Stop reading for a moment, and think back to the first few weeks after you met your spouse or love partner.
Actually try to visualize an early date where you were cuckoo for CoCo Puffs about this amazing person. And they felt the same about you.
Remember how it felt falling in love, how happily distracted you were, how you couldn’t wait to see her — how everything he said was interesting and funny.
Remember how you felt the two of you were special? Meant for each other. Destined to be together.
And now . . . not so much.
Now you’ve been together for a while — maybe years. And the bloom is off the rose. What was once endearing or funny now gets under your skin like a bad rash. The differences you found so appealing now divide you like a knife. It’s past time to rekindle your relationship.
Frustration, resentments, hurt feelings, and unmet needs are always simmering just below the surface. One wrong word, one sideways glance, one exasperated sigh is all it will take to cause the lid to blow. And blow it has — many times. Too many times to count.
Bickering is a daily sport and full-blown fights dot the landscape of your marriage like bleeding soldiers on a battlefield. Whether your particular fighting style is a head-spinning screaming match or a silent treatment freeze-out, both of you are exhausted, hurting, and so tired of living this way.
How did it come to this? What happened to the joy, the fun times together, the great sex, the intimate talks? Where are those two people who fell so head-over-heels in love?
If you spend more time in your love life fighting or feeling angry, hurt, or resentful than you do enjoying the connection, then it’s past time to take action. Right now you must do something about it if you want to save the relationship.
Here are some ideas on how to rekindle your relationship and fall in love again:
Do you really want to stay?
Before you begin working the relationship, be very, very honest with yourself.
Do you really want this marriage to work?
Are you invested in it enough that you’re willing to make some changes?
Do you truly want to have a happy, healthy, intimate connection with this particular person?
If the answer is no, and you’ve been with this person a long time, go to counseling anyway to be absolutely sure it’s not just your anger clouding your judgment. Get professional support to help you navigate this huge decision whether to end the marriage or not.
However, if the answer is yes, and you know with certainty you want the relationship to work, then read on.
Remember the foundational premise
Both you and your spouse or partner must embrace this foundational premise: your relationship together takes priority over everything else in your life.
That includes your children, your parents, your friends, your work, your hobbies, your chores, your television, your computer, and your egos.
The relationship itself must be viewed as a separate living, breathing force that the two of you are charged with care taking. I’m not suggesting you lose your individuality. But as two individuals, you are jointly responsible for nurturing your connection as you would your child.
If your relationship isn’t solid, everything else in your life will be negatively impacted. Your happiness as a couple is essential to the security and happiness of your children, your job performance, and your mental health.
Respect the individual
You are an individual unique person with your own beliefs, feelings, desires, and habits. Your spouse also is that same unique individual. Everyone has the innate right to be who they are and to feel free with their most intimate partner to express their true selves.
Just because you’ve come together as a couple doesn’t mean you should expect your partner to be someone else, meet all of your needs, or view the world in the exact same way you do. You are two distinct people, two adults, who fell in love and chose to live their lives together.
Your expectations and treatment of each other should reflect this truth. Once you accept and respect the other person for who they are, then you can find a way to work through differences thoughtfully and kindly. When you love Mike (fill in your spouse’s name) simply because he is Mike, then you are offering unconditional love and acknowledgment of his authentic self.
You love and accept him just the way he is.
This is the foundation from which you can handle the differences between you and the difficulties life throws in your path.
Lead with kindness
I firmly believe the simple act of kindness could save most couples from breaking up. If you begin from the position of always trying to be kind and respectful toward your partner, you’ll resolve conflicts more quickly and less painfully. And you will sew the seeds of joy in your life together.
Small acts of kindness on a daily basis translate into heaping portions of positivity and happiness, which is essential for lasting relationships.
According to marriage expert and psychologist John Gottman, Ph.D., it takes five positive interactions to every one negative interaction for a marriage to last. Through his extensive research on couples, Gottman discovered that marriages are in danger of leading to divorce when the ratio of positive to negative interactions falls below five to one.
Even if you are feeling angry or upset about something, you can still be kind by not being overtly unkind. You don’t have to go for the jugular in disagreements. There’s no need to make disparaging remarks or speak condescendingly.
Kindness is an advanced emotion — one that requires conscious choice. You must choose kindness over winning an argument or making your partner feel worse than you do.
Seek a mediator
Every couple experiences difficulties they can’t unknot on their own. Sometimes we become so entrenched in our needs or point of view, we can’t see a way toward compromise or resolution. If this happens, don’t allow the issue to fester and cause resentment.
Seek out a professional couples counselor who can help you find the best course of action. Asking for this help doesn’t mean your marriage is bad or you might not get what you want. It’s like bringing in a consultant who’s detached and can help you both see the bigger picture and the way toward resolution.
Dont’ avoid counseling because you think you should be able to work it out on your own. If you haven’t, you likely won’t be able to. So take action.
Practice emotional intimacy
The foundation of emotional intimacy is trust. You trust your spouse to have your back, accept you as you are, treat you with dignity, and love you unconditionally.
You lose that trust when your partner puts you down, betrays you in some way, tries to control you, or becomes disengaged from the relationship. Real intimacy is impossible without this trust, and emotional intimacy is what keeps marriages thriving.
You express emotional intimacy in a variety of ways.
- You have it when you can be vulnerable in front of your partner, and you accept your partner’s vulnerabilities.
- You have it when you share physical affection and non-sexual touching.
- You have it when you share meaningful experiences, laughter, and fun times together.
- You have it when you can talk with each other about your day, your opinions, your feelings — and know your partner is really listening.
Emotional intimacy is also expressed in sexual intimacy with eye contact, spoken words, and open communication about how to please one another.
Even when you disagree, you can practice this intimacy through humor, touching, and kindness.
Don’t argue in anger
This might be the most difficult change to adopt, but it will be the most life-changing. When you feel angry at your spouse, and you want to yell and scream and say something really hurtful or snarky, walk away instead.
When your anger grows to the point you can’t control it, have a rule with yourself you will step away from your partner until the anger dissipates. Words spoken in anger are poison to your close connection. They might feel good in the moment, but they often cause irreparable harm.
If a disagreement begins to escalate into a full scale fight, tell your spouse you’d like to wait to finish the conversation until cooler heads prevail. If you want to get your angry feelings out, write them down and then tear them up. Or go for a run or a long walk.
Walking away from angry interactions is part of putting the relationship as a priority over your ego.
Create opportunities for fun
Life can be so serious and demanding. This is particularly true when you have children at home. Your days are filled with work and child rearing, and in the evenings you’re exhausted and just want to veg out in front of the TV or on the computer.
Prioritize having fun and adventure together over some of the seemingly more important activities of your life. Your house and yard don’t have to be perfect. Your kids don’t have to be in dozens of extracurricular activities. You don’t have to volunteer for every school organization.
Put fun time with your spouse ahead of all of these things. Go on regular date nights. Take weekend excursions. Put up a tent in your back yard, and watch the stars together. Try to reconnect to the feelings you had when you first fell in love, when the world was your oyster and life had a rosy glow to it.
Think about your partner as your boyfriend or girlfriend, and find ways to spend time together just as you did when you first met. Yes, your life is more complicated now. But that will make the fun times all the sweeter.
If your relationship is valuable to you, and you don’t want it to linger in malaise or fall apart completely, then take the initiative to overcome your problems as a couple. Ask your spouse or partner to read this article with you. Discuss together how you can put your intimate connection as the number one priority in your life.
Write down ways you can express more respect, kindness, emotional intimacy, and fun. Talk about strategies for a cooling off period when anger erupts. And decide whether or not you need the support of a counselor with any particular issue.
Take care of your relationship, and fall in love all over again.
photo credit: Genaro | www.orengophotography.com