It’s all sunshine and rainbows when you first start dating. You both make a massive EFFORT to ensure you show genuine interest in your new partner, and that you in turn are interesting to them. You spend time ‘getting ready’ when you know you are going to see each other. Shave your legs and underarms, put cologne on, get out your ‘good’ pair of jocks, use mouthwash – the grooming routine is non-negotiable. Then you listen to all their stories, make eye contact, nod, ask questions. You laugh at the appropriate time, act concerned when necessary – it’s all a wonderful process of getting to know one another. To connect and grow. You fall in love. Move in together. And have your first little baby.
Then somewhere between there – and sitting watching TV in your old fleecy trackie, baby vomit on your shoulder, smelly socks and not bothering to close the toilet door anymore – is where complacency sets in. And it is here where the ‘routine’ starts to ruin the relationship.
Complacency and routine is as big of a relationship killer, as stopping going to the gym and starting to eat junk food is, to health and wellbeing. When we stop doing the things that got us to where we are, we no longer grow in that direction. We in fact CHANGE direction to emulate the new behaviours. And this can happen no time more so – than when we start a family, as new priorities start to take precedence. Our energies are more limited, so we therefore start to conserve them by not doing all the little things. It is not intentional of course – we simply become comfortable – and don’t feel the need to exert all the effort anymore.
So here are 3 simple tips to combat the complacency and rekindle the relationship.
- BE INTERESTED IN YOUR PARTNER. Go back to asking questions – like you used to when you were dating. The Gottman Institute has a wonderful set of thought-provoking questions called ‘Love Maps’ that enable couples like you, to shake yourselves out of your routine, and spend some time reconnecting with your partner by asking ‘open ended questions’. When you are emotionally connected with each other’s world, you remain emotionally connected with each other.
- DATE NIGHT. I have spoken on this topic soooo many times – as I believe it is soooo important. It is just too easy to stop making the effort to go out together, especially when you have babies, toddlers and kids. But you guys are first and foremost – still a couple, and you need time together. My hubby and I make it a priority to go out on a ‘date’ every 2 weeks. It gives us the chance to ‘dress up’ a bit and make that bit of an effort that otherwise could get put in the back of the shoe cupboard – along with those lovely shoes you never get to wear anymore. Remember, going on a ‘date’ doesn’t need to cost a lot of time or money. It is just a chance to be together and focus on each other instead of babies, bills, washing, ironing and all the other ‘routines’ that have crept in over time. It’s a time to chat about you as a couple. Ps. We often take our ‘Love Maps’ cards with us and ask the questions during our date. An extra great way to connect!
- PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN. While I was planning this article, I was chatting to my hubby about what I was going to write, and the 3 ways to rekindle … and he (quite emphatically) announced that the third point needed was … to put the phone down. OUCH!!! So, we started a conversation about how I use my phone (for business and pleasure) and he shared with me that he often felt that the phone often takes my full attention – 100% of the time. DOUBLE OUCH!!! I asked a few more questions and discovered that this little ‘routine’ of mine, whilst sometimes essential and other times entertaining, was fast becoming a relationship wrecker! Now, Paul doesn’t expect me to put down my phone 100% of the time, he was just asking to be more ‘mindful’ of where and when ‘it’ gets my attention, as opposed to when ‘he’ gets some attention. Point taken, and as you can see, it has earned a medal in the 3 points we are talking about today!
See? Learning and growing in a relationship is a lifelong commitment. Just because you ‘teach’ it, doesn’t mean it is second nature all the time. We ALL must focus on keeping our relationships fresh and new, and when we see ‘routine’ raise its head, it’s time to rekindle that relationship and start making an effort again. Start by doing small things often! (more on that another time J)
K-J Elliott – Relationship After Baby