When life starts to catch up to you, and your relationship with your partner has been put on the back burner, it can be hard to remember what drew you together in the first place. You spend your days busy with work and kids. Your evening are full of preparing for tomorrow, or crashing on the couch with Netflix. You can’t even remember the last time you had a conversation with your spouse about anything other than the kids and the details of daily life.
It can be hard to start a conversation, especially when you feel disconnected from your partner, and you’re not sure they even care about what you have to say. Here are some tips on how to take those first tentative steps forward in your relationship:
Start with yourself. Are you truly open and engaged with your partner? Do you listen without judgement when he or she expresses needs? Do you take his/her frustrations seriously? Even if something is not important to you, it can mean the world to your partner. For example, your man has asked you to help clean the garage. Gross. But maybe what he’s really looking for is time to spend with you, working on a task together. Knowing that you support and acknowledge the effort he is putting in can mean the world to him.
Get to know each other again. Ask each other about your childhoods. Even partners who have been together for a very long time will learn new things about each other. A great app to generate some ideas for conversation starters is The Intimacy Toolbox.
Ask how you can help your partner. Maybe it makes sense to you to drop your keys on the chair by the door, and leave your used lunch supplies in your bag until the next morning. Your wife, on the other hand, might see this as being careless, or inconsiderate to her efforts to keep the house tidy. So ask. “How can I make things easier for you today? How can I support you in what you do for our family?”
Acknowledge each other's efforts. Say thank you. Showing appreciation for your partner goes a long way in letting them know they are seen, and that they are special. How does it make you feel when someone acknowledges your work?
Ask for what you need. Even the most connected partners cannot read each other’s minds. It’s easy to think, “but he should know that about me already, I told him once 10 years ago!” or “she should know that when I look at her a certain way, it means I want sex”. When we expect our partners to just know, it leads to more frustration. Instead, gently tell your partner what is important to you and why. Tell him/her how you feel when this need isn’t met. AVOID BLAMING. Chances are he or she had no idea how important this thing was to you, and will be more than willing to meet your needs.
These ideas are a starting place. If you need more help in rekindling the spark, contact me today to schedule an appointment for couples counselling.