I know I have.
I remember many nights, years ago, curled up in a ball in bed, feeling that deep pit of loneliness in my stomach, and crying softly to myself because I didn’t know how to fill that empty space that came from the lack of connection and contact with my boyfriend at the time, who was sleeping right beside me. We loved each other but the difficulty in connecting at times that were most important to me, and not feeling I could address those topics that were creating our disconnection, were awful.
It’s been well researched that relationships are essential, literally, for our survival - babies that are not touched do not survive, and we know from our experiences during COVID that the lack of human connection (or the loss of quality connection) has created a pandemic of its own when it comes to mental health.
It is not just BEING in a relationship that counts but the quality of your relationship; it affects all areas of your life, including your relationship with yourself. And feelings of loneliness are only one of the experiences when your relationship lacks the quality and connection that is possible.
The typical Disney movie stops when the Prince and Princess ride off into the sunset on a white horse, and the words come up ‘The End’
But it’s not the end - it’s only the beginning. And yet we continue to put everything else first; prioritising our kids, our friends, our own desires over what the relationship can provide us with.
The relationship you have with your partner can be a source of the most exquisite connection, pleasure, intimacy, emotional well-being, personal growth, and profound sense of belonging. But because of the intimacy of it, it's also the place we can most feel pain, hurt, resentment, loneliness, sadness, loss of sense of self, disconnection and longing.
Keeping your relationship strong and healthy is therefore not a ‘nice-to-have’ but essential for your overall health and wellbeing, as well as that of your kids and those around you.
I know, life is busy, but if you don’t invest in your relationship, it is going to cost you in the end. Although not all relationships last forever - stuff happens, people grow apart. However, there are many relationships that would have made it if couples put growth, connection, love and safety of their relationship first, instead of waiting until there was nothing left. When relationships do end, there is also the question of what about the kind of relationship you have after, when you are having to co-parent and support your kids in adjusting to the changes.
So how do you avoid the trap of feeling lonely and stuck inside your relationship?
I’ve learned a thing or two since those days of being curled up in a ball and sobbing quietly to myself.
Firstly, it doesn’t all have to be hard, difficult, big and scary. It’s also not necessary to get rid of all the ‘problems’ before you can start to experience greater connection and love in your relationship. In fact, I would assert it is the adding in of things that bring joy, fun, connection, intimacy and all the other good stuff, that can actually start to melt some of the problems.
Here is a list of places you can start:
Make time for your relationship every day - that means time for just the two of you. If you never spend time together that is not about kids, work, health, finances and problems, start with just 10 mins a day. Find some topics that you can talk about that are fun, light, or even deep but are about connecting with each other. If you already spend some time together like that, how can you ramp it up?
Start to look for what each other’s strengths are in the relationship and begin to appreciate those about each other (yes, out loud!)
Create a vision for your relationship - strong relationships have some sense of safety about being together into the future. Share it with each other regularly (it’s called Future Pacing) It creates safety
Never threaten to leave unless you are planning to go ahead with it. It just makes both of you feel unsafe. Instead, commit to each other that you will always find a way through your challenges together, even if you are not sure how at this moment.
Compliment each other (being very specific), make time for kisses, hugs and other forms of connection, acknowledge each other and look for the ways your partner does try to give to you, even if it is not exactly the way you want it.
Communicate your needs, wants and desires, and make it easier for your partner to give to you. Stop playing games and testing your partner - you both lose when you do that. It requires vulnerability and courage, but those are both built by taking actions, not by waiting for the ‘right time’ or for courage to somehow ‘show up’
Find out what really matters to each other and be willing to give to each other in that way. Ironically, when you put each other and the relationship first, your own needs get met
Discover what your style of being loved and loving is - we are all different in our needs and how we need to experience love. If you only give to your partner the way YOU like to be loved or the way YOU feel comfortable in giving, you are likely to leave your partner feeling unloved by you. You know this is true, because it’s probably why you feel unloved and unappreciated by your partner
Remember that nobody experiences things the same - we are all unique in our perspectives, what motivates us, even what different words mean! Feeling loved or restless or bored or happy for one person might mean something TOTALLY different to another person. So asking questions to understand as well as you can goes a long way to creating greater connection
When a relationship is not working, it can be easy to put blame somewhere. An ex-partner once said to me: ‘There is nothing wrong with this relationship - you are the one with the problem!’ I eventually left the relationship, after doing everything I could to save it, because it takes two to make a relationship work, and it takes two to destroy it. Improving or rebuilding your relationship requires both of you to take responsibility for your part in the dynamic of the relationship. (who knows how that relationship would have ended now, if I had known what I know now about the difference one person can make with the right understanding!)
Relationships are a living organism. They require attention, opportunities to breathe, to grow, understanding and a willingness for both people’s needs to be considered and appreciated. You can’t have a safe, fun, loving, intimate, passionate relationship when one of you is not experiencing those things.
Wanting each other to feel considered, loved, safe and fulfilled is a pre-requisite for a strong, healthy relationship.
This means having curiosity about your partner; even after years of being together, looking for what new skills you need to learn, finding out how to create the kind of environment that nurtures you both, discovering the new perspectives you need in order for your relationship to flourish will benefit you, your partner, your kids and all areas of your life.
I have learned so much in my own life and through my work with clients and I love to support couples in discovering how to create the kind of relationship that is strong, healthy and nurtures you both. If you want to discover how I can support you, contact me and let's have a free one-hour Clarity Call. In this call, you get to share with me what is currently happening in your relationship, what it is you want and get clarity on the path to get from where you are to where you want to go.
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It would be an honour to support you in creating the kind of relationship that supports you both.