If you're like most people, you may remember the beginning of your relationship when meeting your partner's needs was at the top of your priority list, and vice versa. But then something changed. Here’s how I’d summarize the general pattern: couples start out strong because at the beginning, both individuals are flooded with happy hormones like oxytocin and dopamine, and everything feels new and fresh. Then, when the novelty wears off and the logistics of living with another person begin to take a more prominent role in the relationship, couples stop nurturing each other. After meeting the demands of the day, couples often feel exhausted and have little time or energy left over for each other.
When we have unmet needs, whether sexual, emotional, or otherwise, we start seeking ways to meet those needs. The problem is we don't always come up with the best solutions. For example, a woman may turn to a shopping addiction because she feels emotionally unfulfilled in a marriage. Because shopping releases dopamine, she finds that “rush” – that fleeting, exaggerated feeling of connectedness and fulfillment that we tend to associate with both “the honeymoon phase” of a relationship, and with buying an exciting new item. Of course, shopping won’t fulfill her deeper desire for emotional fulfillment.
The mind ultimately wants to create solutions to meet our needs, but these "solutions" often only serve as distractions for us, and exacerbate our original feelings of disconnection. This unintentional recipe for disconnection then simply breeds further disconnection, such that we are further away from each other on all levels - mentally, emotionally, romantically, sexually and spiritually.
You may think that relationships should be effortless but the reality is that every relationship requires commitment and effort. It can be hard work, especially if your spouse is not on board yet, but it is achievable. You may be thinking: wait a minute, it takes two to tango. My guess is that up until now you’ve been focusing on changing your partner and my next guess is that it hasn’t worked. So for the next 21 days, try taking a new approach and focus on what YOU are bringing to the relationship. The truth is, there is only one part of this relationship that you have any real control over, and that is YOU.
If you're reading this, I am guessing you know that there could be a more positive way to approach your intimate relationship, and you're looking for ways to re-connect with your partner. As it is with making any significant change, it requires a willingness to instill new practices into your life. I will give you strategies to help you feel more connected to your partner, however you need to think of it as a toolbox; if you merely let tools sit in the box, nothing will be fixed or created. The tools will simply collect dust. Therefore, I urge you to thoroughly complete the following exercises:
- Make a decision that for the next 21 days (at least), you are going to do whatever it takes to recharge your relationship. And I mean REALLY give it your all. Write your commitment on three sticky notes and put them in places you will see often throughout your daily life (e.g. on your closet door, on your bedroom light switch, on your computer).
- At least 3 times over the next 21 days, take the time to talk to your partner about your hopes and dreams, and to ask about theirs (instead of always talking about problems or logistics, i.e. who is picking the kids up, deadlines at work, what's for dinner, etc.).
- Initiate at least 3 positive interactions per day without expectations of getting anything in return - a compliment, a supportive comment, or a show of affection - it doesn't matter as long as it is 100% positive. In other words, do not add a negative to a positive (i.e. I really love you, but wish you'd take out the trash). At least one of these interactions must be physical. For example, give your spouse a hug for a full 30 seconds at least twice per day (without back patting).
- Separate a sheet of paper into two columns. In one column, make a list of all of the things you are currently saying/doing that are disconnecting you from your partner; in the other column, make another list of all of the things you are currently saying/doing that are strengthening the connection with your partner. Throughout the day, give some serious consideration to what YOU are bringing to the relationship, and commit to doing more things from your connection list and less from your disconnection list.
- In all of your thoughts, words and actions today, ask yourself: Is this serving to create connection or disconnection in my relationship? Remember, it is your choice whether you choose connection or disconnection and that choice will significantly impact how you feel about your partner. Before going to bed, write about at least one instance where you chose to create connection and one instance where you chose disconnection.
Fill-Me-Up Cards for Couples is a 21-day relationship challenge aimed at re-establishing connection and re-igniting passion! You’ll be amazed at how 21 days of focusing your time and energy on meeting your partner’s needs in a sincere and genuine way (and having your needs met) can strengthen your relationships and open the doors of communication and trust.
About the Author
Lise Leblanc is an expert in the field of personal and professional development. She is a Registered Psychotherapist and for the past eighteen years, she has worked in therapeutic, educational, leadership, and coaching roles. Lise has been part of many personal transformations and has helped many get their lives, and their relationships, back on track.