In this special guest blog, counsellor Susan Leigh discusses positive ways to salvage a relationship or repair a marriage which has gone stale.
Sometimes a relationship can feel that it’s drifting, becoming a little aimless and lacking in direction. One person may be comfortable with this situation and feel that it’s an easy-going, relaxed approach, but the other person may find the new state of affairs boring and routine, and grow concerned at what their future together is going to be like.
There are many reasons why a relationship can start to drift. One person may be coping with serious work-related stress; children may demand a lot of time and attention; the relationship may have always drifted but suddenly more apparent and unsatisfactory.
Let’s look at some ways to help improve such a relationship.
Communication is always an important aspect of any relationship. No matter how empathic or intuitive your partner may be you both need to share information, feelings, and thoughts. It’s unfair to expect other people to guess how you feel or to think on your behalf. Communication is about sharing and having a two-way conversation.
Take responsibility for yourself. If something bothers you, you feel that you’re drifting apart or you’re unhappy, it’s your responsibility to deal with it, preferably in a sensitive way. Your partner may be relieved that you’re providing an opportunity to discuss and resolve the underlying tension.
Demonstrate interest and ask questions about things you’ve been told on previous occasions. This reassures your partner that you listen and remember what they say and are genuinely interested in hearing about the things that are important to them.
Be keen to know about their life/ day/ work rather than simply waiting for a convenient opportunity to change the subject and talk about yourself. Share things about yourself of course, but remember to be interested in their day as well.
Appreciate what your partner does for you. In a busy day it can be easy to drift apart and forget to appreciate the trouble they went to in order to collect your dry- cleaning or prepare your favourite meal. Good manners and appreciation go a long way towards making a person feel special and valued. It also encourages them to continue investing effort in the relationship.
Demonstrate that you think of them throughout the day. A simple ‘thinking of you’ text message can mean a lot, as can the fact that you remembered to bring home something you knew they would like.
Keep the relationship interesting. Routine can be important in a busy life. It helps to maintain order, get things done and reduces stress, but if life becomes too routine it can also become dull and uneventful. Ensure that some fun is included in the agenda! Whether it be a concert, a meal with friends, a walk in the park; having fun and doing interesting things together is important.
Check that your partner’s needs are being met. Complacency can set in when you feel comfortable, settled, and relaxed, so do ensure that everything’s fine. Does your partner feel the same way as you or do they feel you’re both drifting apart? Listening to what they say, suggest or imply is an important clue. Do you provide an environment where they feel they can say if they’re unhappy about something?
Be encouraging. Some people are nervous of confrontation. They keep their unhappiness bottled up until it gets so bad that they explode and the relationship is beyond repair. If your partner says things that initially sound negative or critical it’s important to listen and discuss their points calmly. No matter how hurt you feel or unfair their comments sound try to avoid becoming defensive or accusatory in reply. Listening and quietly discussing their concerns can enable both of you to fully appreciate what the real, underlying concerns and issues are.
Relationship counselling can provide valuable support, by providing time and a neutral environment in which to fully discuss, understand and explore a way forward for issues within the relationship.
Respecting each other’s opinions, feelings and needs is an important way to help improve your relationship. By being respectful and listening you provide a positive environment for the relationship to develop and grow.
Susan Leigh is a counsellor and hypnotherapist who works with couples in crisis to improve communications and understanding. She also works with both individuals and businesses.