“We are growing apart”, is a something I frequently hear from couples who have often had a strong relationship in the past but over time feel they have grown apart from each other. This can occur after the initial bonding stage of the relationship when things may seem less special and other things such as work, children and daily routines make demands on time and energy.
When you and your partner are alone in a restaurant do you sit together in silence feeling uncomfortable, struggling to find something to say. Glancing at mobiles, taping out text messages to others or simply staring out of a window.
Each partner may care for and love each other but those bonds may become stretched and shaky. The attraction and attention given and received has frequently diminished. Emotional and physical intimacy is less frequent or non existent.
Identifying your needs within the relationship
My work includes asking you both to consider what was it that initially attracted you to your partner. This might be their caring nature, the attention they gave you, physical attractiveness, energy, humour etc.
What were their qualities that you found fulfilling such as honesty, dependable, trust worthy, optimism etc. How did you feel then about them and what was your expectation of the relationship.
It is important to identify who you are now as an individual within the relationship. This consists of identifying what you think is missing from the relationship and what are your needs.
Recognising what you need as an individual can be challenging as often those needs have not been considered and put into words for a long time. It is sometimes feels that you have lost your identity within the relationship becoming strangers to self and each other. Therefore it is important to refocus on ‘what do I need now’.
This is because we often change in the relationship due to demands put on us from within the relationship and externally. So we lose sight of our self and the other. If we don’t have the energy, time and attention for our self how can we give that to someone else.
When we know what we need, only then can then ask your partner are they able provide what we need from a relationship. If they are able to provide this are they willing to do so, when and what are the limits. Equally will you do the same for them? As in the initial stages of a relationship it is what you are prepared to give to the other unconditionally that cements the relationship.
After time in the relationship we become aware of the differences rather than similarities. Rather than reappraising and accommodating what has changed we have feel there are gaps that form distance. Having grown apart to try and fill all those gaps at once is too much to expect.
Instead small changes are agreed, trialled and if appropriate adopted. This may be accepting the others need to have time to carry out an interest whilst for someone else it might be spending time together. This requires give and take to reinvest in each other.
The level of intimacy within a relationship is often a barometer of relational health. Intimacy ranges from a warm look through to sexual intercourse. When intimacy starts to wane then the bonds that join us can slip away until there is nothing holding us together.
Intimacy especially sex can also be used a form of control or a manifestation of discontentment. This may be out of awareness of knowingly. Withholding sex can be an indicator of the strain on the relation, anxiety around of areas of day to day life or that the relationship has ended for one of both partners. In some instances sex is also used as a reward or reinforcement of some desired behaviour.
Identify the gaps
As the gaps are identified, then it can be decided what each partner is willing to change to bridge the distance. What needs to be done on an individual level and as a couple. Small steps are taken, the impact considered and discussed openly and honestly.
Openly is stating how you feel and the impact of the change on you. It’s not about blaming and shaming. You have to be prepared to own your side of bridge and build toward your partner until you meet in the middle.
Growing side by side
You are not the same people as when the relationship started. Things have been experienced, situations changed, personal values and beliefs challenged.
Within the relationship there has to be room for each individual to grow, develop and feel fulfilled. This doesn’t mean living in each other’s pockets. It means both individual grows in their own way, side by side as equal partners. Bringing new experiences and dynamics into the shared space and sharing that impact. Enabling a spark to be breathed back into the relationship, igniting a new way of being.