow you to have a healthier, stronger relationship because you will both be pulling in the same direction.
It won’t be comfortable; for a start, the conversations can be awkward – and there’s always an element of fear that the two of you will have such radically different expectations and goals that the relationship may end. Whilst this is possible, it is very unlikely that you would have got together in the first place if you were that different.
Consider the effort to define the relationship in terms of exercise: it may be tough and the time and there’s a small chance that you may get injured, but the truth is that it will almost always make the relationship better and stronger.
By now, you should be confident that both of you want this relationship to work and that you are committed to your partnership. Spending quality time together is a cliché – but that doesn’t mean it’s not important, so arrange a series of date nights for the two of you as a couple. Prepare a list of what you would like to try in the relationship. Include anything, from visiting art galleries together to a particular technique in the bedroom. Then take turns trying out each other’s ideas.
As well as the lists of new experiences you would like to share, you also should make lists of everything that you enjoy about the relationship and all the problem areas as you each see them. This will help you to realise what you have and what you need to work on.
Don’t worry that one (or both) of you may become offended. Having already defined your relationship, you should be confident that this exercise has been done with the sole purpose of increasing your satisfaction level, not to put each other down. Communication is about letting the other person know what you’re feeling in a clear, non-blaming manner so that you can both be sure you’re on the same page.
There are also a few things you can try to keep in mind on a day to day basis that will help to fix problems in your relationship. For example, it’s important to try and find things in your partner that you appreciate. You might appreciate their kindness or their sense of humour, their intelligence or whatever – remember what attracted you to them in the first place.
Without wanting to sound morbid, you should also keep at the back of your mind an awareness that accidents can happen when we least expect them. While this doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to you, consider how you’d feel if something did happen and today really was the final day you had together. Ask yourself, what would you regret most? What would you wish you’d said or done or changed?
Your answers to those questions should be the very same things you need to be doing with your partner each and every day. When you live each day as though it was your last, the romance will return almost immediately and you will find that the list of problems becomes rapidly shorter.
One final thing – if you do end up arguing, try not to go to bed without resolving the issue. Not only will it ruin your night’s sleep, unresolved conflict can simmer away under the surface and lead to more resentment.