Remember those heady days when you knew you were really meant for each other? What dreams did your share about the life you would create? If you pledged “to have and to hold”, what did it mean to you then, and does it have the same meaning for you now?
Couples get together for many reasons. They typically say, “we felt like soul mates … our attraction was magnetic ... we love children and wanted to have a big family… we had the same professional goals”. There is little talk about laying a foundation that will ensure a closely connected partnership throughout their lives.
If you are lucky, the chemistry between you is still alive. You may have had children and enjoyed many years nurturing them. You have worked hard and succeeded in your job or profession. You have focused on self-improvement and developed your own personal interests. And now you have gone from childcare to eldercare.
If life has become more complicated and demanding than you first imagined, it wouldn’t be surprising that at times you and your partner feel a little out of sync.
Refocusing Your Relationship
Becoming more independent and self-reliant out of necessity, you may have lost touch with how to take care of your “coupledom”. To be more specific, you may have forgotten what you need to do to take care of each other. What seemed easy when you began life together has now become more energy consuming.
Have you noticed that you been less attentive to each other? Have you been taking each other for granted? Does it seem that you don’t really get each other at times?
Your misattunement has not been intentional, nor has it come about as a result of being mean-spirited. Maybe it is just time to rethink your priorities and redefine your purpose in being together.
How do you protect each other as you face the challenges and shifting realities of each approaching life stage? How do you keep your emotional connection alive?
Think of a long-term relationship as an opportunity to develop the capacity to love and to be loved. Love means that you are committed to taking care of each other’s safety, security and well-being. With the stresses of work and family life, tethered to your smart phones, stretching your resources both physically and emotionally, it is sometimes difficult to know where to begin.
Remember when you vowed to “to have and to hold from this day forward”, and to take care of each other “till death do us part”? If you were going to rewrite your vows now, what would you say? Taking a Pro-Relationship Stance
You could begin with the premise that you want to create a safe, secure and loving relationship where you will always take each other into account.
While you need to respect and honour each other’s individual needs, are you ready to put your couple relationship first? Are you ready to put aside some of your own desires and wishes because you know what’s best for the two of you is going to be the best for each of you?
Taking a pro-relationship stance does not mean that you are giving up on your individual autonomy. But you may have to ask yourself: “Is what I’m now about to do good for my partner and also good for me?” You will feel more closely connected as a couple only when both of you are okay with the decisions you make.
When you are in a pro-relationship mode, the stability of the relationship is primary. You will soon recognize that it is easier to take a position that makes both of you feel safe and secure. You will feel more connected knowing that you are both acting in good faith, and that you are taking each other into account.
There is a sense of equality in this kind of relationship. You both have equal value. You both get what you need — if not at the same moment, then at some future date.
You have created a framework for taking care of each other at all times. And you will demonstrate these principles, not just through words, but also by what you do — through a touch or an embrace, actively listening to each other, or protecting each other in public and in private.
A mutually secure-functioning relationship is a win-win for both of you. It truly captures the spirit of “to have and to hold”.
This article was originally written by Louise Dorfman and David Rubinstein for the Banff Couples Conference website. Copyright © Couple Enrichment Inc. 2014 . All Rights Reserved. If you wish to reprint this article, please contact us for permission.
For more information on the Conference: Banff 2015 Couples Conference Facilitators.
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