Article by Keren Smedley
If I’d asked most women of my age when we were in our 20s/early 30s what we were hoping for in relationships, the majority would have said, fall in love, marry and have a long term loving marriage with 2.4 kids.
We all live very busy lives. I know family and jobs can be all consuming but it never ceases to amaze me that we forget to really talk to our nearest and dearest, to maintain our own special relationship. Of course, in some ways, we don’t ever really stop talking to them. We talk about the children, the teacher who’s upsetting them, their exams, health, our jobs, finances, mortgages, household issues and extended family and friends.
We fail to talk about us
What we fail to talk about is us, about who we are. It’s as though we’re suspended somewhere in outer space unable to be reached and then, when there’s eventually some time to talk to each other about our feelings, we’re stuck.
Down the long years when we’re preoccupied with raising a family and holding down a job, we dream of those days when it’ll just be the two of us. We don’t even notice that the spark has gone until we get some time with just ourselves and suddenly we find ourselves with someone we have nothing to say to and we aren’t sure we fancy any more.
If you are in a rather dull place where the relationship isn’t doing much for either of you and it needs a bit of a boost, don’t worry all is not lost. Many of us get into this place and what we want to do is improve things. We don’t want to be a divorce statistic and we still like and love our partners.
Take a few quiet moments and cast your mind back to when you first met. What were the things that excited you in your relationship? I bet it was sex, food, having fun and seeing friends, going out and playing music, and letting each other know how you feel. It certainly wasn’t talking about your children, mortgages or work. I expect you have just stopped relating to each other physically and emotionally?
So what can you do to get you back together as a couple, as lovers and not as all the other roles you play? It seems an obvious question but I wonder if you’ve talked to your partner about this, it takes two to tango.
It takes two to tango
First thing is to sit down and tell them your concerns. It may be a bit of an uncomfortable conversation, as you’ll both have to confront your anxieties, hopes, desires and disappointments but it’ll certainly lead you to a much better place. And there are ways to have these sorts of conversations.
1. Choose a moment when you have plenty of time.
2. Check that he doesn’t have a pressing business engagement.
3. Wait for a day when neither of you are feeling stressed.
4. Sit down with a cup of tea or glass of wine and agree to take half-an- hour to talk about how things are between the two of you.
5. Don’t start by telling him what you think is wrong with him. He’ll understandably be defensive. Ask him how he thinks things are and don’t interrupt.
6. When it is your turn, begin by pointing out the things you love about him.
7. Tell him that over the years you think you’ve both been so fixated by, for example, your children, elderly parents, work, and money concerns that you’ve probably individually and collectively forgotten what each of you likes doing.
8. Tell him that you want to get to know him again, not just the man who performs lots of roles.
9. Ask him what he thinks would be good for you to do to improve intimacy?
One of the patterns couples often adopt is keeping conversations bland so there are no disagreements. This can stifle our thinking and healthy debate. Agree with each other that it’s all right to have different opinions and that there doesn’t have to be a ‘winner’. The key is to be genuinely open with and interested in each other. If you’re not competing, the conversation becomes stimulating and enriching.
There are lots of things you can do to improve relationships. I’ve listed a few below. Some of my ideas might appeal others won’t. Add your interests to the list and try some of these out.
1. Go out and do something together, have a meal, go to the cinema, go for a walk, whatever you both enjoy.
2. Take it in turns to take each other out as if you were dating. Think of an activity that they enjoy and plan it for them and let them do the same for you.
3. Even if you have to stay in, do something special like a candlelit dinner or get a film in that they would enjoy or play their favourite music. Agree that you will each do something for the other, ideally weekly.
4. Really important. Have some sex! This is one area of life that often gets neglected when we have children or are very focused on our work and we forget about sensual pleasure and sex. One thing you can do when you’re alone is spend some time enjoying each other’s body. Many of us find we’re too tired or stressed with our everyday lives to indulge in sex which either stops or gets rushed without any real enjoyment. Find time to re-kindle that part of your relationship. For most of us, when we’re having good sex with our lover, we find that conversation flows if we want it to and, when it doesn’t that’s just fine. When we feel comfortable with our partner the spark just sparks.
If you find you can’t resolve this together, agree to get some help. It’s not a failure on either of your parts to seek some professional help. A counsellor is an objective expert whose job it is to enable you to find solutions to your problems. It’s really important that you don’t give up. Problems have a habit of growing into mountains unless they’re resolved and that’s the last thing you want.
For many of us the dream of a perfect life with this ideal partner is not quite the reality.