As humans, love is one of our core needs. If we are fortunate, we may have a long term romantic partner. Healthy relationships are ever-changing, evolving and it’s natural for them to have ebbs and flows. Sometimes it can be difficult to navigate the ebbs and flows and distance can grow between us. It can creep up before we know it and be hard to restore without recognition and tools to help us.
Often this distance appears after a major life event, ie, birth of a baby; change of job, possibly with longer or different hours; loss of a job for one spouse or a partner going away for work for extended periods; on going health issues; etc. However, sometimes it can just be lost in the familiarity and routine of our regular lives.
After the birth of my third child, when she was around six months old, I began to feel a stagnancy in my relationship. I felt stuck, at home, taking care of the kids and disconnected from my partner. I wondered what the hell I was doing with my life and why was I feeling so unfulfilled? I loved my partner and kids and I knew he loved me, but had lost that feeling of being “in Love”. The way I saw it, I could either work it out or walk away. I chose to work it out.
First, I considered why I had fallen for him in the first place, what was it about him that I fell for and were they still present in him. This was and is, always, my first tool.
Second, I thought about what was missing? Why did I feel this way? Long work hours that my partner did and him being in hospitality meant that we were like ships in the night – He slept when the kids and I woke, then he went to work before they came home. He came home when we were in bed. I was lonely, I missed his company, conversation ( sometimes the only adult interaction I would have) and sex. I missed intimacy and sometimes when life revolves around small children we can lose our identity somewhat, as an individual & it can be difficult to get it back.
I could have chosen to put the onus on him, with blame and allow the distance to grow. Then the interactions become stunted and tension thrives. Pretty soon every conversation becomes an argument, every word has a “tone”, but that wasn’t going to serve me, or him, or us.
What could I do? I needed to re-establish connection. I made an effort to be available when he came home, staying up later, to ask him how his day was and spend time with him, show interest. He reciprocated. Next, I made a commitment to myself to instigate sex, even if I was tired (this was previously a big part of our relationship that I wanted to rekindle). This actually had a multi-beneficial effect for both of us:
It let him know I was still attracted to him;
I put more effort into my appearance (toddlers can sometimes make you feel like a bag lady with birds nesting in your hair), which actually helped me to gain back some of my identity. I felt better about myself, he noticed too;
It physically relieves stress & tension by boosting the “happy” chemicals in our brains (and a bunch of other awesome healthy stuff that sex does);
It helped us to have open conversation, partly from release of tension, partly from renewed intimacy.
These four things helped me to rebuild the intimacy and connection in my relationship and they are tools that I have used over and over, not just with intimate relationships. So maybe we can ask ourselves:
- What did I fall in love with? ( Or what do I value in this relationship/ about this person)
- Are those things still present?
- What is missing? Why do I feel disconnected?
- How am I contributing to this situation?
- What can I do to reach for a better outcome?
Intimacy, like trust, is built on small moments, often. We can always choose what we put in to achieve what we want. Connection and intimacy are the antidote to distance, they are what keep us “in love” & I believe loving is a choice we need to make daily if we want love that lasts.