Spring Is In The Air: Put the spark back in your relationship

couples-spark

Spring Is In The Air: Put the spark back in your relationship.

April seems like a good time to talk about renewal—especially when it comes to re-lighting the spark in a romantic relationship. Does your relationship feel stuck or does it seem to have “lost that loving feeling?” When I ask many couples about the last time they went out on a date, the response is often either silence or “I can’t even remember.”

There is a notion that romantic relationships are supposed to feel a certain way at all times. We see movies and commercials putting shiny, smiling people on display, sharing perfect moments. Their affection for one another seems to arise out of nothing. We chalk it up to ideas like “fate”, “destiny” or “a soul seeing its reflection in another.” There are certainly couples who maintain both a passion and ease in their day to day life with each other, but my experience has shown that most couples—especially those who have children—often struggle with finding the time to stoke the fires of love.

One of the fundamental pitfalls of any relationship is to expect that your partner will do things the way you do them. The saying, “opposites attract” seemed so charming early in the relationship. Two people found a groove. With all the kissing, and hugging and beach vacations with pre-children disposable income, the forgiveness for differences was abundant. Companionship and acceptance felt wonderful. We enter marriages, often after other relationship experiences, and we acknowledge with vows that we will go through good times and bad. We know there will be conflict, but we figure we can worry about that later on, and we enter honeymoons with little thought of how to weather the difficult times.

How do you resolve conflict? You communicate. How do you communicate? With words, yes, but what is way more important, is the tone and body language that goes with the words. There is a huge paradox in couples work. Couples learn to use words effectively. Good outcomes, though, seem to also depend on rebuilding trust and actually using fewer words with one another. Couples follow through on agreements regarding the sharing of tasks. They give more hugs and get back to the early days of more eye contact while sharing meals and planning vacations. They forgive one another for being a different human being raised with different standards regarding what defines a clean kitchen or bathroom.

How do you begin this work of rebuilding trust? Begin dating again.

If you have family in the area that can give you free childcare, that is great resource and great place to start. If you don’t, and childcare is a financial burden, figure out how to get back to a dating scenario once the kids are tucked in bed. Start by putting down Facebook for a week and cook some meals together. Make popcorn and watch a movie, take the time to hold hands, play a board game, or play cards. Do anything to break the pattern of relationship neglect that is too often blamed on work schedules, driving kids to practice, paying bills and trying to keep the house clean.

Any relationship can have its challenges, but maintaining a long-term intimate relationship takes the cake. We have to remember that what gets us into these relationships is often a desire to make life easier. Companionship, affection, and the desire to care for, and accept care from someone seem to be the primary needs of any relationship. The big question couples have to ask themselves, is whether or not life will be easier with this person or without this person… It is not an easy thing to confront.

Before you come to a conclusion about your relationship with a significant other, be willing to create some dating opportunities to reopen each others’ hearts to new ways of being in the relationship. Create new agreements, talk about how you’ve changed as individuals—especially after/during raising children, or changing jobs. How could you NOT have changed? You both may be willing to give one another a break, and perhaps create some forgiveness around situations that seemed taboo to discuss when these situations were more fresh. And as always, become willing to hang out with a counselor to unpack some difficult topics. There is help to get a new perspective. You never know, Mr. or Mrs. Right might be the person you’ve been sleeping next to for years!

Pete Afflerbach, MA LCMHC is a licensed mental health counselor. Pete works with all ages and has particular specialties in working with teens and those struggling with addiction. Pete is enthusiastic about helping people break down the challenges they face into smaller, more manageable pieces.


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