Can you relate to this scenario in any way? Your alarm goes off - and you glance over to see your spouse lying next to you - and the first thought you think is, “Who the heck is that?!” But then, your memories come flooding back & you remind yourself to feel grateful he/she is in your life. You get out of bed - and another thought flashes through your mind, “I hope he doesn’t wake up, so I can have my morning to myself.” And, the week goes on like this - with the two of you being ships passing in the night.
What is going on here? Ty Tashiro, author of The Science of Happily Ever After, explains that couples in their first year of marriages score 86% for marriage satisfaction - and under 50% by the seventh year. According to Tashiro, about 50% of couples divorce, another 10 to 15% separate - and 7 or more percent stay married but are chronically unhappy - which means that two-thirds of all married couples do not live happily ever after.
Although I could not find a statistic as to what percent of these two-thirds of unhappily married couples have just drifted apart, I would estimate from my years of working with couples that it is a high percentage of this group. Why do so many couples allow themselves to do this to the point that there is no going back - and they are doomed to end up divorced?
If you are among the “drifters,” give yourself some compassion. With the busyness of life, mortgages, bills, countless responsibilities, maybe children too - it is completely natural that a couple is going to be challenged to stay deeply connected! Each will feel the pull to focus on their own “stuff” & what is on his/her own plate. There’s no doubt that the relationship will suffer if the couple does not have some agreements in place to honor the partnership. Stay tuned for more about that!
No matter what, if you are realizing that you & your spouse have grown apart, you can completely turn this around! Here are four simple tips that the two of you can do to reconnect - and not only rekindle that flame that the two of you once enjoyed, but help it to become richer than it ever was. Truly, long lasting partnerships are our greatest opportunity to grow our capacity to love and be loved - so stopping in your tracks - and committing to do something about the “drifting” is well worth the effort!
Four Ways to Rekindle Your Love & Connection
1) Stop the Madness!
When you feel totally disconnected from another, most often this is because you are actually disconnected from your own self! Healthy love is grounded on healthy self love & self understanding. It makes a world of difference when each in the relationship sets aside time on a regular basis to give their own selves some contemplation time - say with journaling or talking to a good friend or a professional who can deeply listen to you. Explore your feelings, needs, desires and dreams.
2) Practice Deep Communication
A couple needs to set aside some time together to complete the following sentence stems - taking turns with who shares & who listens:
* What I love about you is…
* What bothers me (about me, you, our life..) is..
* What I wish we could do is…
In exploring these things, much more could be revealed. I ask my couples to practice skillful communication when sharing.
In a nutshell, these are:
(A) Deep Listening
I teach weekend workshops dedicated to “deep listening,” so I will not be able to give all of the intricacies of what & how you develop this here. However, I will just give a few brief pointers how you can begin to practice “deep listening” with your partner. When your partner speaks, you resist the temptation to immediately respond - and first pause to take in completely not only what he/she said - but challenge yourself to go deeper & attempt to understand WHY this was said & what he/she might be feeling. You then verbalize this depth of understanding, eliminating judgement, opinions or advice. You stay with him/her until he/she is completely finished. If you can do this with absolutely no agenda, step back - because miracles of connection are going to take place!
(B) I messages
I messages are a powerful way to express our feelings, needs and desires in a way that is non-blameful & respectful. If you have been now taking time to explore what is going on for you inside, decide what of all of this you could share with your partner to get more vulnerable with him/her in a way that is non-shaming & owning your part in things 100%. The easiest way to step into this is keeping your sharing in the “I” pronoun, eliminating all “you’s.”
3) Brainstorm New & Exciting Things Together
So much has been coming out about the need for novelty to keep a long term relationship alive. Esther Perel’s Ted talk went viral when she addressed waning desire for long term relationships - and our somewhat contradictory needs for safety & security - “but an equally strong need for adventure, for novelty, for mystery.. for surprise & the unexpected.”
Novelty needs to be a part of what a couple experiences on a regular basis - not just once a year. This can include newness in sex but is not limited to this arena. One question a couple can ask themselves on a monthly basis: “Did we do something totally different this month?”
4) Support Each Other to BE Your Greatest Selves
Not only is it important to focus on the relationship dynamics, but it’s important that you each share with one another your dreams for the future - and discuss how you can support one another to realize these dreams.
Ask each other: “What is your dream?” And, explore together: “How can we support one another to realize our dreams?”
By allowing ourselves to really explore our dreams - and supporting each other to realize them, it will lend a new vitality to the way you two relate to one another. When we’re living our dreams and feeling supported with doing so, it opens the door for a whole new level of joy and creativity.
My greatest intention is that this article gives you hope that it really IS possible to reconnect with one another and rekindle the flame of love for one another. Of course, this is my specialty as a relationship expert, so you can reach out to me if you’d like some professional help with this. Still, I have seen many couples just practice these four arenas - and their relationship became the greatest gift in their lives!