Tend and Nurture your Relationship
Okay - so you have a good job, 2.2 kids in a good school, food on the table, money in the bank...did you forget anything? What about the health of your relationship? When was the last time you did anything specifically with your partner?
This is not uncommon; people meet and in the first flush of romance you can’t get enough of each other. You discuss everything; you talk about how you feel. Then, as time goes on, the relationship becomes part of who you are - it fits into your normal life. You begin to take it for granted. Perhaps children come along and you are focused on other things or places; you spend less time together, not more, as you work for money to support the family or taxi children around. Indeed, you may only have the energy at the end of the day to collapse on the sofa to watch Corrie.
Yet statistics are beginning to show a rise in the divorce rate of the over 50’s. Could this be just a symptom of a mid-life crisis, or is it the point at which the children move away and you realise that you seem to be living with someone that you don’t know - your partner?
It shows the importance of nurturing and prizing your relationship. Rather like a garden, a little work often will keep the weeds at bay and will let you enjoy the blooms. The alternative might be to have to gut the garden, dealing with all of the tough weeds and thorns that have grown up over years. It is hard work; it is painful, and it ultimately may not be successful if left too long.
So what are some of the things that keep couples strong? Perhaps the single thing that couples can do to ensure the health of their relationship is to talk about that relationship, good and bad. In an ideal world your partner will be the one to support you, to listen to you - someone with whom you can share your dreams and your fears. While this is not an ideal world, some of those qualities should be in your relationship - and if they are not, perhaps the time has come for action.
It might be something as simple as leaving washing on the floor, or as hard as feeling your partner drinks too much; if left unsaid it will become harder and harder to speak about and will irritate you more and more. Much better to get the problem out in the open (share your fears), but do it in a way which will not put your partner on the defensive. Talk about what you see and what you feel, not about what your partner does (or doesn't do) - ask them how they feel about it. Finally, ask how you can help them.
You can do things to bring about greater intimacy; have a "date night", go to the cinema or try a new activity together. Sharing experiences lets you grow closer to your partner and gives you a shared frame of reference - “do you remember when…”.
While much of this article has been about being together, remember that it is important to have your own space too. While everyone has to adapt to being in a relationship, to give up all outside interests can lead to resentment and ultimately problems in the relationship.
Great support and respect from your partner goes a long way towards helping you feel good in a relationship. Whenever we hear the word "support" we seem to think of getting through a crisis - yet support is also for the good times, such as being enthusiastic about that promotion or an achievement. Show that you value your partner.
Ultimately, if you feel that there are things lacking in your relationship it is better to address them sooner rather than later. Often you can sort them out easily by talking to your partner, but don’t dismiss getting professional help; often a counsellor can get you through an impasse or help you to talk again.
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