Successful Ways to Navigate Challenges in Your Relationship
How often do you celebrate your love story?
Our relationships have layers upon layers upon layers of stories. Couples we see have such a variety of stories. Some chapters are rich with romance, incredible communication, amazing sex, adventures, and starry-eyed dreams. And, yes, some chapters are much more complex. These challenging chapters often devastate the mood of the overall relationship. When things like broken communication, perpetual stress, frequent unresolved conflict, difficult in-laws, monotony/boring routine, complicated finances/disputes over finances, parenting/blended family struggles, disconnection, grief, trauma, betrayal, sickness, or fading intimacy/desire enter the picture, it can seem impossible to connect to the “happier times”. Many couples are stuck in negative sentiment override regarding their partner and relationship. As a result, it can feel as though their love is essentially drowning in the painful stories. It’s hard to remember the parts of their story that felt lighter, more loving, more connected, sexier, and more hopeful.
We often explore with our couples the idea that the stories that prompted them to schedule an appointment are not the full picture of who they are. As we invite them to share the broader view of who they are and what they’ve been through, what they’ve accomplished, and what they’ve experienced as a couple, a special kind of light returns to their eyes. Those foundational and pivotal experiences often have the power to invigorate couples to do the hard work that brought them to us in the first place. They are reminded of the connection that made them want to fight for their love.
Reminiscing is a wonderful way to keep your perspective balanced when life gets crazy.
Last month (May), we celebrated our “engagement anniversary” by looking at pictures we took during a special weekend in St. Augustine in 2010! It brought us back to that sweet time of new beginnings, excited love, romance, and joy in the moment. We laughed about a breakfast disaster (trying corned beef hash for the first time and NOT liking it) and the anticipatory nail polish with “diamond” in the name that Lori chose for the trip because she was hoping this was going to be THE WEEKEND. We remembered the dolphins in the water, the sunset from the porch of the Bed and Breakfast, the excited “yes, please” to a sweet proposal under the Love Tree and drinking champagne in the carriage ride afterwards. It was a wonderful memory to explore.
Here’s the thing. We don’t have magical days like that every day. We see ourselves as a standard couple with ups and downs in our relationship story. We also have our super difficult stories too. And, remembering the beautiful parts of our story helps to soften the impact of the unpleasant chapters.
Couples have such wonderful love stories, but these stories are often overlooked either in the frenzy of doing life or because they are buried under the weight of unhealthy communication, a shift in intimacy and feeling connected, betrayal, etc. We understand that the painful stories can feel so incredibly overwhelming. They are very real for you. We’re not saying to bury your heads in the sand and pretend they don’t exist. Nope! If you follow us on social media or work with us, you know that we emphasize that a healthy and satisfying relationship takes intentional effort. What we are encouraging you to do is to consider the full story- and gift yourself with remembering the good experiences from time to time. And, also, be intentional about creating more of the good (though that’s a different blog!).
There’s even a bit of science behind this concept. Our thoughts are a set point for our overall experiences. Our emotions and actions instinctively follow our thoughts. If your thoughts are flooded with negative thoughts about the relationship or your partner, it’s naturally difficult for positive experiences from the past or present to have influence. It has the power to create a type of blinder (the total opposite of rose-colored glasses). Below are a couple of questions that you can ponder on as you begin to reintroduce parts of your love story that bring you joy into your thought life:
*Find a favorite picture of the two of you and think (or even talk) about the story of the picture. What were you doing? What did you like best about that day?
*What’s a favorite memory of when you first met?
*Describe the details of a shared experience that brings you both joy- the colors, sounds, sensations, and feelings.
*Remember in detail (and maybe reenact) a favorite date, kiss, dance, etc.
*What’s an attractive feature of your partner that’s always made you smile?
*When did you first know you wanted to be with your partner? How did you let him or her know?
*What characteristics were you initially intrigued by/attracted to when you first began connecting?
We hope you take some time soon to reminisce about some special moments and maybe even make a few new ones!
One of the inserted pictures include our engagement under the “Love Tree” (Oak and Palm entwined together). Legend says that if you kiss underneath the love tree that your love will last forever! Well, let’s be real…legends are nice but it’s the active and intentional work we do daily that keeps that legend going. And, in our experience and that of research, remembering and actively appreciating the good in your story helps to equip you to work through and heal from the challenges in your story.