If you have decided that your relationship is good overall but you have hit a bad patch and just need to course correct, here are some ideas to get you back on track…
When is the last time you just laughed together?
It is really easy to get mired down in the ‘to do lists’ and ‘need to’s’ of life and forget that you and your partner used to have a lot of fun together. And not having fun together and actually make all the hard stuff even more difficult. The irony in making fun time a ‘need to’ is that it is just as critical as feeding the kids and cleaning the house but most of us are quick to cut it from the list.
Think about it… I’m guessing that on your first date you didn’t sit down and complete your taxes and draw up your wills. That would be the opposite of a good time for most of us. Hopefully, your phones were put away, you looked at each other, asked questions and listened to the answers. A study that came out last summer suggested that couples with children actually speak on average about 38 minutes a week COMBINED. That’s a problem.
This does not require you to move a mountain… put the kids to bed, and sit outside holding hands and talking about your day. Tell your partner about something you have been daydreaming about or a joke. It matters more that you spend the time and energy being present and being together.
Keep your circle tight
Not to take a cheap shot a politics but we all know how slow things can get when we ask a bunch of people to get together and make decisions. The more opinions, needs, thoughts, feelings, points of view, etc. get involved, the slower a process takes. You can’t live your life based on committee votes. Of course, it can be useful to bounce your thoughts and ideas off of one or two peoplewho you trust, who have demonstrated good problem solving in the past and who you know care about you. But everyone around you does not need to have a say in how you live your life. Nor do they need a say in big decisions you make. There are likely people in your life that you care deeply for and who care deeply for you but they may not understand the life you want to build for yourself. Their advice is likely well-intentioned but it will often do little but further confuse how you plan to handle the situation.
The truth is no one but you and your partner really knows what has gone on between you. If you aren’t happy, go to your partner (aka the source) and see if there is a fix. Other people cannot heal your relationship.
Beware of the neighbor’s grass!!
Thirty years ago, we were largely confined to people in our geographical networks. We only needed to compare ourselves to the people we saw in our communities and to an extent the people and families we saw on TV. Now, the comparison game is so constant most of us don’t even notice it anymore. These days with social media, ‘reality TV,’ online dating apps all pilled on top of the idea that we can and should be constantly happy… it is really easy to look around and think that the grass is greener on the other side.
The truth is the paradox of choice forces us to make poor decisions. What’s the paradox of choice? Basically, when the human brain has too many options, it starts to break down. It either freezes or it makes a choice it would not have made if the options were more narrow. AND when you have too many choices and you do make a choice, you often have less confidence in that choice. So often what happens even when we do pick a partner, we are quick to tell ourselves that there are plenty more where he/she came from and as soon as things get difficult – we bolt thinking that we can save ourselves the discomfort of having to work things out.
If the relationship is untenable, yes of course leave. But if you feel like the person is good and has a lot of the qualities you want in a partner. WATER YOUR OWN GRASS!!! If you sincerely try and things to come together, you can leave knowing that you did everything you could. Keep in mind, dating is no reprieve from discomfort and vulnerability.
Why do you I like you?
A lot of times when we have been hurt by our partner a few (thousand) times we start to focus on their negative traits that we want them to change. Is that a balance view of them? Or is it what is called negative sentiment override? Negative sentiment override is a trick of the brain again. It puts us in a heads space that filters everything our partner does through a negative lense. For example, if you partner took out the trash, cleaned the kitchen and made dinner without being asked and when there is no big occasions and your first thought is, “Ugh!! About damn time!” You’re in negative sentiment override.
In order to try and shake that off, write down (yes with pen and paper) a list of what you like and love about them. What makes them special to you? Why did you chose them as your partner? Then once each day pull out the list and go over it. Yes, even if you are in a middle of a conflict. The truth is your partner (like you) is not all bad or all good. But reminding yourself of their good parts will help you push and work through more difficult moments in the relationship.
As always, I’m here. If you are ready to live your best life, call me and let’s get started!