Marriage or long-term partnerships are not a competition. No one’s getting anywhere if you’re both too busy keeping score.
That being said, all relationships require a bit of give-and-take and sometimes we forget that. It’s easy and it’s human to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and lose sight of the bigger picture. At times, we tend to wind up with a bit of tunnel-vision, focusing more on our own personal wants and needs and less on what our partner may want and need. Before long, we can fall into detrimental patterns including and especially a routine of inaction. Inaction is relationship kryptonite—it’s actively telling your partner that you no longer care enough to even try.
If you find yourself in a relationship rut, a little perspective shift may be in order. Often the problems we see in our relationships are simply a symptom of rusty communication and a dash of that above mentioned tunnel vision, but help is here.
If you’re seeing: An apathetic, disengaged partner who doesn’t seem to even care about you anymore
Try: Putting in some of the effort you did, back in the beginning of the relationship.
Relationship disengagement happens. Most of the time we don’t even see it until we wake up one morning and realize that we can’t remember the last time we really kissed each other or the last time we had a fully engaged conversation about something other than our jobs, housework, or the kids. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily minutia and totally forget the passion we once felt for each other and for life. But it’s not hopeless—you have the power to change the game.
Action Steps: Send her a dozen roses for no reason other than to let her know you love her. Tell him how handsome he is. Plan and execute a date night – including arranging a sitter, opening doors, leaning across the table to kiss her over dessert. Compliment him on how hard he works for your family. Be genuine in spending quality time with her. Put your phone down! Or pick it up and send her a text midday (not a picture of your junk) to let her know you’re thinking of her. Put in the same effort you did in the beginning, and your partner will take notice and appreciate it.
If you’re seeing: A partner who doesn’t share their problems with you anymore, someone who gets frustrated when you’re trying to help, stilted communication
Try: Asking probing follow-up questions and listening to understand rather than to provide solutions
All too often communication problems arise. It’s frustrating when our partner just doesn’t seem to be listening and, after too long, we tend to stop trying to have those conversations. But let’s consider for a moment that your significant other truly isn’t trying to be obtuse. What if you’re just not understanding what they need from the interaction? If solutions are needed, your partner will ask specifically for them. Otherwise, s/he’s probably just looking to be heard, validated, and reassured.
Action Steps: When s/he’s trying to have a conversation with you, give your full attention, or coordinate a time when you can give your full attention. Make eye contact. Listen to what s/he’s saying. Follow along. Ask meaningful questions. Empathize with the situation: “That sucks hon,” or “That’s amazing!” or “I think you handled that really well.” Then hug it out. Your partner will feel heard and validated and will be much more loving and supportive the next time you need a shoulder.
If you’re seeing: A stressed out, grumpy spouse who always seems bogged down with the million little to-do items, kids, work, dishes, etc. and doesn’t have much time for you
Try: Helping out … in a different way than you have been.
It’s the 21st century and you’re reading a column posted on The Good Men Project: chances are, you’re already an enlightened person who helps out around the house. The question here is – are you being effective in what needs to be done? There’s a big difference in what you think is effective and what your spouse thinks is effective. If you’re trying to unload some stress from your significant other’s plate (which, I promise, will melt some of that icy exterior you’re feeling), there’s a quick and simple tweak you should try.
Action Steps: Repeat after me: “How can I help?” Seriously—this is the magic phrase to find more relationship happiness. If you take a minute to ask nicely what you can do that would be helpful then do exactly as your partner asks, you’ll quickly be in the running for husband of the year. This all loops back to needing to feel heard and validated. When we feel these things from you, when we see that you’re genuinely putting effort into being a partner with us, we’ll be less stressed and more loving.
If you’re seeing: Lack of engagement and enthusiasm in the bedroom
Try: Being more loving and complimentary out of the bedroom
Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? I promise you, it’s not. This is the #1 frustration I’ve heard across the board. It’s the classic chicken-and-egg scenario. Some want sex before they’re able to be affectionate in other ways. Others need affection before jumping straight into sex. If you’re willing to take that first step and break the self-defeating cycle, here’s what to do.
Action Steps: Try more non-sexual loving touch. Kiss. No, really kiss without getting all handsy. Give her a foot rub while you’re watching The Walking Dead together. Give him a big hug at the end of the day. Do end-of-the-day chores together, then really cuddle with at night without expecting sex. Play with her hair (you have no idea the seductive power of this particular tip.) Take the time to reconnect with him physically without pushing for more, and you’re likely to see more action between the sheets, as a result. Chances are, your partner craves loving touch just as much as you do. It doesn’t always have to be about sex.
Relationships require give and take and, sometimes, relationships require sucking it up and being the bigger person even when your partner’s being a jerk. It’s usually a question of who’s willing to extend the olive branch first. If you’re ready to break out of the rut, try it, then report back, either here or on my Facebook page. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!
Photo: Getty Images