Does this kind of relationship sound familiar to you?
Jeff and Julie had been married for 15 years and had three children aged between 12 and 7 years old. Jeff and Julie rarely spoke to each other about their frustrations, resentments or hurt. Neither did they demand attention, care or affection from each other. They ate family meals together, coordinated the pickups and the drop-offs for their children’s activities, and went away on a family holiday every year. Over the years their marriage had turned into the cliché of being like roommates who cared for each other but lost their intimate connection as a couple.
What are the signs?
We often expect loud arguments, high emotions, and unkind words in the process of a relationship breaking down. But sometimes the silence says it all. Instead of obvious anger or raised voices, there is a tendency to avoid speaking with honesty and openness to each other about our thoughts, feelings, hopes and frustrations. It also starts to get easier to find reasons not to talk like “It’s been a long day and everyone is tired so now is not the right time to say something”; or “It’s not good for the children to hear us arguing”. There is also the concern that you may be perceived as sounding needy, nagging or unreasonable so it’s better to say nothing. Daily life starts to feel routine and sometimes mundane with the focus being on going to work and school, paying the bills, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, and taking children to activities. By the end of the week you are both too tired to make the effort to spend some time together. This extends into your sex life which has either fallen into a predictable routine or has become non-existent.
How to reconnect?
I have seen many people in relationships like Jeff and Julie’s, trying to reconnect and find that loving feeling that first brought them together. So what can they do?
Relationship experts agree that one key ingredient that contributes to satisfaction and connection in couple relationships is the mutual expression of affection on a regular basis. This is also one of the first things to disappear when relationships start to breakdown. Couples who display frequent terms of endearment, nonsexual touching such as hugs and kisses, and tokens of affection such as little gifts or messages of love and support report higher relationship satisfaction. These actions are often associated with the start-up phase of a relationship, rather than something that continues throughout the relationship. But it’s important to keep the flame of affection burning, so try some of these things to get that loving feeling back into your relationship:
- Share a hug and kiss goodbye as you leave each other in the morning.
- Hold hands when you’re walking together.
- A bunch of flowers or favourite chocolates are always a welcome surprise!
- Plan a date at least once a month.
- Recognise and celebrate each other’s achievements.
At Ahead Psychology we have experienced senior psychologists who offer couples counselling that can help get your relationship back on track. If you need help click here to make an enquiry or book an appointment.