You meet that one special person. You fell in love. Everything feels special and intense and exciting and comfortable. You are the center of their world and they, yours.
Then things shifted. Life came crowding in. You didn’t have as much time to do the fun things that brought you together. There was not as much time to talk or gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes.
Every couple has times of growth and times of coasting. During growth, one or both of you are invested in making the relationship stronger. It might be kicked off by:
- recognizing a pattern or problem that is hurting one or both of you,
- reading or watching something that gets you to think differently about your relationship,
- seeing another really happy (or unhappy) couple, or
- having one of those moments that reminds you of why you love them: locking eyes across a room, sharing a private joke, a kind gesture, a great orgasm, a deep and meaningful conversation.
During these periods of growth, you work on the relationship and plan how to make it better. These periods can be fun, exhausting, frustrating, joyful, and/or scary. The rest of the time, we all put our relationship into a neutral position. That means we focus on other areas of our lives (kids, jobs, extended families, health, hobbies). There is an endless list of things that can pull our attention away from our partners. And our relationships are supposed to be able to handle being put in neutral. We can't and shouldn't focus on our relationships to the exclusion of everything else.
The quality of our relationship habits will determine how well we weather these times of inattention. A relationship habit is something built into our lives that we do automatically. That doesn't mean thoughtlessly. We still have to show up for that event. The benefit of making these things habits is that we don't have to work so hard to come up with new ideas in order to connect with our partner - the opportunities to connect are already built into the relationship. You still need to show up with intention and emotion, but the opportunity is already there.
Three things you can do to change things now:
- Every morning you kiss goodbye before leaving for the day. The habit is there. You each expect that thing to happen. Each day, you make the choice whether to give one another a peck or a passionate kiss. You bring the energy each day but you don't have to create something new everyday.
- Every Friday is date night. You have a standing arrangement with childcare. When the childcare falls through you have the backup plan to spend two hours together after putting the kids to bed. You don't spend a lot of time and energy carving time out of the schedule. You have to show up with whatever energy you have that particular day, but the habit is there. Each week, you choose a different activity such as go to a movie, talk over coffee, learn a new skill, or veg out in front of the tv. Since there are a lot of opportunities (52 a year!!!), some dates can be romantic, others fun, some chill, others with friends.
- Every day you text your partner when you get in your car after work. Many days, it is a quick heads up so they can anticipate your arrival. Other days, when you have more energy, you use that to say thank you, share a quick antidote or frustration, or pass important information. If you have a lot of energy, you might find a meme or joke that speaks to them.
You just show up at the right times.
Choose the habits that work best for you and some that have the most value to your partner. Having good habits will help you stay connected even when you would be prone to drifting apart.
Strong relationships need to be able to weather times of growth and times when they are on the back burner. Plan good relationship habits that will continue building the relationship, even when you are busy doing other things.
Learn more about how to get involved in this movement of couples who don't just want to stay together but want to thrive together here.