Author: Ann Grandchamp, Mental Health Editor
Let me start with one of my favorite relationship quotes ever. My Mum read it at our wedding and now, after 15 years of marriage, I treasure its meaning more than ever:
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken; […]
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
– Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
Maybe as your read these lines today, you feel like your relationship is on the edge of doom. Maybe the current situation has been putting an added strain? For some couples, the lockdowns have been a chance to reunify and strengthen their connection. For others, the already existing strains and tensions have been brought to the fore and become impossible to ignore. Maybe you’re fighting a lot. Maybe you’re ignoring each other, caught in a cold war, not sure how to bridge the gap.
Wherever you’re at, if you’re struggling, I’d like to share the top tips I share with and work on in more detail with my clients.
Do you want the situation to change ?
The first step is to ask yourself – “do I want the situation to change?” Do you want your relationship to improve? Because if the answer to that is no, then you can stop reading now and take the necessary steps to put an end to your relationship instead of staying in a toxic or miserable situation. If the answer is yes however, then read on!
“There is no remedy for love but to love more.”
– Henry David Thoreau, journal entry
Are you willing to take the first step?
Now that’s a tough question, isn’t it? We can get so caught up with our own ego, not wanting to show vulnerability or what we percieve as being weak. So we stand our ground, we wait to see if the other one will take the first step because after all, they should. Or we’re too scared to take the first step because we’re not sure how the other person will react.
I’ll tell you what, if you answered yes to the first question, then put yourself out there and take that first step. It might be a kind word, a word of affirmation, a note, a kind gesture, a warm look. It might be saying “I’m sorry” without expecting to hear it in return straight away.
Yeah, I know it’s hard. I’ve done it many times in my relationship. But let me let you in on a secret: it’s always been worth it.
Are you willing to put in the work?
Right, so we’ve established that you want to save your relationship and that you’re willing to take the first step. Well done!
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
– Maya Angelou
I’ll let you in on another secret: true love is tough. Lasting relationships are tough. If anyone has ever told you the opposite, then either they were lying, or they didn’t know true love. Fact is, relationships bring together two different, imperfect and evolving individuals. This will undoubtedly lead to challenges. But it’s what you do and who you choose to be in those moments that will either make or break your relationship.
At the beginning you fall in love. There may be sparkles and passion and those tingly emotions. But long term, love is a choice.
Every day. You choose to love your partner.
– Ann Grandchamp
Practical steps to start mending your relationship
I don’t have a magic wand. To start mending and working on your relationship after taking that first step, there are lots of things you could do and I won’t be able to share them all here. This is one of my favorite topics and I love working with couples and seeing their relationships mending and growing.
The 3 times 10 minutes
This is a concept by Rachel and Eric Dufour and I love it. It takes 30 minutes total. Do this without moderation but if possible every day or as often as you can:
- 10 minutes of physical contact: hugging each other closely and snuggling, breathing together and connecting physically. This will boost your oxytocin production and as a result your feeling of connection to each other and your wellbeing.
- for 10 minutes: one of you gets to talk and share what is on your mind or on your heart. The other one is only allowed to listen – zero comments and 100% active listening.
- for 10 minutes: now swap roles and the one who talked listens, the one who listened talks.
WARNING: NO sex is planned after these 30 minutes. However, sex can be the cherry on the cake and if both of you feel like it, then go for it. But it’s not the goal because otherwise it will pollute the rest of the exercise.
My husband and I did the Marriage Course during our first year of marriage. Honestly, it’s one of the best things we ever did and I highly recommend it if you would like to work on your relationship. One of the most love changing things we took away from it was the importance of couple time once a week if possible.
Couple time is a time you take each week to go out or spend time together when the kids are in bed to reconnect and do something together.
There are 2 rules for couple time: no talk of kids allowed and no talk of work allowed.
Yep, you read that right. And yep, it can be challenging at times. Totally worth it though. It’s not about creating the perfect date each time – that’s unrealistic. It’s about saying to each other with your actions that you’re choosing to put your relationship first. This has no price.
I asked my husband what he would say is a priority in a relationship and he instantly said “couple time” and “communication”. I couldn’t agree with him more. “Communication to a relationship is like oxygen to life. Without it… it dies.” This quote by Tony Gaskins sums it up. Never stop communicating. Even when it hurts, even when it’s uncomfortable, even when you don’t feel like it. Two big love-saving tips for you here:
- Avoid NEVER and ALWAYS. Those are communication and love killers. Replace them with at times, sometimes, usually, often, rarely, etc. These are probably a lot more acurate and will stop the other person from going on the defensive quite so much.
- Start your sentences with “when you…, it makes me feel…”. Your partner will feel less threatened and will therefore be a lot more receptive to what you would like to share.
Go well and enjoy reconnecting and working on your relationship. If you would like to watch me talk on the topic of saving your relationship, then follow this link. It’s only 5 minutes.
“Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.”
– Bruce Lee, “Love Is Like a Friendship Caught on Fire”
Take care! Stay safe!
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