Do you (also) find that you and your partner are taking each other for granted? Read on to learn about why this happens, what it does to your relationship, and, how to turn things around and start noticing each other again.
You know what I’m talking about. I know you do. When you’re in love, you try a bit harder. You’re a bit more attentive, more loving, you’re happier, and you make an effort to listen to your partner. We show the other person the very best sides of ourselves, in the hope that they’ll choose us for life (hereby, excluding all other potential partners).
The more we get to know each other, the more certain we feel that we want to be together. The more we go through together, the closer most relationships become. The more we see that we can count on our partner, when shit really hits the fan, the safer we feel.
Time passes and the deep sense of safety and trust grows. And safety is good. It really is. Safety is what makes it possible for us to actually be in a relationship. No safety equals insecurity, uncertainty, conflicts, and, perhaps a break-up.
However, along with safety comes a not-so-desired trait: the ‘stop-trying’ mentality. It’s as if our brain stops fighting, as soon as we’ve brought in the harvest, and everything’s rather tranquil. Perhaps this has happened to you? Or maybe your partner? Both of you?
One thing is certain: If we don’t make an effort throughout our entire lives, either you or your partner will feel taken for granted.
Do we need to get the car serviced?
So… do we cling on to being in love?
No! Absolutely not. It would be way too taxing to be in love your entire life. I’m not even sure our body would withstand this state of being for years on end. So no, that’s not what I’m after.
We HAVE to be able to relax in our relationship and not necessarily always show our partner our very best us, or try to impress each other constantly. It’s a given that we have to be able to show our partner that we’re human beings, with everything this entails. The good and the bad. This is just part of a healthy relationship, and, of course, growing as a human being.
That being said, too much relaxation and ‘not making an effort’ can very easily cause more harm than good. In the long run – if what you’re after is a long-lasting and well-functioning relationship.
I’ve met many couples where both partners have a clear sense of feeling like they’re no longer “worth fighting for”, and as the years have passed, the uncertainty about where they stand with their partner has slowly crept in. It’s not until the word ‘divorce’ is spoken out loud that they suddenly start making an effort, and the zest for the relationship returns.
But actually, this is about the same as not taking your car to get serviced before the engine is pretty much dead and gone. And, you know, if you wait that long, it’s often too late to do anything to save that engine.
You can lose your partner
Regardless of how long you’ve been in a relationship, you need to remember one thing (and remember it well): It’s a fact of life, that you can lose your partner any given day.
Not necessarily because they leave you, or they die. No, you also lose your partner – emotionally – if you don’t make an effort, and continue to make deposits to “the emotional bank account”, like one of the world’s leading relationship researchers, John Gottman, has dubbed it. This is an account you have to pay attention to if you want a happy partner who isn’t questioning your love; an account that’ll help you through rainy days. If this account is empty, it might very well leave your relationship high and dry.
Does this mean that love has to be an endless struggle? Is something I get asked every now and then.
I’d rather look at it like it’s about creating a good space for both of you to feel good, and for your relationship to thrive. A space where you don’t question one another, or each other’s intentions. I mean… that’s not a struggle, is it?
Isn’t that more a strategy on how you both feel good in the relationship you’ve both agreed to be in?
Just like you put in an effort at work, you can choose to put in an effort in your relationship and for your partner. Loving actions often lead to loving feelings. These loving feelings will lead to calm, safety, trust and long-lasting relationships. Relationships that are not just long-lasting, but also more well-functioning than the couples who do not actively invest in their ‘emotional account’. And just like Gottman also found: these relationships are at a significantly lower risk of divorce.
Guide: How to make an effort for one another
- You can start off by telling each other what made you fall in love with one another. What was it about the other person you found so amazing? What was your ‘in-love phase’ like? What did you get up to? What did you do to impress each other? What did you spend time on that was good for the growth of your relationship?
- You can then talk about when you feel loved the most. What are the actions that awaken the most loving feelings in you and in me? Be aware that these may very well differ from person to person – that’s perfectly normal. There’s no right or wrong answer here. Be respectful of these differences and use them actively, instead of turning your nose up at them, or telling your partner that their way of perceiving love is stupid.
- Decide to start actively applying this new knowledge. This is where you have to each make a conscious effort. What can I do to make my partner feel loved this week? Or if you fancy a challenge: every day!
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.