Subject: Romantic Relationships
Is your relationship with your partner stuck?
An Example Situation
So, Jess and Jeff have been married for 12 years they are both high achievers in their fields. Jeff is an experienced and successful engineer and Jess an accomplished research scientist.
They met when they were both 22 years old and developed a loving, supportive relationship. They decided to get married when they were ready to have children and felt that they were well placed financially to manage on one salary for the next few years.
Life became extremely busy with two small children, Jeff working full time and Jess working part-time. They agreed on most issues of parenting their children and found that their lives revolved around the needs of their children. As a result, conversation was mainly about who needed to pick up or drop off, who had appointments with doctors, dentists and who would attend parent teacher meetings and school events.
What happened to the fun time they used to enjoy together?
When was the last time they each did something special for the other?
When did they talk about things that matter to each partner and make plans for the future?
Jess and Jeff have forgotten the fundamental yet basic principle of a happy relationship. They have neglected to nurture their special friendship. Their relationship deteriorated. They stopped making their relationship a priority and easily put off spending time together. Time together being essential, in order to feel connected to each other, in the physical sense as well as in the belief that they are there for each other in every way.
Each thought all would be well if only the other partner would change. This is the slippery slope of ensuing conflict in a relationship. Staying friends is more difficult when there is ongoing conflict which leaves you feeling hurt, angry, disappointed, and possibly resentful of your partner.
Jess and Jeff began to feel misunderstood, and attacked for who they were, how they behaved, and for what they each wanted or needed. Research shows that when one partner's request for change in the other becomes criticism, the other partner is likely to become defensive.
The distress that they felt when having arguments led to behaviour that often brought out the worst in both of them. Both Jess and Jeff reported that when they felt aggravated and stressed, they couldn’t think clearly. They both said and did things that they regretted.
Jess and Jeff found that they had different priorities and different ways of dealing with the stresses. They could no longer negotiate supportively on how they wanted to be shown love and support, how much time to spend with extended family, how much money to spend on holidays and how much time to spend doing individual activities.
They were each determined to have their own way. Jeff stopped discussing issues with Jess. Jess stopped showing interest in sex.
As talking and sex are two important ingredients for feeling close to our partners it is not surprising that both partners end up feeling lonely, despairing and misunderstood.
Re-establishing empathy and compassion for how the other is feeling is vital. Acts of care and love must be re-introduced.
Jess and Jeff regained their ability to function as a team. When one of them slipped up, the other would try and understand why they would behave in this way, rather than assuming the worst.
They made regular times to do things together as a couple as well as respected each others’ needs to do their own activities.
When emotions became too escalated, they took some time out and revisited the issues when they had both calmed down.
They both remembered to show appreciation for the others’ caring actions.
They are having lots more fun together, their children are benefitting from seeing the goodwill between them and they will never again stop nurturing their special friendship.