We all know someone who went through a divorce in the last two years. Maybe it was a sibling or a close friend. It might have been your parents or chances are it has been you and your spouse that decided, it can’t go on like this.

On the other hand, we all know someone or of someone who has been married for ages. They are together for ten, fifteen or even for more than twenty years. Their relationship seems to be natural and indestructible.

What is it that some marriages are doomed and others are getting stronger each passing year? Is it the luck of the draw? Or is it money, children or special circumstances that increases the bond between partners?

People come to me and ask for help and coaching with their relationship and there are basically three complaints that are prevalent in every case. “We’ve lost our connection” is the number one comment. “Lack of intimacy” is another one and “the constant nagging/bickering” makes number three. Does that sound familiar to you?

I know of a couple that didn’t make it to their first anniversary – both of them were too much involved with their businesses that the whole idea of marriage seemed out of place after ten months, so they’ve called it off. Or the case of my niece. She’d been together with her fiancé for six or seven years and then had a splashing wedding. Only seven months later he said- and I quote: “I didn’t think marriage would be like that, I want to end it!” Needless to say that she was completely devastated…

Let me quickly explain one point here: a divorce can be good. I am not saying that you need to hold on to each other no matter what. If you see that your marriage is at an end, for whatever reason, don’t hold on to it. If it is hopeless, don’t prolong it for the sake of your children or in false desperation. It is always better to end it and to move on with your life, as hard as it may seem or feel. Staying together to fulfil expectations from others only leads to self-denial, stress and illness.

Let’s look again how these long lasting relationships are managing. I’ve asked couples, who’ve been married for over 15 years, about their secret recipe for staying together for that long. Here are their common responses: “we are talking about everything”, “he/she is my best friend” and “it’s about understanding the other person and their motives”.

You see the very thing that long-term couples regard as their biggest asset (talking) is the same thing that people in a troubled relationship are referring to as missing (connection). In other words, if we all would be able to communicate better and more effective with our partner, we all would be better off. Could it be that simple?

Not quite. By observing relationships I’ve developed a model where ideally three topics are equally in focus. These three are: Quality Time, Talking, Intimacy (Sex).

Firstly: Quality time:
Can you recall how it was, when you were newly in love? You were dating and longing to see the other person. Therefore you planned something special. “Let’s go to the movies together”. “Let me show you my favourite restaurant.” “Let’s go to the beach and just have a great time.”

For some reason these kind of activities are getting neglected, once you moved together. Well you’ve been to the beach together, you know her favourite restaurant by now and all the movies he likes are not your thing. So you stay at home and watch television instead and boredom sets in.

Quality time means that you are purposefully spend time together. That you both make the effort to meet and spend time together, not because you live together and you meet automatically in the bedroom or kitchen.

Here are some ideas: have a romantic dinner at home, go away for a weekend, go out and watch the full moon come up over the horizon, go to the gym together, cook together with or without friends.

The rule in all cases is: the smartphone stays off or is silent and outside of reach.

You are building a library of shared experiences – which will give you stories for the rest of your life: “Do you remember the day we got soaked at the beach, because we didn’t see the clouds coming up?”…”Yes, I remember, we only had eyes for each other.”

Secondly: Talking:
What shall we talk about? I know already everything about my partner…Do you now?!

I’m not expecting that you recount your life-story every second weekend. You don’t need to dwell in the past to find interesting topics to talk about. Each day so much is happening to every one of us. All I’m asking for is to have a genuine interest in the life and thoughts of your partner. And equally so, be genuinely prepared to letting your partner be a part of your life and therefore sharing your thoughts.

Look, we take it as a fact of live that we need to commute to work for one hour on average each way. But we are too concerned about our precious time to even connect with our partner for 10 minutes each day.

Why not make it a habit to have a cup of tea together when you come home. Just ten minutes to come home and come to your senses. Leave the workday behind and exchange stories about the day. What was exciting? What was annoying? Share those experiences with your partner. And most of all, listen when your partner is recounting their day. Active and emphatic listening is the key here.

One of our basic needs in human psychology is the need of being connected and being heard. When you are coming home to simply stretch out on the sofa and watching television, which does not count as being connected.

Thirdly: Intimacy and Sex:
Sure, sex is important in a loving relationship. But sex does not need to end in penetration or orgasm all the time. Real intimacy is as important or valuable as sex. So let’s talk about intimacy here for that purpose of understanding long-lasting relationships.

Intimacy can be the holding hands when walking at the beach, a spontaneous cuddle in the kitchen or lying in his arms at night and just listening for each other’s heartbeat. The deep knowing smile you send across the dinner table at a friend’s house. Or you reading her favourite book to her, while she is not feeling well.

All these gestures are representing a deeper connection and a deeper love and thereby expressing the intimacy that only a long solid relationship provides.

In my workshops I am asking the attendees what they think is the first one to go, when a relationship turns into a downward spiral. And more often than not the response is: Intimacy / Sex.

But that is not true. The missing sex is only an expression of the missing connection and understanding. The issues start when you are not taking the time for each other anymore. Quality time is the first casualty in a relationship that’s gone sour.

 

This is only one episode of the many, many tips, tricks and techniques I want to share with my audience under “Love by Design”.
Together we can change the world and save 1 million marriages – one child at a time.

Join the movement and be part of a change in behaviour and understanding which is so much needed in our fast-pacing world.

Thank you.
Jürgen Schmechel
Founder of Inspiring Relationships and Love by Design.