Written By: D'Arcy Bruning-Haid, M.A Counseling
Chocolates, flowers and dinners are all important and fun ways to wine and dine your beloved on Valentine’s day, but the bigger question is what are you doing the rest of the 51 weeks of the year? One of the most difficult things to do while balancing a family and work obligations, is carving out quality time to spend with your partner amidst our never ending list of to do’s. It is easy to take our partner for granted instead of creating the well-deserved time to cherish one another on a regular basis. In daily life, we can’t afford not to put gas into our cars or money into our bank accounts, but somehow we allow ourselves the luxury of coasting for too long on the little emotional savings we have banked in our “relationship account”.
Being in a healthy loving relationship requires time, effort and energy to sustain it.
There are three main facets that help make sure our relationship is well tuned, fuelled and road worthy. I refer to them as working with the relationship, working in the relationship and working on the relationship. Each focuses on different aspects of our connection and all three are needed in creating intimacy, connection and sustainability.
Working with our relationship is all about making sure all the daily and monthly logistics of making our family life and relationships work. Having a good system in place that helps you pay the bills on time, clean your abode, grocery shop, make meals and chart a schedule outlining who goes where and when and for what weekly activities. As parents we can get caught and bogged down with all the specifics of these details and spend most of our time making sure all is running smoothly. This is a thankless job, but is an essential and needed part of our lives and without it we would all fall short, drop balls or head for a life full of chaos and disorganization. If we become too bogged down by all the logistics, we then miss out on creating joy and fun in our lives so we must add a second ingredient.
The next focus, working in the relationship finding quality time to spend together as a couple helps bring back that much needed spontaneity, ease and play within your partnership. There are 3 distinct areas to focus on and develop as it can’t always be about the kids or family all of the time. It’s also important to create some time as a couple to laugh and re-connect back to what you really enjoyed about one another - that brought you close in the first place - and spend some quality time in connection. Time to be friends and time set aside time to be sexual with one another helps bring back closeness and fills the emotional tank. Always good to alternate who plans the date and gets the sitter if needed, so all the work doesn’t fall on one person and become another task. Secondly, I support you to find a daily connection time sometime during the day or evening when it is quiet to spend 10-15 minutes to hear about each other’s day and support one another by really listening instead of trying to solve the problem or fix the issue being talked about. Being heard by your partner goes miles towards building deep connection and feeling loved. The third focus and probably the most difficult is to create a weekly time to clear out any resentments, disappointments or frustrations of the week that have built up between you and your partner. Without making this a priority, frustrations pile up and get played out in less constructive ways. Conflicts, resentments and hurts interfere in our connection and build walls and shut down intimacy. Having a specific time to process and unload in a loving way helps couples feel closer faster, and sustains a deeper connection over time. This is the area many couples have the most difficulty with, as it is really not taught in our everyday life. If this is hard to do there are some good books to read on my web site on how to communicate effectively and share difficult things with your partner. Or if you are a hands on learner find yourself, a skilled therapist can help you with a relationship tune up to gain these skills and tools.
The third important ingredient is to work on the relationship; daring to envision what’s important to both of you based on your values. Creating short and long term desires and dreams together based on the question: how do we want to grow both as individuals and as a couple? If you have the luxury of going away to do this exploration fantastic…if not you can be creative in how and when you make this happen. Figuring out what is important to both of you and where you might want to put your energies, time and finances into making new things happen. Pick a time once a year (New year’s eve, your anniversary or the day you met) where you can re-visit the things that are important to each of you, ask each other questions, reflect on the year and visit what is working and not working with all parts of your relationship. This can feel daunting at first, but can become a really enjoyable ritual that you create that guides your relationship forward and let’s go of what is no longer working well. I call this taking inventory of what you have got, what you no longer need and what you would like to create and make happen!
Being in a loving, connected relationship is rewarding when you are able to keep the channels of connection open to new learning and growth. Loving and cherishing your partner is a powerful way of sustaining your relationship over time and goes a long way.
Special guest writer D’Arcy Bruning-Haid, M.A. Counselling is a therapist in private practice who works with individuals and couples who are feeling stuck and in need of direction and support. She is a writer and facilitator of Nourishing the Soul series who believes in the connection between the body, mind and spirit.
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