By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
The beginning of a relationship is a lot like the birth of an infant. It is new and exciting. It is filled with promise. And, it seems to embody love. Daily struggles and serious problems have no place in the hearts or minds of new lovers; until, of course, the natural unfolding of time and maturity bring them forth.
Distance often grows even as couples spend time together. The priority of their relationship gives way to life stresses and opportunities. Couples frequently do less novel activities together because these are the things that they forego when time gets short. They continue working together, especially if they have children, but their conversations become increasingly filled with coordination rather than connection. At some point, they realize they have a roommate rather than an intimate partner.
To counter this and stay connected and close, you and your partner must:
Make your relationship a priority: Staying on top of chores and responsibilities is important. But it is equally important to ensure that you enjoy time together. Of course, you can sometimes “kill two birds with one stone” by doing things like shopping together; however, make sure you approach such activities with the goal of enjoying each other’s company, not just “getting it done.”
Share your day’s experiences: Ask about, and share, what you did so that you know about each other’s world. Also, talk about any thoughts, feelings, or concerns you had so that your partner can see the world through your eyes. It’s this kind of intimate sharing that keeps couples close.
Talk about your passions: Engaging in personally meaningful activities is part of leading a happy, healthy life. And, in a successful relationship, partners support each other’s passions, or support their partner in finding one.
Engage in novel activities: Do new, interesting things together to breathe life into your relationship. You can do this in simple or more extreme ways. For instance, you can go to a movie or the theater together, visit sports games or museums, read and discuss a book, or plan a trip to a place neither of you has ever been.
It’s important to remember that interaction without sharing your inner experiences is relationship neglect; just as feeding a child without being supportive or showing love is neglect. By connecting in the ways I’ve listed above, you won’t just be interacting. You will be nurturing your relationship and creating a happy, healthy life together.
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