You once thought that your relationship would be way different from those which, as time passes, fall short on romance, passion, and even sex. And then – all of a sudden, that strong affection starts faltering, sex becomes a rare treat, and you eventually start noticing every irritating habit your partner has (and vice versa).
If this is happening to you right now, there is good news: it can be reversed to the point where you will be the hot-headed lovers without a single worry in the world. And if it is not happening, this same approach to your relationship will prevent it from deteriorating to that dreadful point.
There seems to be a pattern that most relationships follow, one which leads to the deterioration of passion to the point where the partners have just lost that spark. And many people would attribute this to something which is just ‘natural.’
First, you get all the dizzying feelings of being in love, that strong affection and will to do everything for your significant other, the passion which makes you forget the whole world. And as time goes, these feelings start fading.
You start noticing all the irritating things about your partner, all the things they are not willing to do, the way they are getting too comfortable with the relationship to the point where they stop trying. If you asked your partner, perhaps the same perception would go to you too.
All of this creates a lot of strain on the relationship, you are obsessed with quarrels, you do not really want to think of engaging in sexual acts, you cannot stop thinking about how you managed to get to that point.
And in the end, you end up either bitterly together, never satisfied enough, or you break up/get divorced because neither of you can take it anymore.
So, what happened there? How did it get to all that?
There are some misconceptions about marriage and long-term relationships which many romantic partners take for granted and base their relationship on.
Perhaps the greatest myths about what makes a good relationship are that happy couples do not fight, that the key to a happy relationship is good communication and positive conflict resolution, and that high expectations make for an unhappy relationship.
Many couples try to live by these ideals and it all eventually leads to a landslide with no warning signs. The truth is that couples are made of real persons, and they need to stay real.
Happiness does not revolve around how you handle the relationship. You cannot become someone you are not because of the thought that it will save your relationship. In fact, it will make things worse.
So, frankly speaking, if there is something you need to argue about, and which does not meet your expectations of your partner, you should definitely go for it! And no, you do not always have to strive for the best kind of communication in cases where you are literally losing your mind because that person, and that relationship – they matter!
The key to a happy relationship has nothing to do with keeping yourself in chains “for the sake of the relationship.”
For the sake of the relationship is a very good expression, and you should think what makes the relationship truly worth it. It is not how you handle the negative situations, but rather how many positive situations you are trying to create.
Negative situations will pop here and there, and it is normal. Quarrels are there because you care. But caring is not only trying to locate the culprit in the relationship but also creating the best mood in that relationship.
TREATING YOUR RELATIONSHIP LIKE A BANK ACCOUNT
Imagine that your relationship is a bank account and that the balance depends on the positive and negative interactions (transactions). The positive interactions would add balance to the account, while withdrawal would happen during a negative interaction.
John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, has used this analogy is his research-backed philosophy, explaining that the ratio between positive and negative interactions should be 5:1.
In other words, for every negative interaction, there should be five positive interactions that precede or follow.
Investing in your relationship is much more important than resolving conflicts. And investment does not mean dealing with drawbacks, but working toward a better balance.
Invest with small acts of kindness, surprises, whacky moments and laughs, frequent dates – everything you did at the beginning of the relationship. This kind of investment is what we stop doing when we get to one bigger negative interaction, and we think that our significant other has suddenly stopped deserving the attention we used to give.
This kind of continual investment is what we stop doing once we get comfortable enough to think that our relationship is solid and beautiful, forgetting that we need to keep it that way by constantly adding more positive interactions to the balance.
And how does this type of investment help?
As Gottman explains, couples that invest more in the positive interactions get to experience the whole spectrum of emotions, and when the negative ones come, they are already aware of the love they have for one another, and this dampens their effect.
“Whatever issue they are discussing, they give each other the message that they are loved and accepted, ‘warts and all,’” says Gottman.
These investments in your relationship will not keep conflict at bay, but when it comes, it will not overwhelm your relationship. What is important, though, is that partners who invest in positive interactions are free to be themselves and love each other for that.
These people do not see consider conflicts as something which can destroy the relationship, as they are ready to accept their partners’ faults as much as they accept the beauty they bring in their life.
And what is most important, keeping a positive balance in your “relationship bank account” will help problems to solve themselves indirectly. Positivity brings the openness and mutual respect that many relationships fall short on.
As Gottman says, “the key to reviving or divorce-proofing a relationship is not simply how you handle your disagreements but how you engage with each other when you’re not fighting.”
And these “deposits” in your “relationship bank account” are not something which requires a lot of work. What is fun is easy, so focus on having a good time with your partner, and see how your “trust fund” starts producing “dividends” that flow back into your relationship.