She Said, He Said: Start of new year great time to take inventory of your relationship
January 8, 2018
"Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years." — Simone Signoret
Lori and Jeff: These tiny threads are spun with fibers of laughter, shared sadness, triumph, adventure and togetherness. Collectively, they are strong enough to weather storms and protect the relationship from the more bitter elements of life. But like with any beautiful cloth, the stitching that bonds you and your partner needs tending.
In our work with couples, we've found five essential layers that are necessary for healthy, sustainable, fulfilling relationships: Trust and emotional safety, mindful communication, intimacy, individuality and partnership. If any of these is threadbare, the relationship is at risk of tearing apart. But when each is strong, couples experience feelings of passion, connection and commitment.
Many new relationships start out with these feelings in spades. The human ego and biology are primed to drive you to bond. Often, at the start of a romantic partnership, you'll feel euphoric, and the spark will seem effortless. But this honeymoon phase is contrived. Both partners show their best self, while creating a superman/woman narrative of the other. All the while the brain is flooded with intoxicating neurotransmitters creating a naturally induced high. Inevitably, the honeymoon fades, and the challenges of life begin to tug at love's threads. It takes courage to resist the pulling and to hold together instead. Even more so, relationships require effort, intention and curiosity to continuously mend the fabric of the bond.
While we are not generally advocates of New Year's resolutions, we deeply believe in the power of reflection. The beginning of a new year is prime opportunity to take inventory of your relationship. Where is the bond strong? Which aspects have become frayed?
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We invite you to reflect on what strengths and challenges you, as an individual, bring to the relationship.
Where do you feel most at ease and most authentic — where do things seem to flow?
What are your personal fears, barriers or limitations that hold you back in love?
Are there positive efforts you've stopped contributing out of complacency or taking the relationship or your partner for granted?
We also encourage you to create time with your partner to take an inventory of your relationship:
Which of the five essential layers are holding strong in your relationship?
What aspects have become tattered over time (patience, compassion, effort, romance)?
What issues or resentments have been unraveling under the surface that need attention?
If you are a resolutions person, make a New Year's commitment to bring more curiosity into your relationship. Remember, love is woven from the foundation of two very imperfect and uniquely quirky looms. Consequently, even the strongest, most beautiful bond will encounter significant snags. In these moments of pain, sadness and sheer vulnerability, we invite you to turn toward your partner with curiosity. Take an open, active and compassionate stance to mend the tears, and to experience 2018 as a couple with greater warmth and connection.
If you're struggling to repair the bond of your relationship or marriage, please reach out to a licensed professional.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists offering relationship counseling and coaching at Aspen Relationship Coaching. Submit your questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.