Have you ever been in close proximity to your beloved but felt miles apart? You may sleep in the same bed, share meals, and watch TV in the same room, but when it comes to feeling emotionally connected, there is a wall between you.
It can be so painful to stand next to the very person who used to feel like your best friend and wonder where they went and if you’ll find each other again.
In all of our work with couples and in our own relationship, we’ve found 3 things to be more essential than any other when it comes to melting the barriers between you, opening your hearts, and finding one another again.
(1) BE WITH EACH OTHER IN YOUR UPSET
We realize it’s not the most appealing thing to listen to your beloved complain about something you’ve done or to hear them express their frustration and disappointment, especially when it involves you. The great irony, however, is that, the more you can really hear them and be with them in their feelings, whatever they may be, the more they will see you as their teammate in it and feel connected to you.
With an open, curious, and genuine heart and in a kind tone, ask your beloved how they are feeling. As they share, really be with them in their hearts. Rather than invalidating their grievances, getting defensive, or shifting the conversation to point out their role in it, simply hear them, empathize with them, and assure them you are there with them to find a solution that really works for both of you. Your tone is key when it comes to them feeling like you are their ally, not their adversary.
(2) FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN GIVE TO CHANGE THINGS, RATHER THAN ON WHAT YOU NEED.
While your wants and needs are important, healthy, and valid in creating a thriving relationship, we find that the happiest individuals and couples are the ones who are more focused on what they can GIVE to one another than on what they can GET from one another.
One key aspect of this is to focus on what your beloved genuinely wants, not on what you think they need. These can be two very different things. 😉
A couple years ago, we ran across this love story from Richard Paul Evans. It’s one of those heartwarming stories that sticks. If you haven’t heard it before or need a reminder of it, we’re inspired to share an excerpt from it here. This is illustrates the power of what we’re talking about here…
“For years my wife Keri and I struggled. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure what initially drew us together, but our personalities didn’t quite match up. And the longer we were married the more extreme the differences seemed…
Our fighting became so constant that it was difficult to even imagine a peaceful relationship. We became perpetually defensive, building emotional fortresses around our hearts. We were on the edge of divorce and more than once we discussed it.
I was on book tour when things came to a head. We had just had another big fight on the phone and Keri had hung up on me. I was alone and lonely, frustrated and angry. I had reached my limit…
As much as I hated the idea of divorce, the pain of being together was just too much. I was also confused. I couldn’t figure out why marriage with Keri was so hard. Deep down I knew that Keri was a good person. And I was a good person. So why couldn’t we get along? Why had I married someone so different than me? Why wouldn’t she change?
Finally, hoarse and broken, I sat down in the shower and began to cry. In the depths of my despair powerful inspiration came to me. You can’t change her, Rick. You can only change yourself…
That night, as we lay in our bed, inches from each other yet miles apart, the inspiration came. I knew what I had to do.
The next morning I rolled over in bed next to Keri and asked, “How can I make your day better?”
Keri looked at me angrily. “What?”
“How can I make your day better?”
“You can’t,” she said. “Why are you asking that?”
“Because I mean it,” I said. “I just want to know what I can do to make your day better.”
She looked at me cynically. “You want to do something? Go clean the kitchen.”
She likely expected me to get mad. Instead I just nodded. “Okay.” I got up and cleaned the kitchen.
The next day I asked the same thing. “What can I do to make your day better?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Clean the garage.”
I took a deep breath. I already had a busy day and I knew she had made the request in spite. I was tempted to blow up at her. Instead I said, “Okay.” I got up and for the next two hours cleaned the garage. Keri wasn’t sure what to think.
The next morning came. “What can I do to make your day better?”
“Nothing!” she said. “You can’t do anything. Please stop saying that.”
“I’m sorry”” I said. “But I can’t. I made a commitment to myself. What can I do to make your day better?”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Because I care about you,” I said. “And our marriage.”
The next morning I asked again. And the next. And the next. Then, during the second week, a miracle occurred. As I asked the question Keri’s eyes welled up with tears. Then she broke down crying. When she could speak she said, “Please stop asking me that. You’re not the problem. I am. I’m hard to live with. I don’t know why you stay with me.”
I gently lifted her chin until she was looking in my eyes. “It’s because I love you,” I said. “What can I do to make your day better?”
“I should be asking you that.”
“You should,” I said. “But not now. Right now, I need to be the change. You need to know how much you mean to me.”
She put her head against my chest. “I’m sorry I’ve been so mean.”
“I love you,” I said.
“I love you,” she replied.
“What can I do to make your day better?”
She looked at me sweetly. “Can we maybe just spend some time together?”
I smiled. “I’d like that.”
I continued asking for more than a month. And things did change. The fighting stopped. Then Keri began asking, “What do you need from me? How can I be a better wife?”
The walls between us fell. We began having meaningful discussions on what we wanted from life and how we could make each other happier. No, we didn’t solve all our problems. I can’t even say that we never fought again. But the nature of our fights changed. Not only were they becoming more and more rare, they lacked the energy they’d once had. We’d deprived them of oxygen. We just didn’t have it in us to hurt each other anymore.
Keri and I have now been married for more than thirty years. I not only love my wife, I like her. I like being with her. I crave her. I need her. Many of our differences have become strengths and the others don’t really matter. We’ve learned how to take care of each other and, more importantly, we’ve gained the desire to do so.
Marriage is hard. But so is parenthood and keeping fit and writing books and everything else important and worthwhile in my life. To have a partner in life is a remarkable gift…
Real love is not to desire a person, but to truly desire their happiness – sometimes, even, at the expense of our own happiness. Real love is not to make another person a carbon copy of one’s self. It is to expand our own capabilities of tolerance and caring, to actively seek another’s well being. All else is simply a charade of self-interest.”
We hope you like that true story as much as we do and that it shows you just how powerful YOU can be when it comes to ending the power struggle and returning to loving togetherness.
(3) SHIFT BACK INTO GRATITUDE
Lastly, there are few things more transformative when it comes to shifting a conversation or the energy between people than gratitude. It’s as simple as speaking or writing these words and then filling in the blanks. We recommend, in order to feel a shift, that you include at least 5 things you appreciate. Pick up your phone, type up an email, or go over to your beloved right now and try it…
“I’m so grateful to you for…”
“I really appreciate that you…”
“Thank you for…”
“I’m sorry I haven’t told you enough recently how much I appreciate…”
And doing this when you think your beloved least deserves it? Even more powerful, for both of you!
If you are feeling disconnected from your beloved right now, rest assured, it doesn’t simply mean your relationship is doomed or there is no coming back. It’s just a sign that it’s time to shift things and rebuild your connection. If, after reading the three tips above, you are still thinking to yourself that they should be the one to rebuild the connection or that you’ve tried these things and they aren’t working, we lovingly encourage you to try them again and do it with even more sincerity, open-heartedness, and grace. Not only will it make your beloved happier, we have full confidence that you will become a much happier person too.
Also, our signature Thrive in Love retreat for couples is an amazing and lasting way to spend grow your love and take it to a whole new level. Words cannot describe the transformation and absolute magic we witness in the couples who attend, even those who came in feeling completely disconnected. This retreat has sold out repeatedly, so be sure to reserve your space as soon as possible HERE.
We’re sending you an abundance of blessings as you clear the pathway between your hearts and return to the reason we enter into relationship in the first place: to make life more wonderful.
Infinite Love and Joy,
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