Should you stay in a Relationship that is Just Comfortable?

too comfortable

Should you stay in a Relationship that is Just Comfortable?

Many of us have been there. You love someone but you aren’t in love with them. The relationship is very comfortable. There may be places where you don’t see eye-to-eye. But by and large, you have fun together, run a good household or just enjoy each other’s company. The person is perhaps a good choice for a mate. They are stable and kind. But that euphoric, weak-in-the-knees feeling has left the building. So should you stay in a relationship that is just comfortable but doesn’t give you fireworks or butterflies? There are really two schools of thought on this. The first is a very practical view. That is, stay with your partner. The reason, there are relationships and even marriages who do have that spark. Also, the candle that burns twice as bright often lasts half as long. Then a terrible breakup occurs and you are left all alone. The other scenario is one waits around forever. Instead of having the loving experiences available, one waits alone for a proposition which may never come. Why not, as the song says, love the one you’re with?

Sometimes these relationships that are comfortable used to have novelty. Kids, careers and a pileup of years have made them too comfortable. Here experts say the spark can be rekindled. One way to do so is to share novel experiences together. Travel to exotic lands, take part in exciting activities like sky diving and bungee jumping, learn a new skill together such as cooking or swing dancing or interact through a new sport such as karate or kayaking. These can reignite the spark. Another way is through reminiscing. Some relationship experts say merely having a date night can do it. This will inject some romance—you know interacting as a couple again instead of the person who takes care of a list of household duties. Then there are those who use their sexual interests to jumpstart their relationship. They may start to talk about and fulfill each person’s deep seeded fantasies, the ones they never spoke to another soul about. Some couples explore tantric sex or BDSM together to reignite that spark.

But then there is another school of thought, held by the fiercely independent who are not afraid of making it on their own. This type is perfectly happy by themselves. They won’t accept anything less than earth shattering love. If they work at it and can’t get it from their relationship then they end it, sooner or later. If the person they are dating doesn’t provide this feeling than they’d rather not be dating them. This type is generally focused on an important passion, mission, artistic pursuit, their children or career. They say if you really aren’t in love then you are just going through the motions, or else settling for a paltry mediocrity. Which interpretation is the right one? That all depends on the kind of person you are. If you are fiercely independent why not go for the love that will fill the space in your heart? See if you can reignite it with your current lover before you do something drastic. But if they cannot fulfill you why stay with them? Those who are a bit more practical and believe their relationship suits their needs should instead try and find ways to rekindle the flames. For more on this read the book, Keeping the Love You Find by Harville Hendrix.

Couples without Children are Happier

happy-couple

Couples without Children are Happier

Those couples who are most blissful are childless, according to research out of Open University in the U.K. The study, entitled “Enduring Love?” found that couples without children, whether married or unmarried, were far more satisfied with life in general and felt considerably more appreciated by their partner than their counterparts. Parents who cohabitated but weren’t married were a little happier than those that were married. Over 5,000 people of all backgrounds in long term relationships were studied. Surprisingly, mothers were the happiest group while women without children were the unhappiest.

Having children did affect intimacy among partners. Fathers were 50% more likely to claim that lack of physical love was the biggest problem in their relationships. Meanwhile, mothers stated that they wanted to experience physical intimacy less often than their partners. This study found that showing appreciation for your partner was one of the biggest factors in making a marriage fulfilling. Giving compliments, thanking one another and other seemingly minor gestures added up to a lot. The takeaway here is that when a couple starts taking each other for granted, things go downhill fast. But if they constantly renew their love, commitment, fondness and appreciation for one another, their relationship will remain strong, sturdy, healthy and fulfilling.

The British library will soon release the results of this study. If you are a couple with children, or planning to have children, don’t let this study upset you. Instead, make plans on how you will find time to invest in your relationship. Perhaps have a date night where a sitter comes over or you leave the kids with the in-laws. If you know other couples with kids, watch their children on their date night and they can watch yours on theirs. Write each other little notes or texts at least once per day. Make it a point to spend some time chatting together, enjoying each other’s company without having to fulfill some chore. Thank one another for what they do, whether it’s their assigned job or chore, or not.

The real takeaway is that just because you have children doesn’t mean you should take one another for granted. In fact, it’s more important that you show how grateful you are that that person is in your life, loving you, supporting you and standing by you. Show them how much you care, a little each day and they will reciprocate. For more advice read, The 2 Minute Marriage Project: Simple Secrets for Staying in Love by Heidi Poleman.

Are On-Again Off-Again Relationships Unhealthy?

Couple sitting together on park bench

Are On-Again Off-Again Relationships Unhealthy?

We all know the boy-meets-girl plot structure of classic romantic movies. Some of us yearn for such easy, movie plot love lives where everything is all sewn up by the end, and happily ever after means no more problems to wade through. Instead, the path to love is often obstacle filled and rock strewn. And two people who love each other may be kept apart by circumstances. Those who barely tolerate one another may be thrust together. Then there are situations that are even more confusing.  Should you be looking for a relationship or just open to different possibilities? And when you find someone who doesn’t quite fit the bill should you stay with them? There are lots of people who get stuck on the roller coaster ride of on-again, off-again relationships. This is where a couple breaks up, reunites, breaks up again and the cycle continues. They have chemistry and a rapport with the person. Yet, something about the relationship just isn’t right. But are these relationships as unhealthy as many claim? First, understand that this situation is very common. One study found that 60% of the population experiences such a relationship at least once in their romantic life.

The reasons most people initially break up is out of boredom, stagnation, the desire to be with someone else or just general dissatisfaction. Oftentimes, communication is not clear. These couples don’t get a clean break. Instead, things are left open and unresolved. Then they reconcile. This can also be for many different reasons such as thinking your ex is “the one,” missing the comfort and companionship of the relationship and still having feelings for one’s ex. Then the list of annoyances, doubts or disappointments pile up until one or both parties can’t take it anymore. The emotional ups and downs, the uncertainty and more equate to a toxic situation. Not only is it bad for the relationship but also for each person’s own wellbeing. These types of relationships can be exciting for some. But they also increase stress, put you in psychological distress and decrease your overall quality of life.

Each relationship’s story is as unique as the people that inhabit it.  For some, a break can be a time of reflection, self-discovery and even growth. This may have one or both partners come back to the relationship reaffirming their love and carrying with them the tools to make things work this time around. Unfortunately, most of these kinds of relationships are the same story played over and over again. The same problems keep arising and the couple cannot find ways to overcome or negotiate them. For those in this kind of relationship, experts suggest negotiating a slow drawback. Over time extricate yourself from the situation. Sometimes one person cares about the other, but their partner cannot or does not fulfill all of their needs. The partner leaves them wanting. It can be hard to decide what to do. A good cost-benefit analysis might help. For those who are at the end of their rope, research shows that each person should sit down for a serious talk. Each should communicate their needs, and then evaluate if they can meet the other person’s. Then a temporary breakup period should be enforced. During this time, each person can lead their separate lives. Then they can get a better look at the relationship from afar and decide what is really best for them, and whether or not things will actually be different this time around. For more advice read, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not – The Emotional Dangers of an Off Again/On Again Relationship by M. Osterhoudt.

Can we save our Marriage?

save

Can we save our Marriage?

This is the number one question couples in marriage counseling ask the therapist. People never know when a relationship is salvageable and when to go their separate ways. There are many people who focus more on getting out of a bad relationship, than on making the one they have worthwhile. Focusing so much on getting out can make you ignore the positive qualities the marriage has. When the focus for one person is a breakup, their preoccupation may inadvertently be the thing driving the couple toward divorce. On the other hand, one should be cognizant that every marriage has its ups and downs. Every relationship has the potential to end. There are of course certain steps you can take to bring a relationship down from the ledge. But a better strategy is to form a deep emotional connection to one another. This will motivate you to work your problems out and build a stronger, happier marriage.  Practicing generosity, kindness, compassion, respect and honesty, mutually, will make the marriage far more fulfilling. When each person is fulfilled, divorce becomes the furthest thing from their minds. Sometimes though, there are significant forces working on a couple, making happy reunification unlikely.

Certainly not all marriages can be saved, or should be. There are lots of unhealthy behaviors that can inhabit a marriage; addiction with no willingness to seek treatment, chronic lying, serial infidelity, neglect, abusive behavior, whether physical or psychological, and much more. These are violations to the commitment you both share within the bond of matrimony. Doing these things violates the sanctimonious vow you gave to one another on your wedding day. The most important thing is whether or not both parties have a willingness to admit what has gone wrong, and work toward solving the issues that they have. Mere acknowledgment of the problem is not enough. If there is no willingness on the part of both parties to change behavior, there may be no reason to move forward with the relationship at all. Destructive patterns played out over and over again, without any hope of relief, is a recipe for divorce. Recognizing these patterns and the role each party plays in them is the first step. But trying different strategies when the problems arise, and varying those strategies depending upon the situation are also key. It’s important to remember not to get discouraged if things don’t work out just the way you planned. It may need some tweaking. If you love your spouse and are committed to the marriage, and they feel the same way, then everything you need is there to make it happen, and make things work.

There is no easy answer for knowing when to stay together and when to move apart. Each situation is dependent upon the individuals, what has happened between them, what they value and how they look at things. Perception is invariably important. Circumstances for one couple that would be deal breakers to another merely have to be negotiated. There are a few simple guidelines you can follow to have the best possible outcome. One of the things to keep in mind is that working through the problems of a shaky marriage can be painful, sometimes even excruciating. For those who don’t have the ability to tolerate this sort of pain, the impulse to end the relationship, or manipulate their spouse into filing for divorce, can be strong. Marriages that are in trouble are often helped through counseling. There are lots of situations in marriage that are difficult to maneuver. It is good to know when you and your spouse are in over your heads.  Each person should develop the inner qualities on their own that will help make this marriage work. You can be your own psychologist and develop your own inner workings in order to be more honest, compassionate, engaged and loving. When you give something your best, there is always the risk that it might not work. Evaluate the emotional level you are both at. Have a long, calm discussion. Give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, at least you tried. But you two may just come out stronger, and more loving in the end due to this time when you struggled together. For more help finding marital bliss pick up a copy of, Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truths from Real Couples About Lasting Love by Linda Bloom, L.C.S.W. and Charlie Bloom, M.S.W.

Talk about Sex before you Get Married

young-couple-in-bed

Talk about Sex before you Get Married

Planning a wedding can be a whirlwind that scoops you up and carries you along. There are so many things to plan and do. But one of the most critical parts of a marriage, your sex life, is often swept aside. Yet, it plays a crucial role. Not only is your sex life important, but the intimacy that stems from it can fuel your relationship and keep it intact for the long haul. But a lack of intimacy can sap your marriage.  Most people expect their married sex life to be phenomenal throughout. Though married people often register higher numbers on sexual satisfaction surveys, the truth is one’s sex life ebbs and flows throughout a marriage. Psychotherapist and sex specialist Vanessa Marin says that those couples who do talk about sex before they get married are more successful overall. It is important for any couple that wants decades upon decades of happy sex ahead of them to discuss it, and come to an understanding about the matter with their partner. Schedule a time to sit down together. It doesn’t have to be stuffy. You can set a romantic mood, get wine and light candles. Or you can just sit down on the couch together and start talking about sex. It’s really up to you, and what style you have as a couple.

The first thing to consider is to ask what your sexual strengths and weaknesses are. Talk about your favorite memories together. Share what the best sex you ever had was. What was it about that time? How did it make you feel? What about it made you feel that way? Ask what theirs was and why. What do you both really enjoy doing together or to one another? What really works for you? Over time, usually couples get better. They get to know each other’s likes and dislikes, and trust builds. Each person should ultimately feel free to open up and express their needs, wants and desires. This will build a great sex life together. It will help build your relationship, as it provides immense intimacy to be able to shed guilt or shame, open up, be understood and accepted, and ultimately be fulfilled by your partner. Ask yourselves how to make intimacy a priority. Marin writes in an article in Psychology Today that she always shares this with clients. They need to set aside time for intimacy. Those clients usually respond by saying, “we didn’t know we had to do that…” Having a fantastic married sex life requires a little bit of care and effort. Schedule date nights, get a sitter and get some special alone time together each week.

Talk about how you feel about the inevitable changes in your sex life throughout your marriage. Are you planning on having kids? You can’t imagine how that will change your time in the bedroom. Menopause and lots of other things will change it too. Discuss how you plan to keep the spark a towering inferno of passion throughout your life together. You don’t want things to get boring. Talk about interests and fantasies together. Marin suggests each person making a list using red, yellow and green lights. “Reds are the things you know you don’t want to try, yellow are the ones you’re unsure about, and greens are the things you feel perfectly comfortable with. Making these lists can be a fun way to keep the chemistry going,” she writes. Talk about what you will do if you ever have a fight about sex. Marin says it is inevitable. Do you have a communication strategy in place? Will you decide to see a marriage counselor or sex therapist if you have to? Know each other’s feelings on these sorts of things. Think about how each of you can nurture your individual sexualities. Lastly, talk about your honeymoon with your soon-to-be spouse. What are the expectations? What will you experiment with? Does the sex take precedence or other honeymoon activities? For more on how to have great sex with your now or soon-to-be spouse, pick up a copy of Marriage And Sex: Marriage Advice On Spicing Up Your Marriage And Marriage Tips About Sex For Married Couples by Suzie Holmes.