How to Keep Romance Alive…
Everyone loves the feeling of being in love and why wouldn’t we? It’s exciting, fun, and full of potential. There might be romance, spontaneity, not to mention our brains are releasing all kinds of chemicals that make us feel really good. Well, what happens when that slows down as inevitably happens in long-term relationships? How do we work to hold onto that elusive “spark?”
In working with couples, for marriage counseling, couples therapy, and premarital counseling, we often talk through the struggle to maintain chemistry and connection, especially within long-term relationships. It can be hard to keep romance alive. Now, there are a lot of reasons for this (one being it’s tough work, and life somehow has a way of becoming extraordinarily busy and complex!). However, I find there are a few common misconceptions that couples are often holding onto, that can hold them back from bringing some of that sizzle back into their relationship.
Misconception One: I know everything about my partner, and things feel boring!
The Reality: We as humans are typically excited by “new” things. It makes sense that as the “newness” wears off and we shift into a more comfortable pattern of being with our partner, it becomes more challenging to hold onto the excitement. Here’s the thing- You may know A LOT about your partner, but challenge yourself a little…do you really know everything? We’re constantly changing and so is our partner. This means we can make room to get to know our partner as they continue to grow and change.
Try This: Approach your partner with genuine curiosity and no, I’m not just talking about asking them how their day was (although this is a good place to start). What I mean by this is practice deepening conversations and place assumptions about how your partner might respond to the side. In doing this, you make room to experience your partner differently. This, in turn, might put a little excitement back into your relationship.
Misconception Two: If romance were going to happen, it just should, organically.
The Reality: It’s easy for romance and spontaneity to become lumped together. Often newness and surprise illicit feelings (and even hormones) we’d associate with “the spark.” Here’s the thing, romance can be planned and it doesn’t have to take a whole lot of time. For many people, life becomes so busy and it can feel “awkward” to schedule time for the relationship. However, actively creating time and space to connect with your partner is critical. It’s nearly impossible to reconnect if you don’t make time to do it.
Try This: Create a schedule and routine that will be conducive to spending meaningful time together. For example, schedule 10 minutes to check-in with your partner at the end of the day. Reflect on what has created romance in the past and actively seek ways to re-integrate this into your current circumstances. Remember: romance does not have to be equated with spontaneity or be something totally elaborate — make romance work for you!
Misconception Three: They should just know (what I want/need/feel).
The Reality: This is probably one of the most common statements I hear in working with couples counseling clients. Of course, we’d love for our partner to be so well attuned to us, they automatically know what we think, feel, and need. Here’s the kicker that really throws a wrench in that expectation — no one is a mind reader. Your partner will not inherently know your needs (as much as we’d like them to).
Try This: First, think about what can you control? What you can control is yourself. This means you have a couple options. You can either continue to communicate as you are (i.e., not communicate) and hope your partner will eventually catch on OR you can directly communicate to your partner about what you need whether that’s a date night or a kiss goodnight. Think about what makes you feel loved and let your partner in on the secret!
When giving your partner feedback try to provide specific, action-oriented feedback (e.g. “When you take time to check-in with me, I feel connected to you. Can we work together to make that happen more often?”). Reframe this as an opportunity to teach your partner how to love you, in a way that’s meaningful.
The “spark” that ignited your relationship, although exciting, often tends to flicker in and out and requires minimal work to maintain. What does require work is to maintain the flame that erupted because of that spark. My hope is that in dispelling some of these misconceptions you can begin to work toward throwing some kindling on that flame and reignite the enthusiasm and excitement in your relationship.
Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFT-C
Power Off Your Phone and Power Up Your Relationships
It’s true that everyone's lives these days are fueled and enhanced by technology. How often have you stepped on a bus, been out at a restaurant, or have been sitting in your own home, only to look around and notice that everyone around you is staring down into the screen of a phone?
One of the most interesting aspects of technology is that we can simultaneously use it to both connect and to disconnect.
You may notice that by texting your partner in the middle of a hard-work day, you’re able to get that instant validation. It feels good! Perhaps, in that same scenario you play a quick game of Candy Crush to distract yourself from the mounting stress and pressure. This also feels good! You might then ask what’s the problem? This is clearly a tool to meet many needs at once.
Here’s the thing: oftentimes, unchecked technology use can prevent us from connecting with each other… and ourselves.
Imagine (or maybe you don’t have to imagine — because you’re actually doing this right now) you’re sitting on the couch next to your partner, as they’re scrolling through various social media accounts, playing games, etc. Is this someone you feel connected to? No, of course not.
Our phones can create a physical and emotional barrier. While we may be striving for connection through texting, checking Facebook, or sending an email, we are quite possibly ignoring our most important relationships and the greatest opportunities for connection as we do so.
It’s also possible that through the distraction of social media (or whatever your technological vice may be), you are able to disconnect from your own internal process, so you don’t have to deal. First, we all do it and, let’s face it, sometimes a little distraction is necessary.
However, you may find that the more time you spend looking through pictures of everyone else’s “perfect” lives or tuning out those pesky emotions through virtual realities, the worse you feel. Why? Because in the minutes or hours you spent immersed in technology, you actually lost connection with those moments and — quite possibly — with yourself.
Here are two tips to help you manage your technology use so that it doesn’t interfere with your most important connections:
- First, acknowledge and notice what impact technology is having on your connections. (It looks different for everyone). Remember, the instant gratification that is often associated with technology is not always better. After all, it can leave us just as quickly. Challenge yourself to remember that the “connection” you experience from viewing other people’s lives through the picture-perfect lens of social media skews reality.
- Secondly, set reasonable boundaries for yourself or household around technology use. For example, creating “no phone zones” like at the dinner table, or in bed will allow you to connect with your partner. Also having setting aside specific screen-free times of day to check-in with your partner can drastically improve your connection.
Actively make a choice to engage and connect with those around you…you have the power! Once you are able to peel your eyes away from that friendly glow, you may just find there’s another human right in front of you or better yet, you may even find yourself.
All the best,
Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFT-C
You're Already Amazing.
Yet if you're like most people, you may also feel pressure to be different. Be better. Be “more.” We get relentless messages from the media, our culture, and sometimes even our relationships, that we're not quite good enough as we are.
Of course, you want to be the best you can be. Most people are motivated to enter life coaching or therapy because they want to be a better partner, be a better friend, be more fit, be more social, be more successful at work. While it's admirable to want to grow, evolve, and be the best self you can be, what is not helpful is believing invalidating messages that make you doubt your worth, your competence, and your own strength.
This can leave you second-guessing yourself, feeling anxious and stressed, or just feeling the burden of needing to create change. When we become focused on what we feel we are lacking, we lose connection with ourselves. We can easily become so focused on what needs to change, that we lose contact with what is (and all of the strengths we have right now, in this moment).
Part of my job as a therapist and life coach is to help you get back in contact with how awesome you actually are… right now. By trusting yourself, tapping into your strengths, and feeling good about yourself it becomes even easier to make strategic improvements to your life.
The good news is, when you're in a place of strength you do not need to make big life changes to feel big impacts. By incorporating small changes into your routine, you can begin to own your awesome. When we create greater connection within ourselves, we open the door to love ourselves more deeply and connect with others in a more meaningful way. In the words of Rupi Kaur “How you love yourself, is how you teach others to love you.” I have five quick tricks to help you feel more connected to your happy, healthy, “best self” that will make you more aware of how much you already have to offer.
- Take the time to notice. We are typically so busy moving through our daily activities, we don’t take the time to check-in with ourselves. Often our bodies are giving us cues throughout the day, that our minds have gotten very effective at ignoring. For example, maybe you get to the end of your day and notice tension in your shoulders. This can be your body’s way of telling you, “Hey, this is stressful, let’s take a break!” Noticing can be a big step toward becoming more connected with yourself. Try setting time aside within your day to check-in; ask yourself how am I doing? Is my body trying to tell me something? What do I need right now?
- Offer yourself some compassion. It’s easy to focus on what is not going well. We also have a tendency to give others more time and compassion then we would offer ourselves. Very rarely would we be as tough on others as we are on ourselves. Give yourself a break! One way to do this may be by repeating affirmations (either verbally or in writing). It could be as simple as repeating, “I did the best I could and that is enough.” You can also send compassion to areas in your body that are tense (you will know where these are, because you will have been practicing “noticing”). An example would be when you notice tension in your shoulders from stress, roll them back and forth and say to yourself “I am resilient and can make it through this stressful day.”
- Take a deep breath. You have likely head this before and may wonder, why? How can taking a deep breath possibly be helpful when I am extremely anxious? There is substantial support that when we take deep breaths (slowing down our rate of breath and using our diaphragm), we alter the response of our nervous system. In turn, this creates biological changes that support a decrease in stress. Remind yourself to take deep breaths throughout the day, and notice how this can alter your mood.
- Do something for you. Frequently, we lose track of our needs or even activities we feel fulfilled by. When was the last time you took a moment to do something for you? This can range from taking five minutes out of your day to read a book or online article to planning a weekend getaway. Evaluating what it is that you need to feel fulfilled and moving toward it in manageable steps is another way to start connecting with your awesome.
- Remember: You don't have to perfect to be awesome. There will always be a “more” (I should be more___) and with that, there is also an “enough.” Challenge yourself to hold that you are enough. Perfection is not realistic. Yes, there will be opportunities to grow and create change, but with that create some space to acknowledge what is working. You have talents, gifts, and skills; don’t be afraid to acknowledge and use them!
How Owning Your Awesome Helps Your Relationships
We have primarily focused on how these tools can be used to help you as an individual. However, the real beauty of these strategies is that they can be used to improve connection in your relationships. By creating deeper connection within yourself, you will make room to connect with your partner in new and more meaningful ways. The more we know about ourselves (e.g. what we need, what we want, etc.), the more we are able to engage in meaningful relationships and connections.
You can re-purpose the tools I shared to create connection in your relationship. For example, taking time to be in the moment and notice what is happening for both yourself and your partner can be extremely helpful. Remember- when we’re always focused on our to-do lists or what more needs to happen, we forget the positives that are happening right now.
Focusing on taking deep breaths, especially in an argument with your partner, can help your nervous system regulate, so a productive conversation can take place. Remembering that no one is perfect (even our partners) and offering them compassion, can increase connection and trust within your partnership. You can modify these strategies to fit what you need, whether that’s creating connection within yourself or using these techniques to strengthen the connection in your relationship.
I hope these strategies help you stay connected to yourself… and own your awesome.
Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFT-C
Couples Counselor • Life Coach • Therapist