How to Re-Create Meaningful Connection in Your Relationship
Take a second to recall that season when you began falling in love.
Remember how you used to talk for hours without getting bored? Remember how easy it was to clear your calendar just to spend a little more time together? Remember how much you laughed together?
I remember all kinds of things from our dating days and to be honest, I kinda miss them.
As a guy, it's hard to admit that I'm a hopeless romantic…but I am. I want to re-live those early relationship experiences. I crave the thrill of shirking responsibilities just spend time with Kim. I want the fun of discovering new things about each other.
But stepfamily life doesn't always give us the time, energy or resources to keep that early romance alive. Some days I feel like our flame has just died out.
Those are the days I can feel rejected and resentful. I sometimes try to manufacture those old thrills, but it just falls flat and I wonder why our connection isn't turning out like I thought it would.
And worse, I start to believe Kim just doesn't care…even though I know that's not actually true. The stories in my head build up and resentments start to set in. But the truth is after 18 years of marriage (or even 18 months), it's unrealistic to expect the same thrills to keep coming.
But, that's not to say we can't still experience a little fun and excitement along the way.
Eventually, most couples experience this kind of thing at some level. If you've ever felt even a little like I have, then it's time you talk about what to Release and what to Reclaim.
The Key is to Release and Reclaim
There are some things you'll never get back no matter how hard you try. That might be hard to accept, but the sooner you do the sooner you'll move forward. Releasing things you really desire is hard, but the more you try to cling to what's unrealistic the more resentments you risk building.
And then there are those things that MUST remain alive in your relationship. The little bricks of intimacy that build a solid foundation for you to build your marriage on. Reclaiming these little things that may have been neglected over the past few months or even years are vital for your future. They're vital for your whole family's future.
To start discovering what you need to release and reclaim, think about these four areas of your relationship:
Early on it probably seemed like you could always find time for each other. Maybe it was going for a walk, grabbing dinner together or even those long phone calls after each of your kids were down for the night.
It's funny how often step-couples struggle to find time to spend together. They still both have the same jobs…the same number of kids they had when they were dating…generally the same commitments they had prior to getting everyone under one roof. But for some reason just a few months in, it can feel impossible to find time for a date night!
You'll probably never experience the same quantity of time to build your romance as you did when you were first dating. If you're trying to do that and it keeps failing, then it's time to release that expectation.
Instead, focus on the time you can reclaim. Can you agree to a date night once a week or even twice a month? Talk about what time you CAN reclaim and then get it on the calendar! I know, I know, scheduling doesn't always feel romantic. But most stepfamilies seem to be a "time vortex" and if you don't intentionally protect your time together it will easily get sucked away.
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Alright, so now you've reclaimed some time together…what about your attention?
There's a little café that Kim and I really like. It's small, generally quiet and a bit romantic. Across the dining room is the bar and above the bar is a TV…you see where I'm going with this. Now, I'm not even much of a sports guy…but the amount of times my eyes wander to that glowing beacon of an unimportant game can be sickening.
When we were dating, the focused attention we gave each other was incredible. We were learning about each other. We were sharing ourselves and discovering how much we connected. Paying attention was just easy. And sometimes I still want that…well a lot of the time!
You might want that too, but you probably need to re-evaluate that expectation. There are going to be times when you want some attention, but you're not going to get it. There are everyday distractions, just like that stupid TV in the café that will pull you away from each other. So, release those high expectations.
And here's what you can reclaim: intentionality. I sometimes sit with my back to that TV just so I can stay focused on Kim. It's an intentional decision that I have to really think about.
What is it that's distracting you…social media…work…dealing with the Ex?
Whatever it might be reclaim some of the attention you both need by being intentional about turning your back to those distractions for just a little while.
Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me - remember that one? It's a big fat lie.
When you were dating, I'm betting you chose your words carefully. Think back to that first time you really got mad at your partner…you probably even chose your words carefully in that moment.
As months and years go by it's easy to get reckless with words. They're just a little more cutting or maybe even filled with explosive profanity. And when those reckless words work their way into your conflicts, they tear down your intimacy.
It takes a lot of sincerely kind words to recover from just one cutting remark. You might need to release some things in your vocabulary today. And it may take some work.
Kim and I spent several years throwing verbal daggers at each other whenever we had a conflict. It's been hard for both of us to break that habit. But as we've released those cutting comments, we've been able to reclaim the respectful, loving words we spoke so easily 18 years ago.
What words have been hurting your intimacy lately? Talk to each other and work toward releasing them so that you can reclaim the love in your conversation that you're really after.
When Kim and I first met, we were working together. As we started dating she had this funny little bendable guy on her desk with magnetic hands and feet. My day started earlier than hers, so I would move him around, dress him up with sticky notes, position him doing stupid stuff and sometimes add funny captions. I did this every day for months…I do have to say my creative genius was pretty incredible. :-)
That little guy always brought a smile to Kim's face and we typically had a giggle about it. No matter what kind of morning she had, she still got a moment to laugh right when she got to the office.
I don't do that anymore…it's just one of those things you can't re-create. We've both had to release that fun little ritual.
And the truth is, sometimes we outgrow things we used to think were funny. But sometimes the stress and pressure of stepfamily life just saps our joy and laughter seems elusive.
If you've noticed a big lack of laughter in your relationship it might be time to reclaim what's funny to you today. Next time you go to the movies, pick a comedy. Search for that funny Hallmark card that will make him/her laugh.
Don't give up on making each other laugh…it will grow your intimacy and feed the soul of your marriage.
Connect This Week
Sometime this week take the time to share with each other what you need to release and reclaim. Maybe schedule a date night just to talk through these 4 areas and how you can build deeper intimacy in each of them.
QUESTION: What's one thing you need to reclaim in your relationship today? Leave a comment below…