“If the only way we can maintain relationships is by not showing what we are feeling or not saying what we are really thinking, then we end up giving up relationship for the sake of having relationships. The absurdity of this, when you think about it, is countered by the fact that we often accept it as inevitable.” ~Carol Gilligan
A marriage is like an accordion; at times, it can feel close, tight, and pulled together, and other times it may be filled with a growing distance.
Here are ten tips to help you shrink the distance and get back to closeness:
1. Gratitude: Increase the level of positive reinforcements/appreciations you offer your partner. Research shows that it takes five appreciations to compensate for the effects of one negative comment. And yes, it will feel awkward – like a foreign language if you have not been sharing or receiving expressions of gratitude for a while.
2. Vulnerability: Reveal something to your partner that you haven’t revealed before, reveal thoughts (I’ve been thinking…) or feelings (I’ve been feeling sad, angry, scared, ignored…) or life intentions (I intend to…).
3. Reflect: Stay attuned to your partner’s non-verbal and body language. Validate and reflect back what you see or feel.
4. Rituals: Make your commitment to spend time together on a regular basis. Book those lunch dates. Plan the weekend getaways. Commit to taking a workshop together. Build it into your calendars.
5. Listen: Practice Active Listening with your partner. Take a ‘non-knowing’ stance and express genuine curiosity about what your partner is really saying. Contact me for a one hour Active Communication session to uplevel your communications and deepen your conversations.
6. Awareness: Spend time thinking about what coping mechanism you rely on (hint: visit the post on the Mental Divorce), and begin working with yourself to shift that. Email me for a free self-test you can score yourself.
7. Collaborate: Define what’s NOT working and what you don’t want. Move to focusing on what IS working and what you want more of.
8. Praise: Choose to say positive things about each other while in the presence of others.
9. Change: If you stay home every Saturday night, go out. If you work-out separately, do a common work-out session. If you do all the cooking, team-up to create one weekly meal together using a new recipe. You get the idea. Find ways to break away from old habits and from “the way things are”.
10. Expand: The relationship is a third entity. Carve out time to talk specifically about the relationship. If all week long you talk about your work, “who picks who”, or “who does what”, allow room for relationship talk. In order to sustain the relationship in the long term, it needs a room of its own.
Above all, become an observer and note:
How far-out your relational accordion is, and what steps can you take today to bring it closer together?