Certain times of year can be problematical for marriages. Divorce lawyers report that post-Christmas and post-holidays are their busiest times of the year, after the relationship stress of couples spending significantly more time together than they typically would.
Let's look at some ways to turn potentially fraught times around and invest in your relationship.
– Time for each other can be at a premium, especially if there are young children. The demands of work, home, family and friends can mean that time for yourself and each other becomes non-existent, and this can cause relationship stress. Try to set aside 30 minutes before bed to be together and talk. Turn off your phone rather than sit constantly checking in on social media. Your phone won't keep you warm at night!
– Share some interests. Sport, exercise, cooking together, a course of some kind perhaps without exams, might be fun ways to rebuild a shared connection and provide plenty of non-routine stuff to talk about.
– Some separate, occasional time apart can also add a spark to your relationship and help you both reclaim your individuality again. Introducing new conversation and enthusiasm can pay dividends in making you both feel attractive, interesting and so add a little zest. Look after yourself, your health, your appearance and hygiene. When you take personal responsibility for yourself everyone benefits.
– Attention is important in a relationship. It makes us all feel special, important, desirable. Remember to stay attentive to each other's situation, even when you're busy. You know what they like, are interested in, what matters to them. Smile readily when you first see them, make eye contact, give them a gentle touch as you walk by; all positive ways to ease relationship stress and show that you still find them attractive.
– Gestures, those little thoughtful touches that show you care can make a real difference; a text that simply says 'thinking of you', not wanting anything in return, just to say 'hello'. Bring home a flyer about a talk, lecture, event that may be of interest, demonstrating that you care and have noticed something you think they'd like. It's thoughtful and costs nothing in terms of expenditure.
– Communicate, share, and be absorbed, genuinely interested in each other. Be eager to include your partner in what's going on in your life, how you're feeling. But equally be keen to know about their life too. Remember what you've been told and follow through, wanting to learn the next installment.
– Be patient and accept that sometimes your partner may phrase things in a clumsy inelegant way, not as eloquently as you would. Be sensitive and give them space to express themselves. Avoid finishing their sentences or second-guessing what they're trying to say.
– Consider the impact that external factors may be having on your partner. Are they going through a period of extreme work pressure, have they financial worries or are family issues on their mind? They may have concerns about their own health or the health of an elderly relative. All these issues can be distracting and cause relationship stress. Start to invest in your relationship again by being more sensitive to each others' issues and concerns.
– Keep intimacy alive. Maybe sex needs to be off-limits for the time being, but you can still show affection and a determination to invest in your relationship. Some women can feel apprehensive about showing affection towards their partner out of fear it will be misconstrued as a come-on. Men may consequently feel that their partner has become cold and closed off. Both sides may need reassurance that they're still desirable and loved.
– Instead agree to take things slowly. When you watch TV together give each other a back rub or foot massage. Share a bath together and relax after a busy day, listen to your back catalogue of music and reminisce, go for a walk in the country and enjoy being together, just the two of you. Maybe alternate childcare with a friend so that you get an occasional free evening or weekend for the two of you to enjoy being on your own.
– Consider relationship counselling. Seeing a neutral professional can mean that you dedicate regular time to focus on improving your relationship. It provides an opportunity to really listen and understand each other's issues, discover what's gone awry, agree on ways to move forward, deal with your relationship stress and start to believe in your relationship again.
It's important to invest in your relationship. Doing so can revive your interest in each other and remind you both about why you fell for each other. All relationships require compromise and negotiation to take you through the highs and lows, the good days and the bad. But it's great when that effort pays off and you find yourself celebrating the special commitment you have to each other. After a tough time it's good to be able to say, ' we understand each other better and are trying to make our relationship work'.