“What’s the reason most relationships fail? Is it affairs, boredom, lack of sex, lack of communication?” That’s the question I’m asked most often. As any experienced therapist can tell you, couples come to therapy for a multitude of reasons. The list will not surprise you – conflict over finances, sex, and in-laws; challenges with roles in marriage, work-life balance,
parenting, and the transition to being empty-nesters. Sometimes, it’s in preparation for marriage and sometimes it’s to make one last attempt “at saving our relationship.”
Zach Brittle who is a therapist and contributor to the Gottman Blog writes that the thing he hears most often is, “We’re having trouble communicating.” I hear that often as well. And one thing is certain, when couples have trouble communicating – when you don’t feel
heard or understood it quickly leads to a lack of connection. And being disconnected makes even the simplest issues difficult. The Hollywood version of connection, passion and
romance is based on grand gestures -- meeting at the top of the Empire State building to gaze into each other’s eyes, a whirlwind trip to a private island, renting out a restaurant for a private dinner, (add your own favorite movie scene here). But in reality we know that connection is built in the more mundane moments of life. It happens when your partner says “Come look at this sunset” and you not only go to see it, but comment that “It reminds me of the one from our vacation last summer.” It happens when your spouse mentions “I had a great day at work” and you respond with “Really? Tell me about it.” And it happens when your spouse lingers during your “good night kiss” and you respond by pulling them closer and initiating sex.
Gottman calls these moments “bids” for connection -- Simple moments that reaffirm to your
partner that they are valued. Couples who turn toward each other remain emotionally
engaged. The first step in turning toward each other is simply being aware of how crucial these
mundane moments are. Start today. Make the effort to respond to your partners “bids” for connection. Decide to learn a little more about your spouse. Be intentional about making them feel valued. Don’t let the daily routine – and the things that seem more urgent – keep you from connecting with the most important person in your world. Afterward – As beneficial as turning toward each other is, it can be excruciating when you reach out and your partner or spouse does the opposite and pulls back. Couples often turn away from each other through inattention but sometimes there are deeper reasons that keep one partner at bay -- unresolved conflict, depression, trauma. If you need help starting the conversation or finding ways to re-connect reach out for help. A good counselor should be able to assist you in exploring your barriers to connection and help you find ways to re-engage.