Your relationship started strong, but the honeymoon phase is long gone. You knew that that was coming, but it somehow seems worse than you ever thought possible.
Now, she’s slipping away from you and you don’t know why.
It’s not like you expected the two of you to stay madly in love for the rest of your lives. The infatuation that brought you together at first was bound to fade one day, but after it did, happy companionship was eventually replaced by short patience, contempt, and even resentment.
You’re fine with having sex slightly less often, but you wish the lovemaking wasn’t so infrequent, and as lukewarm as it’s been lately.
You don’t want to lose your relationship. It’s not as if you suddenly realized you’re not a good match, there’s still a solid foundation — and you believe that’s worth fighting for.
The state of your relationship might not be entirely your fault, but it’s your responsibility. You do have the power to rekindle the romance, to make adjustments to bring the two of you closer together.
The good news is, if she sees you trying hard, chances are she’ll be inspired to try as well, and you’ll end up finding your way back to each other.
I recently dated a man who shared a piece of interesting advice he received from his mother: “Don’t leave your woman alone. If you let her sleep alone in bed, she’ll find someone else to keep her company.”
The advice is, of course, more than about sleeping arrangements — there are, after all, couples who find happiness sleeping in separate rooms — it’s about being there for your partner and not letting loneliness take over.
Sadly, too many men tend to withdraw from their partners when things aren’t going well. They work late even though they have no serious reason to stay in the office one minute overtime; they spend more time at the bar with friends than taking their partner out on date night; they spend twenty minutes inside the car parked in the driveway before summoning the courage to walk home at the end of the day.
They favor falling asleep on the couch in front of the TV instead of going to bed and keeping their partner company.
You don’t withdraw to be mean, it’s a defense mechanism. You’re protecting yourself from pain. You know you have your reasons, the atmosphere at home isn’t great. She’s been cold and distant. When she talks to you, it’s only to list everything you’re not doing for her and/or your family, which only makes you feel like a failure and withdraw even further.
Withdrawing might be how you protect yourself, but it doesn’t help the situation. When you withdraw, you communicate to her you don’t want her company, and she feels rejected. She gets the message that you don’t want to face the issues of your relationship and that since you’re not listening, she should try harder to be heard, which only increases the nagging and the scolding — on the rare occasions you’re actually there for her to nag and scold.
Instead of withdrawing, be there. Come home right away at the end of the day. Turn off the TV and go to bed with her. Hug her and kiss goodnight. Put your phone down when she’s talking and really listen.
Be there, be present. Show her no matter how hard things get, you’re not going anywhere. Show her she doesn’t have to seek company anywhere else because she’s not alone.
Be there for her before she gets unbearably lonely — and decides the way to fix her loneliness is by leaving you.
Take some time to recharge, but make sure to always come back
Of course, you need time to recharge, we all do.
The difference between taking some much-needed time to recharge and withdrawing lies exactly in coming back.
Spending a Friday night with just the guys, or going on a hike by yourself is perfectly fine, as long as you make sure to come back to her afterward. But don’t come back to sit on the couch watching TV as if she wasn’t there, come back to spend some quality time together.
When you come back, be there. Be present.
Show her you can balance taking time for yourself and being there for her.
Leave room for silence
Relationships require tough conversations. Sometimes you need to sit in silence for a while for the hard stuff to come out.
In your anxiety to help, to solve the problem at hand, you might be too quick to offer a string of solutions. You’re too eager to ease the pain and too uncomfortable sitting there in silence, waiting for someone to say something.
You want to be her hero, so when she starts talking about her most recent work problem, you tell her how to fix it before she’s even done explaining how the situation makes her feel.
“Someone took my lunch from the fridge at work again,” she tells you.
“Well, I told you to start labeling your food, why didn’t you do that?” You reply. “Do you know who did it?”
“No, but I’m pretty sure it was Steve. He’s never liked me much, he’s always cutting me off in meetings — “
“ — You should just point-blank ask him,” you cut her off, reaching for the remote and turning on the TV. The conversation is over, at least on your end.
“Yeah, yeah… Maybe next time I will,” she says and leaves the room to take care of something in the bedroom.
You feel good, you solved her problem. She feels you think she’s incompetent for not knowing how to label her own food and weak for not confronting the people who antagonize her. She feels worse off than before, and it’s likely she regrets even bringing it up. Next time, she won’t.
If you had waited to hear the rest of the story you might have learned how she stood up to her rude coworker and held her ground in the meeting that morning, but since you didn’t leave room for silence and cut her off, she didn’t get to that part.
She doesn’t want to have to insist on some space to express herself. Not at home, not with you. She already does that a lot everywhere else with other people, she’s tired.
Sometimes, you have to let her know she’s welcome to say anything, you’re there to listen. You want her to vent, to explain her frustrations, and to find comfort in knowing you empathize with her struggles.
Stop believing what you have to say is more important, and leave some room for silence so she can fill it with her thoughts and feelings for a change.
Ask the right questions
Don’t ask, “Why didn’t you?”
Ask, “How can I?”
How can I help? Is there anything I can do? How do you feel about it? What do you want to do?
These questions show her that you’re there, you’re listening, and you genuinely want to make her feel better, not jam a solution down her throat so she’ll shut up faster.
Mind the small daily rejections
You don’t have to reject your partner outright to cause her pain. Small daily rejections add up, and they can be as harmful in the long run as a big, blow-out fight in the short term.
Small rejections look like not calling to let her know you have to work late and won’t be home in time for dinner, not putting your phone away when she’s trying to tell you something important, not thanking her for doing her share of the housework — however big or small that is.
Small daily rejections add up to you taking your partner for granted. To avoid that, make an effort to be mindful of her, and thankful for everything good she brings into your life.
Bonus tip: consider professional help
The advice above is valid but generic. To fix specific problems in your relationship you should consider seeking help that’s tailored to your specific needs as a couple.
Professional help isn’t a guarantee of a perfect relationship, but it’s a safe space for you to have necessary, productive conversations and begin to find a way to work things out.
Previously published on medium
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