I work with couples experiencing some kind of relationship crisis.
And as unique and adorable as every couple I work with is…
…There are a few themes that repeat regularly.
Today, I’d like to talk with you about one of the top 3:
It’s responsible for the gradual, insidious erosion of far too many good relationships.
In this blog post, I’ll share my thoughts and experience of what happens when you fail to maintain your relationship over time.
Let’s start with an idea you and I can agree on.
If you want things to keep working. If you want them to stay strong and fit for purpose for a long time…
…You have to invest time, energy and money in maintaining them.
This is true for your:
- Skills for work
You get the idea.
And regular maintenance becomes essential if the object is being put under extra pressure.
…When it comes to relationships, far too many good people expect their relationship to magically adapt, change appropriately and stay strong in the face of life’s relentless challenges – without any maintenance.
Look, you know it’s easy to be young and in love…
…When you’re young and in love.
But stick a few decades on the clock, add in some children, work woes, life struggles and ageing parents that need your help and support…
…Well, that’s a whole different story.
Even though we change as we get older…
…Even though everything around us changes with time…
…We expect our relationships to stay as loving, as passionate, and as easy as they were the day we started them.
We expect our relationship with our partner to organically and naturally adapt and evolve without any structured, deliberate maintenance.
We just expect it to happen some how.
But as a professional therapist working with couples in crisis, I’m here to tell you that’s not how long, healthy and happy relationships work.
Staying in love, feeling connected to your partner and communicating effectively when life is trying to crush you from all sides…
…Well, that requires the right tools and consistent, life long effort from both of you.
Let me give you an example.
At the time of writing, I’m working with a couple called Bob and Jane (not their real names obviously).
They’ve been together for 15 years.
They’ve two very trying teenagers.
They’ve got parents with health and mobility issues.
And they’ve come to me because they’re concerned their “Love Tank”’is empty because they’re disagreeing and arguing over pretty much everything.
And it never used to be like that.
The thought of separation terrifies them, but they think that might be the only way they can be happy again.
As I mentioned at the start of this blog post, I see this kind of story play out regularly.
And whilst their relationship is as unique as they are…
…Because they’re human, the kind of challenges they’re facing are very familiar.
Which is good.
Because it means their situation has been well researched and it means there are tried and tested solutions.
The Gottman Institute for example (which I’ve trained with) has 40+ years of research with over 3000 couples looking for what makes relationships work.
And they’ve created a series of tools couples can learn, and with continued practice turn into new ways of relating with each other.
Ways guaranteed to help them fill up their “Love Tank” and begin to build new – deeper – connections between them.
Let me tell you a story about a couple called John and Linda (not their real names of course).
In the beginning they had great dollops of what’s called: “Face-to-face” energy. Their friends used to get sick of them because they were so into each other.
Some time passed and they had a conversation that went something like this:
Linda: “I really like you, I think you’re my person.”
John: “I really like you too, I think you’re my person.”
Together: “Let’s do life together!”
And they did just that.
Now they’re in the trenches, stood next to each other doing life.
- Responding to the challenges of life.
- Building careers.
- Maintaining some kind of social life.
And doing the million and one things required to pay those pesky, non-negotiable, monthly bills.
…They decided to have children.
You might – personally – be familiar with this story.
If you are, then you also know how massively difficult it is to do all of the above, be the best parents you can and at the same time make time for your partner.
And gradually – without John or Linda consciously noticing it – that face-to-face energy turned into “Side-by-side” energy.
They started to lose the connection between them.
Intimacy and sex dwindled and came to a halt.
John hated it, but didn’t know how to discuss the loss with Linda. Instead, he found comfort and validation with Sue at work. At least she gave him the time of day and made him feel special and valuable.
And as the kids grew older they seemed to require even more of John and Linda’s time.
But then one day the kids were gone, living their own independent lives and John and Linda were left looking at each other wondering:
“Who the hell are you?”
Quite a chilling story huh?
But one I see playing out in many of the couples I work with.
Some couples are just at the start of the story, some are in the middle and a few are at the end.
But it’s the same story:
The gradual loss of face to face energy and too much side by side energy. Usually caused by not enough (if any) relationship maintenance.
During the first session with new clients I always ask them what results they want from couples counselling, and many times I’m told they want their relationship to be like it was when they first met.
I’m good at my job, but I’m not a miracle worker.
I can’t make them a decade (or more) younger.
I can’t remove the constantly changing challenges of parent hood.
I can’t help them to escape the cruel upsets and frustrations of caring for elderly and often frail parents.
These are the kind of burdens that inevitably weigh down most long term relationships.
Burdens their relationship didn’t have to carry when the two of them first met, fell in love and made those around them sick with how into each other they were.
So what can I do?
…I can help you to get back some of that face to face energy.
I can help you to reconnect with your partner.
I can teach you how to stay connected with your partner in the face of so much that wants to grab your time and energy and pull the two of you apart.
And I can usually do it pretty quickly.
Six sessions or one intensive is often all it takes to teach you how to undo the harm done to your relationship by lack of maintenance.
And if you’ll apply what I share with you, the chances are very good your relationship will mature into something even deeper, more connected and more loving.
If that’s what you both want.
To discover more about how I can help you use the links below:
Face to face couples counselling
Online couples counselling
Intensive two-day sessions click here
Bye for now