Revitalizing Your Relationship

by Michele Weiner-Davis, Ph.D.

Michele Weiner-Davis has written numerous books that have been helpful to both therapists and consumers of therapy. As the author of “Divorce Busting”: A Step-by-Step Approach to Making Your Marriage Loving Again, she has the following advice to offer couples.

Time Together

Couples need to make their relationships a priority. I believe the single biggest contributing factor to a breakdown in relationships today is the fact that couples aren’t spending enough time together. The relationship gets put on the back burner. Everything else seems more important: careers, children, hobbies, community involvement, and personal pursuits. When relationships aren’t attended to, trouble sets in.

People who don’t prioritize their relationships tell me that they often end up fighting during the little time they do have together. They argue about day-to-day issues: unpaid bills, uncleaned houses, unruly children.

But the truth is, arguing about “who’s doing what around the house,” may be connected to a variety of other problems. Some of these may be related to the relationship itself, such as problems of isolation, loneliness, and resentment. At other times the problems may be more socially and culturally related: gender inequities, economic issues, or problems of depression (see information for couple on Depression in the Circle of Life) and anxiety. Most of the time people argue about the mundane issues when their emotional needs aren’t being met. The soda can left in the living room becomes a symbol of a lack of care for the partner. Does this sound familiar?

And here’s the Catch-22: if you and your partner are arguing a lot, you don’t feel like spending time together. In fact, you want to spend as little time as possible with him or her. Unfortunately, avoidance only makes matters worse: more distance, more tension, less cooperation, more conflict, and so on.

However, time together can be the great healer. Even if it’s awkward at first, when two people commit to investing energy and time to their love life, good things can come from it. When people put their relationships first, they start to feel appreciated and important. They feel loved. Spending time with your partner tells him or her in no uncertain terms, “You matter to me.” Time together gives people opportunities to collect new memories, remember old ones, do activities they enjoy, laugh at each other’s jokes, and renew their love.

Some do’s and don’ts:

  • Do plan and schedule dates together. Write these dates on your calendar or appointment book, the same way you would a business appointment.
  • Do spend some time together without your kids. The best thing you can do for your kids is to make your marriage work. (see advice for Couples from the Curse of Perfect Parenting section)
  • Do something enjoyable together; it will make you and your partner feel more loving. As a result, you may even be able to resolve heated topics more easily in the future.
  • Do go for a walk around the block. Read a novel together. Set aside ten minutes each day to talk. Ride a bike. Be creative.
  • Don’t think you have to spend enormous amounts of time together to create closeness and connection. Regular, brief get-togethers work too. Small changes in your schedule can make a huge difference.
  • Don’t think you have to go to a tropical island to make time together meaningful. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to show your love for your partner.

Remember, having fun together is a way of acknowledging that relationships are a serious business.

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