You can still re-kindle the fire.
For the past 25 years, I’ve had couples come to see me because they've lost connection with each other and are contemplating divorce.
Some of those couples are very committed to their marriage and hate the idea of divorce, but they feel so unhappy in their marriage that they don’t have a clue how to rekindle what was once a passionate connection.
Sometimes, these couples haven’t had sex in years, perhaps decades!
But they stay together "for the kids" or because they "love" each other, but have lost their passion for each other. They no longer feel an emotional connection, which often leaves them feeling lonely and sad.
Often, they've stopped treating each other as friends. Along the way, they stopped talking about important things because they began to fear each other’s reactions. And most of the time, they blame their partner for the lack of connection and don’t recognize how their own choices led to a distant, passion-less marriage.
Now, understand, I’m not saying that you are to blame. What I'm saying is that you have a choice about how to move forward. And, you can’t "blame" your partner; both of you created this distance.
The good news is that only one of you has to begin to change gears for things to move out of neutral.
When we first marry or commit to someone, we see this person as our savior.
We see them as the person who will rescue us from loneliness, sexless-ness, and emotional isolation. Maybe we even see them as the person who will rescue us from our financial burdens.
Our ideas of romance are like those of Edward and Bella in the Twilight series: We think that Edward will sweep us off our feet and make us feel like a princess, or Bella will love us no matter how many horrible things we have done. We will never fight, or have disagreements ever. Instead, we will always support each other and clean up after each other without having to discuss anything or challenge each other.
Now I know, you're thinking, "No, I don’t expect that, I know people have conflict."
Yes, I know that you "know" that's true, but the little kid inside each of us secretly longs for someone like our mother (or the mother we should have had) who loved unconditionally and expected nothing from us. I'm talking about our unconscious desire for regression into infancy. We all have that pull, and it is what we emotionally crave from our spouse.
And if the little kid in us doesn't get what he or she wants, that feels like a violation of our contract with our partner. We pout, we stomp our feet, or we dance around and try to please. Or, we hold our tongue so as to not threaten loss of what we hoped we could have.
The bottom line is that we stop seeing the other person as our friend and lover, we see them as the person who denies us the one thing that we most need. Because of this, we go into a self-protection mode and stop treating each other with the kindness and respect.
So how do you turn a relationship around when it seems like all of the passion, attraction and connection has died away? Here's how to begin saving your dying marriage:
1. Start looking at your spouse (and yourself) with new eyes.
Step back from yourself, from your relationship, and take a really hard look at the way YOU act toward your partner. Start talking to them like someone you respect and want to get to know better. Trust me, there is more to your partner than you know.
Your spouse gets upset when you discuss discuss money, sex, housework, or whatever. But, developing intimacy means being willing to allow the person to feel whatever feelings they have, even if they cry, storm around, or yell. Short of physical or verbal abuse, you need expression of emotion between spouses.
Learning to express your needs requires that you learn to deal with your partner's unhappy feelings. No matter who you are, you are going to have thoughts, feelings and desires that are different from those of your spouse, and sometimes, they will cause conflict.
2. Lower your defenses and open up emotionally again.
This means tolerating your own feelings, as well as your partner's feelings. Being a partner in a relationship means being willing to listen to and sympathize with your partner's feelings without judging them or attempting to curtail them. That said, I know it's not an easy thing to do.
The survival part of our brain is yelling at us about the risk of being abandoned, divorced, or maybe even hurt. The truth is, we are at risk for those, but pretending those feelings aren't there is no better.
When we ignore the real feelings that exist in our self or in our partner, we risk distance, emotional divorce, infidelity, and long suffering loneliness.
So take the risk, feel the fear, and do it anyway. In the long run, you, and your spouse will fare better. Marriage or no marriage, you will have more honestly, intimacy, and understanding between you.