Relationships are like breathing – inhaling and exhaling, closeness and disconnected, receiving and giving, connection and autonomy.
“We must be open enough to receive each other” Terry Real
Often in couple counselling I witness couples who have simply lost touch with how to receive the other, how to connect and share themselves on these levels:
- physically – we don’t even say good morning any more or hug. We used to exercise together everyday.
- emotionally – we just don’t talk about the intimate stuff, our needs or feelings anymore, its all about the kids
- sexually – the erotic pleasure has died and no one initiates sex anymore. If I do I feel like I am going to get rejected
- intellectually – we don’t share our thoughts or our ambitions, concerns, questions, experiences or insights we literally do our own thing nowadays
- spiritually – we used to connect in a way that it felt like a spiritual experience, now we can’t even look at each other.
Sound familiar? Our brains are geared up to automate our life so that it is easier to survive, that means we automate each other too! Tricky if you want to ensure the spark remains. It means being mindful of your relationship, taking responsibility for what you bring into the relationship daily, how you receive the other and what opportunities you take to initiate closeness.
A couple of things you might want to look at first.
- How do I receive my partner? How do I listen to him/her? Do I really hear what they are saying, their feelings and needs?
- How do they know I am listening and receive them?
- How do I listen to my feelings and needs so I can communicate them clearly?
- How do I offer myself, am I under sharing (withholding maybe because I assume they won’t hear or be rejected) or oversharing (because I feel they will reject me?)
- What is one thing I can commit to doing differently?
- How can I approach my partner to invite this as a new possibility in relationship?
So heres the deal: We automate each other, so we assume a lot of stuff about the other, which means we alter the way we approach our partner stopping ourselves from asking and negotiating. Then the passion dies! But it is still there, it just needs work.
Giving Up the Defenses
Interested in bringing the spark back into your relationship?
In the age of cultivating mutually agreed upon Couple Bubbles where our relationships are safe havens we have to both take care of each other and the relationship. The connection, intimacy, discussions, and emotional wellbeing of a relationship is a two person job. That means you!
So to help make it work we have to give up a few things:
- Wanting to win or be right all the time – both lose!
- Controlling your partner to get what you want – they will just disappear into themselves and the passion dies, there will be a pay back!
- Revenge if it doesn’t go the way that you want – do you really get your needs met or is this just a tantrum because you don’t want to fess up to them?
- Oversharing self expression – what is it that you are covering? Whilst ranting are you really connected or is it a way of avoiding true intimacy?
- Withholding or withdrawing (under sharing) – when you withdraw you are not trusted and come across as hiding something. What would it take to put your best foot forward and say it how it is?
So now that you are aware of some of the strategies you “may” have employed to get your needs met without really discussing them we can take the next step.
What do you really want in your relationship? What are you prepared to offer to improve it today? Often we wait for the other to get us, hear us, respect us but in the waiting we are simply avoiding and the gap grows bigger, and the resentment more apparent.
Renew your vision together. Often over time the reason we came together changes. We do those projects, raise the kids and then we need to revision the next phase of our relationship….What fun! Remember this is two person system – Together we revision.
Remember you are in a relationship, so this is a joint project. Lets start small.
Coming back to each component in your relationship. If one area is fully satisfied then the relationship can withstand, for a time, other areas where it maybe lacking.
- Physically – connection rituals help us feel secure, intimate, that we matter and are loved!
- Start with a ritual to connect you both as you launch the day. It doesn’t have to be big (a cuddle before you hop out of bed, coffee together in the morning, breakfast together, a morning walk) but do it daily. Both ensure it happens.
- Then add a landing ritual – how do you land the day together? Do you go to bed together or does someone full asleep on the couch? Do you read to each other? Do you tell each other about your day? Connect over dinner? Create that landing ritual together.
- Welcome home hug – Ok this is not one of those “Hi darling and a peck on the cheer gigs” it is an real tender embrace whereby holding each other until you are both totally relaxed (yep more than 5 secs) – Why? Then you don’t bring all that stress from the day home and you feel instantly connected with each other – Win/Win right?!
- Emotionally – Make a time each week to share your needs, feelings, withholds (remember does that thing that happened 5 years ago really have to be brought up weekly? Drop it) so as a couple we can take care of them together. We really don’t know how it is for the other unless we share. Be Bold, its worth it.
- Sexually – Take the quiz! Do you know your partners turn ons and offs? You will be pleasantly surprised to discover and recover them by simply asking. Maybe they don’t know – so take Emily Nagoski’s quiz and share.
- Start with eye gazing!
- Do the 3 minute game by Betty Martin
- Organise date nights – yep you would be surprised how many couples never take each other out on dates! Do you think it is time?
- Intellectually – Share your day, your thoughts, your ideas, dilemmas, feelings and needs – so you get to know each other again. Saves assuming!
- Mutually amplified positives – that sunset, that ice cream, and Oh My that standing in the rain naked – rope the other in too.
- Share novel experiences – what are those adventures that you have put on the back burner and the too hard basket – share them
- Create new memories by doing one thing different every week
- Remember you are each others best friend. You chose the other to share your life with so lets do it.
- Spiritually – bring your partner close,
- tell them what you love about them,
- describe what you see in their face
- eye gaze
- meditate together
And above all play! Adults forget to have those pillow fights, feed each other, hop into the shower together, surprise each other with a spontaneous adventure. Remember it is Christmas – be your partners gift!
by Brenda Sutherland B. Soc. Sc. (Psych) Founder and Direct and Couples Counsellor at The Awakening Group Pty Ltd