When I work with individuals or couples, one of the common questions that gets asked is “how do I fix the parts of my relationship that feel broken?” It is normal and common to look at our relationship through the lens of what isn’t working and the pain that we are feeling. The hard part when our relationships start to go south is usually it’s all we can focus on and it’s all we can see. Any attempt to see the good in our partner gets washed away when the same challenges keep popping up.
It is inevitable that if our relationship is in a complete breakdown, there has to be something major done to determine whether it is possible and healthy to move forward together, but what about when we find ourselves confident in wanting to move forward but feeling really disconnected? In these instances, I think it’s important that effort actually get put into building connection instead of trying to work through our resentments. I am not sure about you but when resentment runs high, we are usually so defensive that any attempt at working through it gets met with defensiveness. So building the good first, usually means we can start to appreciate and build up our care for our partners before we talk about the hard things.
The thing with connection when we feel disconnected is that it’s uncomfortable. If I had a dime for how many times individual’s have told me that it feels awkward to spend time with their partners without other distractions, I’d be rich! It is hard to find ways to connect or talk that don’t involve TV or talking about the kids/work, but if you don’t tackle this discomfort it’s never going to get better. Usually in this scenario I recommend couples do something that is engaging, like play a board game, do an activity like play tennis or pick up a shared hobby. The benefit is that you can connect and have fun without feeling like there is a lot of pressure. The key to this, however, is to give it time. We live in a world where we want instant gratification and then if something doesn’t give us what we want right away, we move on and assume it didn’t work. As with anything worthwhile, it takes time and commitment to feel like these efforts are paying off. If we have been living in a disconnected relationship, then we have to relearn the skill of connecting. Be patient but also intentional in setting aside time to make this happen at least once or twice a week.
As with anything, when we invest more energy into something, it pays off. Learning to invest first and foremost into your connection will make it easier to tackle the challenges that come up in all relationships. I say all of this with recognition that reconnecting doesn’t solve the problems that still exist, but it is easier to work on frustrations when we feel connected to the reasons why we love our partners in the first place.