"We never go anywhere, I don't feel special."
"What's wrong with us, we used to have so much fun."
"We don't know how to get along."
"We can make time for ourselves later, work and the kids are all I can manage."
Sound familiar? As a Certified Gottman Therapist for couples, I hear this on a weekly basis. Does your relationship seem like it is in a rut? Would you like to learn how to uplift each other, together? Join us at our monthly workshop (register here), and read on for tips to improve your relationship.
1. Talk to your partner about how you feel about the rut. Try to avoid blame, and focus on how you feel and a positive need. For example, instead of saying, "You don't take me out anymore." Say instead, "I miss having time with you alone, and feel lonely. I need a date night, how can we make that happen?"
2. Respond to any "bid" your partner makes. If you are in a rut, and your partner is trying to express this, be responsive! Even if you hear a criticism, such as, "We don't go out," be curious! Ask your partner how they feel and what they need. Then, respond with an idea of how to connect.
3. Plan for regular time to connect to get out of the rut and stay out of it! Weekly dates, walks or time just for the two of you, makes space to maintain an emotional and physical connection with each other. Like a bank account, you have an emotional bank account with your partner. Making frequent "deposits" keeps a high balance, to counter those challenges life and relationships may present.
4. Partners can fall into ruts by mistake, usually by circumstances or obligations, and a lack of understanding of why and how to prioritize regular times to connect. Partners who parent, often prioritize children's needs. But, if a relationship is not nurtured between a couple, then there is no "nest" for the child. Plan for time to connect as a couple instead of relying on spontaneous opportunities. Couples who make it long-term, have habits to keep intimacy alive, by taking time together daily and weekly.
5. Keep moving forward through the rut. Meaning, you may be facing something as a couple that will take time to recover from or get through. Talk about it. Plan small ways to connect, and be supportive with mottos you create with each other, such as "even though it is hard right now, we'll get through it together." Be a team. Getting through a rut together is a lot easier than trying to pull you both out on your own.
6. Give appreciation to each other, on a regular basis! It's important to take a few minutes daily or weekly, and be intentional about the small things to express gratitude. Make sure you say how it makes you feel. For example, "I appreciate you taking out the trash, it made me feel supported." Or, "I appreciate you texted me during my crazy day; it made me feel loved." Appreciations minimize contempt and resentment, increasing feelings of love for each other.
7. Check in with a couples therapist. If if you cannot think your way out of a rut alone or together, get some help! A couples therapist can teach you ways to connect, compromise and bounce back, together. Expect homework. You two need to make the effort outside of counseling; showing up to the appointment is only part of the work. Ask for ways to connect in-between appointments or read articles like this, and try out strategies
Remember, while ruts are normal, getting out of them takes some effort, but is worth it! - Maryellen P. Mullin, LMFT
Join our monthly ONLINE couples skills workshop, 75 minutes, once a month, make it a date! (register here).