Have you settled for companionship in your would-be romantic relationship? Companionship is when you exist in the same home but spend very little time together, and neither of you is particularly satisfied.
Take the stereotypical man-watching-football-while-his-wife-cleans-the-house scenario. She resents that he gets to relax while she slaves to keep the home clean. She complains about him watching football and not helping around the house. He becomes angry and they either argue or physically go to separate rooms to get away from each other. Does this sound familiar?
The good news is that romance doesn’t have to die in your long-term relationship. Find out how below.
As a licensed mental health counselor, I’ve heard countless renditions of the scenario above, where wives and husbands are convinced that companionship is as good as it gets for married life. Out of desperation, they ask me for help, and here’s what I say.
Research shows that long-term couples who strive for “love with all the trimmings” enjoy more satisfying relationships. It all starts with this first question: Do you want to be more satisfied in your long-term relationship? If your answer is “no, “then stop right here and do not read another word. Keep reading if you would like a more satisfying relationship; it takes awareness and intention to make it happen.
Here are three ways you can foster sparks in your long-term relationship:
1. Ask directly for your needs to be met.
Your partner cannot read your mind. Become aware of your emotional and behavioral patterns in the relationship. Those who pursue often have a fear of abandonment; those who avoid often have a fear of being consumed by another person. Those two types often hook up in relationships.
The pursuer’s greatest need is to feel emotionally connected with his/her partner. The avoider’s greatest need is to stay away from emotional connection. These are opposing needs.
Each person needs to address his/her own fears in the relationship. The pursuer needs to find a way to cope with his/her fear of abandonment and make emotional space for the avoider to take action. The avoider needs to face his/her fear of being overwhelmed emotionally and bridge the emotional gap between him/her and the pursuer. Finding a healthy balance is attainable.
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2. Be respectful of yourself and your partner at all times.
Take a time out if you feel angry or resentful. Journal about your resentments and try to find a solution before talking to your partner. Learn to articulate your feelings in a non-threatening way. Be ready for your partner to say your solution doesn’t work. Ask for his/her solution; he/she might have a great idea. Be a safe person for your partner. Your partner can be your best ally and friend.
3. Choose to bring novelty to your relationship.
Bring home flowers, take each other on a date, go on an adventure together, spend time doing a project together, ski, hike, bike, craft, take photos of birds — you get the idea.
It is vitally important to remember your goal of being satisfied in your relationship. Helping your partner feel emotionally safe with you is the key to your satisfaction in a long-term relationship. Bringing novelty will spark the flames of romance only if you both feel emotionally safe and connected.
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Senior couple photo available from Shutterstock