Have you found yourself questioning the state of your relationship lately? Are you stuck wondering why you feel a lack of love for your partner? Perhaps you’re struggling to understand what has fundamentally changed, and why you don’t feel nearly as ‘in-love’ as you used to?
Removing the Gauze of Perception in Your Relationship
(Take note; I’m talking about healthy relationships, with an equal share of respect and love for each partner.)
I think a lot of people are blind (or naive) to the fact that romantic love and relationships require effort.
They won’t allow themselves to consider that it needs nurturing and a steady amount of work to flourish. The idea that you have to show up every day in order to nurture your intimate bond seems too much.
When a relationship falls apart, certain things or realizations may happen. Perhaps it is that you feel you no longer have anything in common with each other. Maybe you’re constantly arguing with your significant other. Do you resent being in their presence more often than not? Have you stopped feeling attraction toward your partner?
All these issues are salvageable. We can come back from each of them. You just have to agree to put in the work!
The Simple Reason a Relationship May Fail
So what is the underlying cause at the heart of so many breakups?
A lack of effort.
Which then gives way to the aforementioned problems.
An idea so easy to comprehend but which we react to with anger because – surely not! – we would never intentionally let a good thing turn sour.
I’m talking about the kind of relationship where the loved-up honeymoon stage was so damn perfect. It may have lasted for quite some time. Maybe you even called your partner perfect, finding them practically faultless (OMG! how can this be?). Perhaps you were mesmerised and wrapped up in the blissful feelings of love you two share.
And then one day it stops feeling so rosy. You don’t like how you’re feeling in the relationship now.
Certain traits and characteristics you found quirky or captivating in your partner are now leaving you irritated and frustrated.
Your partner is distant and you no longer know how to communicate with them. You believe it’s only going to get worse. The bickering, picking at each others’ faults, a lack of gratitude for each other.
It goes on and on. Until you decide you’ve had enough. “It wasn’t meant to be [this hard].”
How This Impacts Your Relationship
When the gauze of perception drops to reveal the reality of your relationship, many people are stopped in their tracks. They no longer:
- comprehend how to love this person
- remember the reasons why they fell in love
- feel connected to who they are dating
- understand what the relationship brought to their life
- want to work on their relationship
Once you’re open to the idea that it’s not all-love all-the-time, you may begin to shut down in the relationship. Perhaps you believe it requires too much effort. So you cruise on auto pilot, hoping it’s enough to satisfy your partner and your own needs. Save yourself being hurt.
This is where it comes undone. You cannot ‘cruise’ in a relationship. You must show up every single day. If you seriously want it to work, you gotta show up for yourself, and for your partner.
Ways You Can Actively Love Your Partner
There is a certain baseline of effort required to keep your love life not only afloat, but thriving!
Here are a few suggestions I have used over the years and am still trying to incorporate in my relationship.
- turn toward each other, physically and emotionally. Always remain open to what your partner has to say.
- view things from your partner’s perspective. Listen and be understanding. Extra wisdom here is that understanding of your partner’s problem must precede you giving them advice.
- while you may disagree with what they say, you must respect them and their belief
- when voices start to raise, take a 5-20 minute break from the conversation. Try to have it again when you are calm and your thoughts collected. This may require you both to leave the space and be in different rooms until you’re ready to listen again.
Creating a Safe Space for Arguing
If your partner voices concern, you would do everything in your power to keep them feeling at peace. Wouldn’t you?
So when your partner argues, it is because they have needs that aren’t being met. The argument is their way of bringing a problem to light.
Instead of getting aggravated by each other’s words, take a step back.
Don’t let it turn into a full-blown shout-fest. Give them a safe space to voice their concerns and to be heard.
Take a moment to internalize what they’re truly trying to tell you.
When they’ve presented their issues and you understand them, you can help come up with an action plan.
This aids in easing their pain where possible, providing a game plan of what to do next, and shows compassion and understanding. Both of these are required as you navigate the balance between meeting their needs and your own, in the context of your relationship.
In the little moments:
- always find time for a date. This can be done by pencilling in time for a weekly date night. Or, on a day off together, take your partner for a surprise outing. It always helps to have some trusted cafes and restaurants on hand if you feel like eating out. Or, on a sunny day, take advantage of the nice weather. Head to the beach or your favourite waterhole for the day. Pack a basket with nibbles and snacks and you’re set.
- show physical affection and utilise intimate touch. Hold hands when sat together at dinner. Put an arm around their waist while walking. Hug for an extended time and really sink into their embrace. Give them kisses throughout the day – not just when saying hello or goodbye!
- ask how their day was: a simple, but often underutilised question that is lost in your day-to-day. This is great to ask when you finish work. This allows you both to unload stressed of the day and reconnect through understanding.
- be there for them: if you can tell that their vibe is off and they seem detached, it pays to ask how they’re really feeling. Sometimes it is hard to tell someone what troubles you. So opening up the line of communication may be the exact sign needed to express what’s going on.
- learn their love language: this may be a new idea to some. I’ve found great understanding when looking at myself and my partner through the lens of a ‘love language’. The 5 languages are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Generally, your partner will speak a couple of these languages. So it pays to learn more about the specifics of how they give and receive love.
Things to be mindful of in your relationship:
- forgiveness is part of a well-oiled relationship. Forgive your partner when they hurt you. Because at the end of the day, holding onto resentment and pain only hurts you. If you find it hard to let go, this is not on your partner. You personally are accountable for dealing with any resentment you still hold.
- expectations overshadow gratitude in a relationship. At all costs, try to avoid holding expectations of your partner; it is setting them up for failure. If you have certain standards you believe need to be met in the relationship, communicate them with your partner. Discuss how to fulfil them and where you can compromise. Do not silently assume they will know what you need. Tell them, and avoid the disappointment that comes with unmet expectations.
- be grateful every day. Gratitude is a skill all of us can benefit from cultivating in daily life. If you want to work at and remain in love, being grateful is a superb basis on which to build. You may like to think of a few things about your relationship and your partner each day that you are grateful for. Sometimes, the potential of gratitude can be more powerful than the act of love. It eases feelings of anger and resentment, promotes forgiveness and peace, and can turn negative thoughts of our relationship into positive ones.
Ways to Move Forward in Your Relationship
These are some things I’ve learned during my relationship and am always conscious of when relating to my partner.
I think a key part of having a healthy relationship is that you are present.
By this I mean you are conscious of your partner’s feelings. Understanding when the relationship requires more work in a certain area. Resolving to sort arguments out through listening, compassion, and understanding. Taking pride in the small acts of effort that make your relationship beautiful. Being active and not passive in your love.
If you learn to see joy in the fact that your love requires nurturing to be fruitful, and that this can take on any form you like, you should feel a transformation take place. A small mindset shift that frees you from feeling like a victim.
The quality of your loving in is in the hands of both you and your partner. Your relationship is entirely up to you.
At the most basic level, all you need to do is think of your actions in your relationship as a labor of love.
They are there to serve you and your partner in creating a beautiful bond.
You cannot expect to see an improvement in your relationship if you are not willing to put in the ‘work’.