Written by Julie Walder, LPC
It’s happened, your relationship has officially gone from HOT, to NOT. It happens… to everyone. Relationships take work, especially the longer you are in one. For some, you don’t see the decline for years but for others you see the decline 6 months in. Relationships are different from person to person, culture to culture but one thing is the same, they all have their ups and downs. Once you are officially out of the “pink cloud” phase of the relationship, reality sets in and the real work starts. Don’t be scared, I’ve got a few tips to help you out.
Step 1: GET TO KNOW THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU
How well do you really know the person in front of you? When we are in the “pink cloud” phase, we have tons of happy chemicals in our brain that sometimes cloud everything else around us. All we can think about is how happy and in-love we are. We don’t want anything to ruin those feelings… why would we?! But the reality is that often those feelings of joy and excitement blur the rest of the relationship. You need to understand your partner’s inner world to really understand the person in front of you. Learning about your partner’s inner world will make your partner feel like you are truly interested in who they are which can be a great way to enhance feelings of connection.
Questions to ask your partner can be anything personal such as: “Hey Honey, what music group/artist are you into right now?”; “Babe, what is your favorite childhood memory?”; “Love, what are your hopes and dreams?” “What are your top 5 favorite movies?” “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?” WARNING! If you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, don’t be surprised if your partner’s answers have changed. Over time our preferences, likes and dislikes change. That is why is it so important to ask personal questions like the ones above. Try to make it a point to get to know your partner again and again. You can ask these questions every few months, to once a year, but don’t wait too long. If you are having a difficult time thinking of questions to ask, I suggest downloading the Gottman Card Decks from the Gottman Institute onto your phone. The app is free and has every question you can think of!
Step 2: USE THE INFORMATION TO THE BENEFIT OF YOU AND YOUR PARTNER
Okay, now that you know the person in front of you, the next step is to take action! Your partner just told you personal information that you can use to plan for future dates, gifts, and trips. Using the questions in Step 1 as an example: plan a date night with the new information. Play your partner’s favorite music group during a meal together. Make a meal (take out is fine) based on the part of the world your partner would love to live. Plan a date where all you do is watch your partner’s favorite movies. The point here is that you are making an effort! Not only did you make an effort to understand who your partner is, but you listened to them and put their words into action. Imagine how your partner must feel now. 😊
Step 3: BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORDS
So your partner works 50 hours a week and you work 60 hours a week. Or, you and your partner work, have 2 kids, and a dog. In today’s society, we are busy every minute of the day. This often leads to relationships having decreased communication. One day, you might get an hour of time with your partner, another day you get 5 minutes. Or you might feel like two ships passing in the night. However long you get to communicate, talk with your partner… MAKE IT COUNT! Take advice from Don Miguel Ruiz’s ‘4 agreements’, “Be impeccable with your words.”
Whether the only mode of communicating at that moment is through text, or just sitting on the couch, make every word count. Make sure you convey honesty and integrity. It is a difficult concept to consider on a daily basis, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes. And don’t get down on yourself if you slip up, you’re only human.
Step 4: COMPLIMENT, COMPLIMENT, COMPLIMENT
When was the last time you gave your partner a compliment? When was the last time you told your partner you appreciated something they did? This step goes hand in hand with Step #3. Find time to compliment or praise your partner. Over time and as our schedules get busier, compliments start go out the window. Giving a compliment takes 5 seconds. “Your hair looks great today!”; “Dinner was delicious!”; “You have a beautiful smile." You can even take it one step forward and tell your partner something you appreciate. “I really appreciate it when you watched the kids this morning so I can sleep in." It feels good to receive compliments and appreciations. You are acknowledging something personal and/or something positive they did. It helps boosts self-esteem in your partner and the relationship.
Step 5: THE COUPLE THAT PLAYS TOGETHER, STAYS TOGETHER
Couples need to have play time. It is so important to have fun, be silly, have adventure, and play. It keeps the relationship alive and helps you connect with your partner even more. If you followed the steps above, you should have a really good idea what your partner considers fun. Now that you know your partner’s interest, match it up with an interest of yours because if you plan an outing to a heavy metal concert when your partner likes classical music, chances are he/she is not going to have fun. If you are having a hard time thinking of something, look to the past… reenact your first date, replicate a day trip you took to wine country. What ever it may be, make sure you do it as often as you feel is necessary to keep the relationship fun and playful.
I'd love to hear what happens when you try one or all of these steps. Please share!