IN THIS ISSUE:
Does Your Relationship Need a Jump-Start?By Marianne Oehser
Has your relationship lost its glow? Most of us have to admit that it's a challenge to keep the love-light burning in the glare of everyday reality. Jobs, kids, stress, and just stuff keep us focused on everything except each other. Conversations are about life's logistics and there's very little time for "us."
No wonder so many couples wake up one day to find they have drifted apart and the relationship's weather has gotten pretty chilly. You might even feel like you are living in separate igloos. In his book The Four Seasons of Marriage, Dr. Gary Chapman says that when a relationship is neglected it often slides down a slippery slope into what feels a lot like winter. When a couple finds their relationship in Winter they usually feel hurt, angry, disappointed, and lonely.
The good news is even if your relationship has slipped into Winter it does not have to stay there or end all together. You can jump-start your relationship and move back into the warm glow of Spring or Summer!
Dr. Chapman says the first step is to identify and forgive past hurts and failures. If you don't, they will continue to pop up and sabotage the relationship. This might take a little work but the effort will be worth it. Once you let go of the past hurts you will be able to move forward and focus your energy on creating better times today and tomorrow.
A frequent way we hurt each other is in how we handle conflict. Many couples have not learned how to navigate safely through life's emotional storms so they both feel the outcome is positive. As emotional shipwrecks pile up the gulf between partners grows.
Successfully handling conflict requires being able to push your own "pause button." For some of us that takes a bit of practice. Our natural instinct when conflict starts is to either react by being defensive and attacking or to try to avoid the conflict by retreating into a shell. The problem is neither of those approaches successfully resolves the situation. Unresolved conflict does not just go away... it goes into temporary hiding waiting for another chance to boil up.
When you learn to "push the pause button" you can respond to what's going on rather than just reacting to it by fighting or withdrawing. Responding means taking a step back and listening to what your partner is saying and to the feelings that are coming up for both of you.
Research shows that when conflict arises the energy we experience is not coming entirely from the situation at hand -- 90% of it is likely fueled by an old wound. Taking time to ask questions about what is going on for your partner can lead to understanding what the current situation has triggered for him. Knowing that makes it much easier to mutually find a way to resolve the problem so it is a win-win. Learning how to handle conflict and embracing it as an opportunity will help you grow closer as a couple.
Whether you are just living in different worlds or in armed camps, you have lost your connection with each other. Rebuilding the connection is amazingly easy. A strong connection with another person is based on "I know I matter to you." The key is Attention and Appreciation. Attention means doing little things like asking about each other's day and actually paying attention to the answer. Or, saying "I'm home" to each other as enthusiastically as you do to the dog. It's about making time for each other every day. Appreciation is acknowledging the big and little things you do for each other. Thank you is a powerful expression that says what you did mattered to me.
Rekindle the passion – as your connection becomes stronger passion will begin to rebuild. Creating special times together not only makes you feel like you are important to each other but they are great opportunities to spark intimacy. Special times can be little or big. When you are rebuilding a demanded relationship taking a special trip can be a great healer. It can be a romantic weekend or a trip you've always dreamed of. Either way it won't be Winter any longer.
Copyright © 2014 by Marianne Oehser and The Relationship Coaching Institute. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.
Marianne Oehser is a Certified Relationship Coach and educator. She owns Between Two Hearts, LLC which specializes in helping clients work through mid-life transitions, such as retirement, empty-nests, single again, and remarrying in mid-life. She received her training through Relationship Coaching Institute, the largest international relationship coaching training organization.
For more information and free Radical Marriage resources for couples visit www.Between2Hearts.com
Can I get my quiet husband to open up?
One of the things that initially attracted me to my husband was that he was quiet, which made him seem so gentle and sweet. But after six years of marriage I really miss having someone to talk to. He's so quiet he only talks to me to make plans or decisions. We never just talk and certainly never about something like our feelings. I feel like I don't know anything about him except what he likes for dinner and what time he'll be home.
I know he's quiet, and I really don't expect him to be someone he's not, but it seems to me there should be some middle ground. It makes me sad that we're not closer. What should I do?
Marian responds ...
I want to first assure you that all couples go through some degree of disillusionment after the honeymoon phase wears off. The couple starts noticing things they don’t like about each other, and begin to think they have nothing in common and perhaps they’ve made a mistake. This causes a lot of anxiety and at this point, the couple either splits up, pretends that nothing is wrong and remain unsatisfied, or takes the risk of being vulnerable and expressing who they are more deeply, and what it is that they do want.
This phase has been described as the falling in love again phase, or the differentiation phase, in which the couple starts to recognize each other as being distinct individuals. Many couples never get to this phase because they don't know how, and that's a real shame.
I encourage you to try discussing this with your husband, and if you need assistance, contact a relationship coach who can assist you. In doing so, the two of you have the opportunity to develop a much more intimate relationship, in which you get to know each other on a much richer level.
Marian Meade | www.marriagemindedcoaching.com
Katriela responds ...
From your question, it appears two things are really bothering you – the lack of connection and the lack of conversation. It might be helpful to separate the two topics.
You mention that your husband talks to you about plans and decisions. Be open to the possibility that your husband's style of conversation is very goal-oriented. He wants to include you in the decision process and planning. He may not be aware of the missed opportunity to chat and share deeper thoughts and feelings.
You mention he was quiet, but gentle and sweet during courtship. Does your husband still possess the traits of gentleness and sweetness? What was he doing then in your conversations that he could start doing now? How about the other times that you shared pleasant conversations? What was different about then? Chances are, you can recreate those moments.
Many times, women associate conversations and time together with connection. It always helps to have an honest conversation about what you need and want to feel loved. Chances are, your husband wants to please you – but just doesn't quite know how. It's a slippery slope when we ask our spouses to read our minds. And it's just not fair. Make an honest request about your needs and wants. Also take this opportunity to ask your husband about his needs and wants. It may just open up many opportunities for the two of you to reconnect and renew your marriage.
Katriela Isaacson, CPC | www.CommittedMarriage.com
Valerie responds ...
It makes sense that your husbands quietness initially attracted you, since we tend to be attracted to people who balance us. And yes, there is a middle ground. If you don't communicate about your feelings, he probably doesn't know that you want to open up more. Men usually want to make their wives happy and he may not know that communication is important to you.
Saying "We never talk" sounds like criticism and that may shut him down more. If you say something positive like, "I want to share more with you, and get to know you better. It would make me really happy if we could spend 10 minutes a day sharing the highlights of our day. Would that be ok with you?" And be open to negotiating. There are many more ways to make positive requests and negotiate win/win agreements. The "Communication Map" that RCI teaches is a wonderful tool to resolve issues such as these. You can get it from RCI or learn it from a coach. I've found that couples can usually create win/win agreements with a little creativity and positive communication.
Valerie Greene | www.coachvaleriegreene.com
This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your question here www.relationshipcoach.org/ask-the-coach and it will be forwarded to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.
How to stop arguing and start communicating!
The quality of our communication determines the quality of our relationships, and the quality of our relationships determines our happiness. It really is that simple.
How to stop arguing and start communicating!
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|Darlene Steele | Editor, Couple for Life News | CONTACT DARLENE
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