I think fall, with its turning inward, is an amazing time to check in on your relationship with your significant other. Are you feeling separate, distant, strong, powerful together? What things are working – and not?
It’s hard to give general advice as to how to keep any intimate relationship particularly strong as I think every couple is so unique and what works for one couple may not work for another. But over the years, I have seen a common thread of either drifting apart or pulling together when people reach their 30’s and 40’s, so I have a few ideas to toss out……
- How are you keeping your friendship alive? If you don’t talk about your day, your hopes, your fears, your dreams but only talk about how to pass off children to activities or who needs to pick up something at the store, it’s easy to not feel very invested in each other personally – more like you are just managing practical stuff together like housemates. Gottman’s work ( I covered his book “The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work” on this website chapter by chapter – you can find it under the Book Reviews header) talks about how partners make bids for each other’s attention. Usually someone will try to get the other person’s attention, and then the partner responds (hopefully! – or not, sadly). If you don’t respond to each other, it’s hard to be close! You can read more about that in the summary of Chapter 5 of this book I wrote here: Chapter 5 summary
- Some couples are really happy to do all the things as a family with their children, and I think that’s great if it works for them! However, I will say my husband and I really value any time we get to go out just us or with another couple. We started taking overnight trips just the two of us a few years ago, and that was also really wonderful for our connection.
- Your love language is also very important to know about yourself and your partner. Sometimes I think we don’t feel love or our partner doesn’t feel love because we aren’t expressing it in a way that is understood. Have you read the Five Love Languages book?
- Physical intimacy is important – and for that I think several things need to be in place: feeling close to each other and like you can have fun and trust one another, you both need to have decent health (if you are perpetually falling asleep on the coach at night or just so stressed out all the time it’s hard to think about being physically intimate), and you need time to unwind and relax without worry together (ie, some couples can deal with children or teens being up and awake and other couples really can’t and feel stressed about it). I think the older we get, we do need to be on top of the health changes. Hormonal changes for both men and women can make things different than they were in the past, and you have to be close enough to talk about it!
But lastly, I think it’s mostly about having fun! If you can have fun together and laugh through all the things life throws at us, you will enjoy each other and be closer to each other.
I would love to hear your thoughts on being partner strong! What helps the most?