In all relationships, there’s a time when it stops being fun…
And you realize how many problems you have.
It feels like it’s over because you don’t enjoy each other anymore.
It’s too much work to fix.
That’s when most relationships run their course, which is a shame.
Because that stage is just that: a STAGE.
It doesn’t last forever.
In fact, it’s a sign that your relationship is getting real.
You’re taking the rose-colored glasses off. You’re admitting things aren’t perfect. You’re realizing this will take a lot more work than you thought.
Welcome to real love!
When You Know It’s Real
- Real love is a place where we can’t solve all our problems.
The Gottman Institute estimates that 69% of our arguments are perpetual problems. We’ll never be able to resolve them, because they’re based in fundamental differences between two people.
- Real love is a place where you don’t always feel it.
Those loving feelings come and go, and sometimes they can stay away for a really long time. No matter. The only requirement of real love is that you ACT in a loving way. Feelings follow actions. If you treat each other with love, the loving feelings return.
- Real love is a place where you’ve got to put in the work.
I get so annoyed when I hear folks say that love should be easy. Infatuation is easy! But real love isn’t. Learning how to live with another person is one of the hardest things we’ll ever do.
They probably didn’t mention to you that love triggers our most painful childhood wounds. So the minute you fall in love with someone, every fear and anxiety from the past comes up. It feels like you’re going to die. And it’s supposed to!
This is your invitation to do the work. The work of healing yourself. The work of healing each other.
But That Still Doesn’t Help…
But you can KNOW all this…
And still feel unable to get past the hump in your relationship.
You don’t want to try anymore.
He doesn’t want to try anymore!
When you’re stuck, what I recommend is this:
Date each other again.
Remember the Pleasure
Relationships fail when you look your life together and all you see is pain.
You can’t ever see that changing. You look at the future and you just see more pain.
The couples that make it see things a little differently.
They can see spots of tenderness, love, and happiness in their past.
Maybe there were a lot of bad times, but the good times were there.
They have faith that they can find that love again—it’s just going to take patience and work.
Focusing on the pleasure in your relationship changes how you see it.
Instead of feeling hurt, you feel grateful for everything it has given you.
Sure, things haven’t been perfect. But that’s just how life is.
Remember the love, and have faith that you can get there again.
The Magic of Dating
So many of our happiest relationship memories come from the early days, when you’d just started dating.
You didn’t have all the baggage you have now.
You just had fun together. You were discovering each other. Everything about him delighted you.
The reason that dating feels so magical is because it’s all about pleasure.
The purpose of being together is pleasure. That’s it!
Eventually you’ll end up in a relationship, and you’ll have obligations to each other, and you’ll have to figure out where to spend Christmas and how much is too much to pay for a new car, but that’s all far in the future.
Right now, it’s sheer fun.
I encourage couples to take a stroll back through memory lane.
What did you do when you were dating?
Could you do that again?
(The Gottmans have a great guide to help you called Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.)
Take a Break
Take a break from the pain of your relationship.
Nothing will happen if you ignore it for just a while.
The problems will still be there. They’re not going away.
Take a day or a week or a month just to find the fun again.
Do something light and silly together.
If you can’t say anything without fighting, do something that doesn’t require talking. 😉
What If Your Relationship Can’t Be Saved?
A mentor of mine once said that when couples came to him for counseling, he gave them an assignment.
Their task was to go away together for the weekend: just them, no kids.
They were NOT allowed to talk about any of their problems.
If they came back and said, “Wow, that was amazing! I’d forgotten how it felt just to relax,” he would agree to start couples counseling with them.
If they came back and said, “We couldn’t stop fighting,” he wouldn’t help them save their relationship. There wasn’t anything left to save.
So try it.
Go away together.
See if you can rediscover the pleasure.
And let me know how you got on.