If you’ve been feeling disconnected from your partner, you are not alone, and there are small steps you can take to help you get back on track. According to John Gottman (gottman.com), 67% of couples experience a dip in their relationship satisfaction after having their first child. Whether you are a year in, or several years in, from having kids, it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of your daily life and that of your children’s’ and to turn the focus away from your marriage. Perhaps a major betrayal occurred or you just slowly started drifting apart. In working with couples in therapy, I have found that many couples stop doing the things that they used to do early on in their relationships, especially as the “honeymoon stage” of the relationship wears off or after having children. It is natural for couples to no longer have the instinctual urges to stay up into the late hours of the night talking or to no longer think of their partner constantly throughout the day as they may have in the early dating years; however, if you want to stay happy in your relationship, it is important to realize this shift and take on the new responsibility of putting effort into nurturing your relationship. “But if we were really meant to be, it would be easier…” Research does not support this myth. A satisfying marriage takes work, research shows. There are several large and small ways to nurture your relationship, and part of this includes nurturing your friendship with your partner by knowing their inner world. Gottman calls these Love Maps – your knowledge of your partner. These Love Maps need to be updated on a regular basis so that you maintain a strong foundation when difficulties and stressful life transitions arise and to keep you feeling connected.
Love Maps are like a marital GPS. If I plugged in a GPS last updated in 2010, I wouldn’t be able to navigate very well. The same is true for your relationship. Updating your “GPS” for your partner helps you navigate his or her world and your lives together on a daily basis. You can start doing this by asking each other open-ended questions every day. This can be in spontaneous conversation (start being curious about your partner’s world), or it can also come from existing lists/games aimed at learning more about your partner and building love maps. There are several lists you can find online; I recommend printing them off now and putting them on your nightstand to pull out before settling into bed. Unplug your TV, put away your phones, and ask these questions instead. Here are a few questions to start with tonight:
What excites you? What are things you do now that bring excitement or joy? What are things that used to?
Lindsay Murphy, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
“The grass is greener where you water it” Quote by Neil Barringham