Do you feel like ships passing in the night with your significant other? Did something happen that rocked your relationship to the core? Are your interactions with your partner becoming more about logistics and less about your connection?
That’s what was happening to a couple I saw recently. Tom and Ann’s best friends unexpectedly filed for divorce, which was a big wake up call to attend to their own neglected relationship. They knew they still loved each other, and wanted to keep their family together, but differing communication styles landed them in opposing camps. Rather than risking long, draining battles, Tom chose to withdraw, put his energy into volunteering, exercise, and business. Ann took on running the household, but her constant little digs let Tom know how unhappy she was.
Giving the cold shoulder and continually criticizing are clear sings that issues haven’t been resolved. Unfinished business causes you to focus on what’s not working. “You” versus “me” thinking prevails, and sooner or later, the other person becomes an enemy rather than ally. Your rose colored glasses get dirty lenses, and you can no longer see what drew you together. You stop doing the very things that once fanned your love.
All is not lost. These four simple tips will get you back on the same track and stoke those flames once again:
1. Set up time to talk and listen. Each person gets uninterrupted time to talk about what’s on his or her mind while the other listens with a genuine desire to understand. This is not a discussion. It’s a time to just talk and listen. While listening, strive to walk in the other person’s shoes. Tom and Ann committed to talk-and-listen for ten minutes, each evening after dinner. For five minutes one would talk without interruption, then they would switch roles.
2. Offer genuine appreciations and praise. Attending to the positive is not “sucking up”. It’s paying attention to the half full. Look for the good whether it’s a characteristic, quality, or action. Look hard. It’s buried there somewhere. Then voice it. Ann decided to say something nice to Tom before he left the house each morning. It was hard at first, but got easier. Eventually she actually enjoyed coming up with a different appreciation every day.
3. Participate. Ask, “How can I help right now?” or “What can I do?” and do it. Tom discovered that just asking these simple questions and doing simple things melted Ann, and made him feel good, too.
4. Give. Little gestures offer love in a tangible form. Volunteer to do the dishes. Run an errand. Bring flowers. Call the other person at the office and leave a sexy message. Write a love note. Ann surprised Tom by planning a date night, complete with finding a sitter and arranging a dinner reservation followed by a stroll along the wharf.
Try these tips and watch with amazement as love grows and the results multiply. Small steps done thoughtfully, can shift years of habit. Remember, captain’s steer huge ships with tiny rudders. So shift your direction and watch how everything changes towards a brighter horizon.