Other times, Roher said, the relationship is so battered and bruised that it’s better to see a professional. Therapists can help couples “create an area of safety where they can open up and talk about [their issues].”
“Couples tend to have a Disney-like view of relationships,” Roher said. They assume that being great friends and lovers will last indefinitely, she said. Such assumptions prevent couples from working hard to improve their relationship or persuade them to call it quits too soon.
But, as she explained, people forget two important points: In the beginning of a relationship, we tend to minimize the differences and maximize the similarities, and, as the years go by, we also change.
“Every marriage is made up of several marriages,” Roher said, “because five or 10 years after you marry, you’re different than you were at the beginning.” This explains why after many years together, some couples feel like strangers. People change and go in different directions.
Growing apart isn’t inevitable. You can create bridges that keep you connected as a couple, Roher said. For instance, partners can show each other gratitude, appreciation and support, she said. They can text throughout the day, send flowers or extend other small gestures that let the other person know they’re thinking about them.
They can work on goals that are important to them as a couple, and avoid making threats, she said. (No one feels safe opening up after threats of breakup or divorce.) They can spend time together by going to the movies, eating out, biking or hiking, she said.
In fact, Roher said that “creating sacred spaces” is very important. Basically, these are activities for just the two of you, which let you genuinely connect, discuss what’s important and listen to each other. This takes you away from the rigors of daily routine.
Staying connected and sharing positive moments strengthens your relationship so that when problems inevitably arise, you’re better equipped to handle them, Roher said. This helps you put things into perspective and not catastrophize (“every time we’re together, all we do is argue”).
Being a Team
When partners are in a tough place, they often feel like enemies, Roher said. That’s why it’s important to remember that you’re on the same team. She encourages readers to focus on what’s good for our relationship.
According to Roher, wait to discuss important topics after both partners have calmed down, whether this means talking later that night or the next day. This way you can have a productive discussion about what happened. It’s also important to set ground rules and discuss how you’ll handle the same situation more effectively in the future.