“Anyone who stops getting better has stopped being good.”
Countless companies have this motto pinned to the wall.
This shall serve as a constant reminder that you need to refine, improve and optimise as often as possible, if not constantly.
Does this motto serve for relationships as well?
In a way I think it does.
You see the biggest danger for a relationship is routine, the knowing that it will be the same tomorrow. But why is that? We want certainty, do we not?
Yes, we want certainty but it could be argued that we want an equal amount of uncertainty in our lives too.
Remember the time you were dating your partner. You would go out together. You’d feel the spark in each other’s company. You’d get butterflies in your stomach. Your first kiss felt electric.
Since then you have moved in together. You have built your home together. Everything is perfect and you are happy and grateful that you met the soulmate you were always searching for.
And now the routine sets in.
You wake up at the same time every morning. You go to work. You come home. You have dinner together. You watch television together. You go to bed together and every now and then you have sex.
You have created your little world together. It’s perfect, isn’t it?
I need to warn you, the biggest danger to your relationship is this routine.
You take each other for granted. The days (and nights) are predictable. One week looks like the next and last month was just like the month before.
“But that’s exactly what I want!” I hear you say.
And yes, you are right, to a certain extent we all want the predictability, the security and the routine.
Yet at the same time, we all want the unpredictable surprises, we want the spark of adrenaline and we want something unknown.
According to Anthony Robbins there are six human needs we all want to see fulfilled: Certainty, Uncertainty, Love & Connection, Significance, Growth, and Contribution. I’m not going into each of these six in this article, but it is interesting to note that even Anthony Robbins acknowledges our NEED for both certainty AND uncertainty. It almost seems contradictory, and herein lies the problem.
The danger with ‘Routine’ is that the next stage after that is ‘Boredom’, where couples then start to drift apart.
So what can you do to stop Routine from creeping in?
There are a couple of simple ways to bring the spark back, or even better to never lose it.
The best thing you can do is to have regular Active Appointments with your partner. This is where you and your partner find a time and date to go out together and do something special. It could be a walk through the neighbourhood in the moonlight, it could be a quiet dinner at a local restaurant, going to the movies or a stroll on the beach.
The important thing is to allocate time for just the two of you and to go out, to leave the normality of your home behind. Ideally you would not even take your mobile phones – you don’t need distractions when you are actively spending time with your partner.
Another great way to break through the routine is to surprise your partner with something unexpected. A bunch of flowers or box of chocolates on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon. Or cooking their favourite dinner instead of watching television. You could organise an active appointment by going out for breakfast one day during the week and start work later that day.
Remember, it is the little things that make a big difference.
By doing something unexpected, your neural system in your brain is challenged. Your brain is building new connections and gets on higher alert. Your pulse quickens and your whole body is on alert.
We human needs these sparks to make our life interesting and exciting.
Write your partner a love-letter and send it by post.
Organise a weekend away to a romantic getaway.
Go camping or for a bike ride together.
Anything that shows your partner “let’s do something out of the ordinary” helps your relationship to stay young and vibrant.
If you haven’t done it, I urge you to do the relationship quiz and find out whether your relationship is in the Routine stage.
“I want to give us a chance.”
“I am the one always working on our relationship.”
“I don’t know what to do anymore. I am at my wits’ end”
“My partner doesn’t know or even realise how bad it is.”
You can feel the desperation in those lines.
These are some of the comments from over a thousand people who have participated in my online relationship quiz so far. (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/INSP07X)
What do you do if you are the only one in your relationship wanting to work on it?
It does not mean that your partner has checked out or does not love you anymore. They are just not aware of what is going on in your head.
You might even think that you are exaggerating or overreacting because apparently your partner is happy the way it is and you are not.
Let’s analyse this common scenario further, because this is a very interesting topic in regards to perception, assumptions and reality.
Here are few of examples of what could be at the heart of your disjointed feelings about the relationship – in any situation it can be very dangerous to be left guessing.
First of all, your partner might be well aware of your feelings and the state of your relationship, and just doesn’t know what to do. They might be too scared to bring up the topic because they don’t want to get back into an argument. You are assuming that your partner is oblivious to your feelings, but it is important to ask yourself if that truly is the case.
Secondly your partner might also be working on your relationship to the best of their abilities. Maybe you just don’t see their efforts and engagement. You are assuming that they are not making any effort, but maybe they do. Maybe they are reading on the train on the way to work, or connecting with a mentor when they head off to golf on the weekend?
It is difficult to find out whether your assumptions are correct or not. You could ask your partner although that does require a level of connection within your relationship that you might not see anymore.
Simply asking your partner “how happy are you?” might backfire and create an avalanche of arguments and accusations – surely not the result that you want.
So here is your dilemma.
You are unhappy or even frustrated within your current relationship.
You feel that your partner is not helping to make it better.
You want to work on your relationship and save it.
You don’t want to leave.
You don’t want to be the only one making an effort.
loving middle aged couple hugging with eyes closed closeup portrait
What can you do to save your marriage or relationship?
Option #1: You can ask your partner directly “How happy are you right now in our relationship?” and take it from there. This approach requires the communication within your relationship is working and that there is a mutual respect.
If this is not the case and you ask that direct question, it could easily backfire and end up in a heated argument. Not what you want at this stage.
Option #2: You make a secret list of the top three things you would like your partner to change or do differently. You make this list just for yourself and not for sharing with anyone else. Then you create another list of the top three things you think that your partner might want you to change or do differently. Again this is for your eyes only. You don’t need to ask your partner, because chances are that you know exactly what your partner would like you to change.
Here comes the kicker – pick one of the three items you think your partner would change about you and begin to act upon it without announcing it or asking for feedback. Just act differently and watch what happens. The challenge for you is to pick one issue where you are rather comfortable in changing your behaviour. Don’t make it too hard on yourself.
Option #3: Read a book on relationships like my “Why Money is more important than Sex” encourage your partner to do the same. This would give you a starting point for conversation that might be helpful for your relationship.
You see if you do not consciously take care of the things you cherish, they decline in value. You maintain your house, your car, your computer, your health, and your teeth because if you don’t, they lose their value. If you do not look after your relationship, it declines in value as well.
Option #4: You do nothing and hope that your relationship gets better over time.
In my experience this approach hardly ever has the desired outcome. The likely scenario is that the silence and distance between you two grows and eventually becomes unbridgeable.
Option #5: You reach out to a mentor or coach and have personal coaching just for yourself. Trying to get your partner to come along can be fruitless, so start with your own growth and take it from there.
As we saw in the statements in the beginning of this article, often times a partner doesn’t realise what’s at stake and is reluctant to talk about it to a stranger.
No matter which of the five options you choose to take, I am here to help you. I’m more than happy to discuss your personal situation in an obligation free call. In this call we look at your individual situation and evaluate how I could be of service to you.
Book your free call by following this link: https://calendly.com/relationship/free-evaluation
Recently I presented Inspiring Relationships to a group of strangers and one of their question was, “What is their greatest fear?” – referring to the people seeking my guidance in regards to their relationship.
I responded that the biggest fear I see most often is to separate in an ugly divorce and to grow old alone with no one by their side to comfort them and hug them.
I’ve witnessed frustrations of missing connection, missing intimacy/sex and admission of constant fights over money, children, time and sex – and I’ve seen that some people have become desperate.
Someone from the group I was talking with chimed in “What about the fear of staying married…?” That got him a couple of laughs and I continued with my presentation.
Still, his flippant comment got me thinking. What if the fear is actually not the divorce but staying in their unhealthy or even toxic relationship with nowhere to go?
Just imagine the situation of a husband and wife living together but not really living together. They cohabitate like flatmates. One of them might do the laundry for both and the other one does the cooking. That’s where the commonality stops.
There is no heart in it and secretly one or both are thinking “How could I ever get out of here…?”
You know, it is a huge step to finally confront your partner and tell that you want to move out. First, you need to sort out and decide where you want to live, how you can afford it and how you are going to split all the possessions you’ve accumulated together over the year.
It is so much easier to batten down the hatches, pull the hoodie over your ears and weather the storm; meaning it is so much easier to stay in an unhealthy relationship than to make this huge decision of ending it.
It is easier, but not better.
Last year I spoke to someone – it took him ten years to stand up and face the consequences. He said it had been ten miserable years where he dreaded coming home every evening.
Can you imagine living like that for ten years?
I think the flippant comment made that was right, there really is a fear for many people that they will stay married. They would probably give a lot to someone taking them by their hand and showing them a way out. They know it won’t get any better in their current relationship, but still the status quo for them is less daunting than the idea of walking out of that door and never coming back.
What you could do.
If you find yourself in this situation of a flat and unhealthy relationship you need to take stock:
How bad is it?
Is there a chance that it will get better?
What could you do to make it better?
How could you change to bring your relationship back from the brink?
Is there any hope at all?
And if you then realise that most likely this won’t get any better and that there is literally no hope then you need to ask yourself:
Do you want to keep enduring this situation?
Do you accept feeling unfulfilled every day?
Or do you see a way out?
Do you think you deserve better in your life?
Once you’ve made a decision that you deserve better and that you don’t want to further endure this bad relationship, then you can start to look for solutions.
Talk to friends. Scan the rental market and don’t forget to obtain legal and financial advice.
Remember that money is more important than sex, especially when it comes to break ups and divorce as we always end up talking about one thing: Money
What I can do for you
I am not a legal nor a financial advisor.
But I can be a sounding board and a mentor in helping you to assess your situation from an unbiased, outside perspective. I can help you to find the right decision for you.
Pick up your calendar and book in a suitable time for an obligation free call with me.
For the last couple of years, you have secretly (and sometimes openly) voiced your concerns that your kids will never leave the home environment. You felt like Hotel Mama or Hotel Papa.
They come when they please, not announcing friends staying over and the fridge is perpetually empty despite being at the grocery store more than you’d like.
They drive your car every now and then, and surely borrow your camera equipment once in a while.
As a result, you’ve felt a bit like a supplier of all sorts of services and gadgets.
Finally, they have announced they are ready to move out. First the older and a few months later the younger one too. It is as if they’ve planned the retreat together. Maybe they did, neither of them wanted to be left alone with Mum and Dad.
So here you have it. The kids are moving out.
What does this mean for you and your relationship?
Sure, the last couple of years the conversation was less and less about the kids and their welfare. But in all plans, they were a fixed part and now there is a void.
A void you and your partner need to fill with something.
Don’t underestimate this. It is a big change and every big change is a rattling at the fortress you and your partner have built over the last twenty years or so.
And herein lies the danger and the opportunity for you and your partner.
If your relationship is happy, solid and shaped by mutual respect and understanding then this transition to a kids-free lifestyle is just another inevitable change in your lives and a great opportunity for growth.
If on the other hand your relationship is merely functioning or worse only surviving, then this new challenge could easily become the last straw for your relationship.
Many of the people who have participated in my online relationship quiz have been together with their partner for longer than 15 years. 25% of those pose questions to me showing that indeed a lot of things in their relationships are not clearly communicated and not effectively discussed.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a chance that this change of your children moving out has a boosting effect on your relationship so you can finally concentrate all your energy on to each other.
In my experience, the chances for this are slim.
More likely is the scenario that your house of cards will tumble because it is being shaken by your kids leaving home.
What you could do?
This is your chance, take it.
Have a clear and open conversation with your partner and together try to answer this question:
How do we want to live in our future together?
It might be the case that you don’t like the answer your partner gives you.
Or you might not like the answer you give yourself.
This is your chance to articulate your true feelings and desires and together work towards them.
No one expects you to have a 100% overlapping view for the rest of your lives. But if one of you wants to live in Greenland and the other one in Kenya, you have a conflict. It’s how you manage that conflict, either with discussion or compromise or understanding, that matters.
If your relationship is a healthy one and shaped by deep connection and love you will find a solution for it, no doubt.
If on the other hand there has been a crack in your relationship for some time now, then this new situation can easily be the end of it. It all depends on how you structure your approach and how you communicate.
The worst thing you could do is not to talk about it and then live together in a half empty house trying to avoid each other every step of the way.
I know what it takes to redefine your relationship. Our move from Hamburg to Sydney with two young boys did put some unexpected tough challenges on us.
If you want more guidance in regards to your new situation you can reach out and book yourself a free call with me using this link.
BTW: chances are – once you’ve sorted it all out – that one of your kids will be knocking at the front door, ready to move back home.
I would like you to imagine three days without sex and now three days without money. Which one is harder to imagine? Which one is harder to do?
Sure, we all want sex. Some of us, as often as possible, some of us on a regular basis, some of us every now and then – but we all want it to some extent. Living without sex for months on end may not be ideal, but it is possible. No one has ever died from lack of sex.
Money though? Living without money for even a month is practically impossible, especially if living in one of the twenty top industrial nations.
Please do not forget that living together is also an economical decision. It is cheaper in regard to rent, groceries, insurance, tax, holidays, your car and nearly everything. Therefore, the decision to move together is often driven by the fact that you’d save money – of course with the aim too to see each other more and have more sex.
When we fall in love, we are not thinking of money. We just want to be with our partner and enjoy his or her company and body. Sex then seems to be such a big bond between partners; so much so that everyone gives sexual satisfaction a high importance. And during that phase, money is of no concern – usually.
Six months later, you move in together and suddenly you realise the importance of money. Despite being a perfect match between the sheets, you might not be a perfect match when it comes to money.
People have different thoughts and opinions of money, how to attain it, accumulate it and spend it. Some people are frugal, stingy, and tight; others are extravagant and carefree in their spending. Some people inherit wealth; others have to scrimp and save.
Relationships suffer when couples have differing views about money. Making decisions about buying a car, taking a holiday, or even the choice of groceries in our trolleys can become hugely problematic when couples have different opinions.
Some people see money as the root of all evil and that all crime in the world is driven by money, or the lack thereof. For others, money is printed freedom, enabling them to choose what they want to do. There is no right or wrong answer, everyone is different, but when these differences cannot be reconciled, relationships suffer.
The fight over money drives more couples apart than the fight over sex. And for those couples who decide to divorce, all they talk about is money.
Learning about money and sex
From early childhood on we learn about money. The development phase from zero to seven years is called “imprint phase”. At this stage, we are like sponges, taking everything around us in at face-value, our critical faculties not yet developed.
Some of the beliefs formed during this period, including those about money, stay with us for the rest of our lives.
If you put two people with different belief-systems into a financial bond, you get all sorts of results. Therefore, it is important to talk about these things with your partner, with the aim to understand and compromise, not to influence or change your partner to your ways.
We learn about sex at a much later stage in life. We consciously learn what we like and dislike through our experiences.
Changes over time
Most of the time, learning about money is subconscious and reflects the belief systems we are exposed to as children. A person who is frugal at fifteen is almost always equally frugal at the age of 65. It is deeply ingrained in us. If a frugal person has a relationship with a big spender, it is likely to cause him or her a great deal of stress, just as it would if a super-tidy person lived with a chaotic and disorganised person.
With sex, the opposite is true. What people like and dislike changes over time; the wild times of your twenties at the start of your relationship, when you made love at least four times a night, become a distant memory. Your sex life changes due to many circumstances, including pregnancy, hormones, tiredness, stress, and illness to name but a few.
Often stress is related to money, and so you can see the connection between money and sex there. When people are stressed, their libido drops – it is difficult to focus on sex when you are worrying about how to pay the mortgage.
Money, or the lack thereof, or the stress over money can destroy your sex-life and your relationship. That’s why money is more important than sex and needs to be addressed in your conversations.
Excerpt from my latest book “Why Money Is More Important Than Sex” – you can order your signed copy here: https://www.inspiring-relationships.com.au/TheBook/