You can see the writing on the wall already.
Your relationship is going nowhere.
Time is running out
The passion is gone, the talking has been missing for a long time.
The sex and the children is keeping it together – somehow.
It has been running its course for far too long now.
On the other hand – is it really over? Is it beyond repair?
You have been a good team. You are good parents. There is no violence, no hatred.
There is just plain emptiness.
How can you restore this?
You’ve tried so many things already and in the best of cases you see a spark, a small flame; but the next morning or the next week the emptiness is back.
Sometimes you wonder if you left, if you’d even be even missed. Sure, your kids and friends would miss you – your colleagues and customers too. But would your partner miss you? Or would your partner be relieved that it’s over?
What is it that is keeping you together for now?
Convenience, Security, or Habit?
You see, there are three pillars for your relationship and you need to work constantly on all three.
These are Quality Time, Communication and Intimacy (Sex)
If you could somehow increase the amount of Quality Time together you have a chance of turning your empty relationship around.
Sitting together in front of the telly does not do the trick.
You need to get away from home and do something together that gives both of you joy.
It’s like meeting with a friend for a coffee and a chat. You both do something together that brings joy to everyone involved.
Have you asked your partner what they would love to do over the weekend?
Do you know what really is going on in your partner’s head?
Recently a man contacted me after reading one of my newsletters and mentioned that these Active Appointments with his partner always come to an end too quickly and he does not see the benefit of even trying to spend quality time with his wife.
In response, I asked him simply whether he had asked his wife what she would really enjoy doing for their active appointment? It turned out that he hadn’t.
That is one of the dangers in every relationship. We are often so caught up in our own thoughts and values that we simply forget to notice that our partner might have totally different things on their minds.
The challenge is to find a healthy equilibrium between your own wishes and needs and those of your partner.
If you keep working on spending quality time with your partner doing something that you both enjoy, you will more than likely find that communication in your relationship begins to feel less laboured – slowly but surely. Eventually, you can re-create the loving, intimate and respectful relationship you both deserve.
Under my guidance (with either one or both of you), we won’t go seeking out and rehashing all the things that might have gone wrong in the past.
We are not here to air dirty laundry.
We will look into the future and learn how to build a strong foundation for a lasting relationship.
Please reach out if there’s anything I can help you with. Relationships are what I do!
Warning: This blog article covers a very contentious topic and might challenge your thinking. Please bear with me and please keep an open mind when reading.
The other day a client – let’s call her Louise – said to me “Why did he cheat on me? Why did he lie to me?”
Even though I wasn’t sure if this was a rhetorical question, I tried to answer her.
What became apparent was that she felt she had no influence in the matter and felt utterly betrayed by her husband.
And I don’t blame her.
The broken trust, the humiliation, the anger, and the hurt she’s carrying with her is often times too much to endure.
An affair is one of the major reasons for ending a relationship.
Often men and women do seek to gain something from an extra marital affair. Something they are not getting within their marriage – for whatever reason.
I dare to say that, in most of these cases, the affair only happened because something else in the relationship was not working.
In other words, the quality of your actual relationship plays a huge part in the question of whether your partner is going to have an affair or not.
This might be contrary to your personal experience and stories you heard from your friends.
And Louise was not happy either about my revelation to her.
He cheated on her, she did nothing wrong – period.
So, we started to look at the impact and the influence that any change might have on your life.
Just picture a 2×2 matrix where the amount of influence on change you have goes from left to right and the magnitude of impact goes from bottom to top. Like this…
Now you can place different events or areas of your life in this matrix to visualise what Change might do to you and how much say you have in this.
And remember this might be different for each and every one of us.
Let’s start with the Weather. We have absolutely no influence on the weather today. But what is the impact for you, and that might depend on your occupation and other factors. A rainy day might have a big impact, because it is your wedding day and you’ve set up a celebration at the beach. Or the rain has no impact at all, because you work in an office with parking available in the building.
What about Health? I think we can all agree that your health has a huge impact on you and I would even venture that you have a fair amount of influence over your health by eating healthy food and looking after your body through some kind of exercise.
Where would you put your Job? It has a fairly high impact on you. And again, depending on your personal circumstances, the influence you have might vary from none at all to a moderate or even high influence.
It’s getting more personal now. Where does Money sit for you personally? What kind of impact does a change in your finances have on you and how much of an influence do you have?
If all of your money is invested in your super, then your influence is smaller than if it is invested in the property-market. Which again would give you lesser influence compared to money in the stock-market.
And for those where the money they earn does not allow for any savings, the influence is minimal.
You could continue this little visualisation by placing things like where you live, the school your kids attend, and your personal happiness in the chart.
I’m sure you kind of expected the next question: where does your loving Relationship sit on this matrix.
An overwhelming number of people who have contacted me have put the loving relationship where the purple Relationship is in the picture above.
They blame their husband or they blame their wife for all the misery that is happening in their relationship.
- “If only he would show his feelings more…”
- “If only she would touch me more often…”
- “He is never home for me…”
- “If she would not constantly criticise me..”
- “If only I could get through to him and feel heard…”
The truth is, that you have a huge influence on your loving relationship. But how?!?
- By changing your behaviour!
- By changing your boundaries and making them clear!
- By voicing your expectations!
- By meditating!
- By kissing your partner more often…
And the list can go on.
When I was talking and coaching Louise, she initially didn’t want to hear this and was even angry with me. The more we talked about this and analysed her personal situation the more it dawned on her that her behaviour had an impact on her relationship and on her happiness.
If you found this article helpful, please forward it to your friends and maybe you too want to have some coaching around your relationship like Louise. Please contact me here and set up a time for a free phone call.
Divorces are happening before one of your kids turns 2
In the beginning of your relationship, there are a couple of phases that are super critical for the chance of having a long-lasting relationship.
The first phase is when you move in with each other. In this phase, you learn more about yourself and about your partner than in all the months or years of dating before.
No longer can you now ignore the un-tidiness of your partner nor the way they like to organise things. During your time of dating, that might have been a small annoyance – now it is visible in plain sight.
And even more crucial than tidiness or organisational talents is the way your partner handles money.
Because moving in with each other is – even in the 21st century – also an economic decision. A major part of your living costs (rent, groceries, and insurances) are now shared.
The second big change in both of your lives is when you fall pregnant and you both slowly realise that his life will never be the same.
Until then, everything you did in your life was reversible. Moving to a different city? You can move back if it doesn’t work out. Starting a job? You can switch to another if need be. Dating or falling in love with the wrong partner? You could break up and search for a new one.
Becoming a parent is a life-long responsibility and joy. You can’t give it back to where it came from.
For men especially, this change can be very daunting.
They not only need to come to terms with their new role and that there is little creature totally depending on them, men also need to accept that their partner might have changed during the process of becoming a mum.
Maybe the pregnancy was not all fun? Maybe she gained more weight than she ever thought possible and does not like her body? Maybe breast feeding does hurt? Maybe the delivery of the baby took endless hours and she needs weeks to recover?
All this time he watches in bewilderment because he does not know what is going on.
A new born baby has an influence of everything in your normal life.
Less sleep, less sex, less freedom to do what you want.
And if men don’t embrace the role of being a father, they may struggle with the loss of freedom, sex and sleep big time.
For some relationships, that might be enough pressure and change to have you both reaching breaking point already.
It might not be an immediate knowing of something not feeling the same, it might not necessarily happen in the first six months. It’s all brand new and both partners may hope that the changes will calm down and everything will back to normal.
In some cases, that is exactly what happens. The baby starts to sleep more and more hours at a time and that gives you both back the sleep and the chance for more sex. Your freedom is still limited but that is starting to feel okay.
Let’s now look at the next crucial phase in your young relationship: the second child.
You both thought, how can this be different? We managed the first one. Let’s have another one – it can’t have that much of an impact.
We thought the same when our first born was only eight or nine months old, we decided to have a second child. My wife fell pregnant immediately – and then everything was different.
Your second pregnancy might be different, but your sleep and sex life will undoubtedly be affected again during this time.
Then the delivery of the second child might be more complicated than the first one and leave more scars – physically and mentally.
So again you work through the phase with less sleep and hardly any sex.
This time around it is even more complicated because the first-born child demands your time and attention too. And rightly so.
You both now have to juggle the interrupted nights, the new baby, the first born child, the work, the daily chores around the house and at the same time you both want time for yourselves and time and opportunity for fulfilling sex.
And for a lot of couples, this burden is too much.
And after six, nine or twelve months, one or both of you may be at the point of a breakdown. What follows are heated arguments and fights.
Until you realise – this can’t go on like this and you file for divorce. Your youngest child still under two years of age.
What could you do?
This all comes back to communication and awareness.
What I suggest to my clients to do is what I call the 168-hour challenge.
Each week we have 168 hours available. Just make a list or pie chart like the one above where you sum up all the hours in a week you spend working, sleeping, cooking and so on.
As a rule of thumb, your work takes up one third of your day and sleep takes up one third as well. In other words, that leaves you with only 56 hours per week for everything else you need to achieve.
Once both of you have allocated your 168 hours of time, you can now compare the two charts.
Every time I do this with my clients, they have a huge ‘aha’ moment. When you compare both your time-charts, you will immediately see that they are completely different after the children are born.
What becomes most obvious to many people here is that there is no me-time anymore once the babies have arrived.
But you need time for yourselves. You need to have the chance to centre yourself and respect and love yourself.
You can only give what you have yourself.
If the pregnancies and the care for your young babies affected your respect or love for yourself – how are you supposed to love your partner and show respect?
This is the first step – the awareness.
Now that you have the facts and the data in plain sight, you can talk about this with less emotion.
From awareness you then can start to communicate and express how you would like things to change to create the relationship and the parenting style you both want.
Talking about your emotions, wants and aspirations is so much easier when it’s done outside of your day to day life and in a safe environment.
That’s what my coaching provides. The safe space for you to create the loving, intimate and respectful relationship you both deserve.
“My husband is not sharing enough emotionally” she said – “Compared to what?” I responded.
“We are not having enough sex” he said – “Compared to what?” I asked him.
“We don’t talk enough” she complained – “Compared to what?” I teased her.
In one of his famous poems the German poet and author Bertold Brecht notes –
“What do you do” – Mr. Nebody was asked, “when you love a person”.
“I take a blueprint of this person” – he responded “and see to it that they are going to be alike”
“What, the blueprint?” – “No, the person”
You see, comparison is one of the great dangers in your relationship.
You might have seen me comment before that the gap between your expectations and the reality is one of the biggest stressors within a relationship.
A comparison of your partner or their behaviours to anyone else or to any other situation in your life is a dangerous game. You are searching for ways to prove that your partner may not have met your expectations in that moment.
You might compare your partner to previous partners, and you might conclude that they aren’t as great at kissing as others. The moment you find yourself doing this, every alarm bell in your system must go off.
You are not together with your previous partner any more – and most likely for good reasons.
You are together and in love with your partner now. What good can come from comparing them with someone who has already proven to be ill-suited to you?
Even more dangerous is it to compare your partner to the ideal person.
You might find yourself asking “Why doesn’t he take out the garbage when he sees that the bin is full? Like any loving husband would do.”
Or “How come my wife is not doing it this way? Everyone else would know.”
The truth is that we are constantly comparing in our lives.
- It is warmer now than last year.
- It rained less.
- He earns more than me.
- She is more beautiful.
- Their car is faster and more expensive.
We do it constantly and automatically.
And sure enough we do this in our relationships.
- The sex in the beginning was more passionate
- He is less understanding to my situation.
- She is too tired.
- He doesn’t listen to me like my friends do
- He is way more stressed nowadays – I wonder why.
When it is so engrained in our psyche and when it is so natural to compare, what can we do to avoid it?
The challenge is to observe ourselves and realise that we do compare, despite it not being a helpful, healthy habit. Just acknowledging the behaviour makes us aware of its pointlessness.
You may find yourself thinking “He doesn’t understand me anymore.” You might even say these words out loud to him in an accusingly voice, which puts him immediately into a defensive position and could easily turn into a heated argument where both of you are saying things you don’t really want to say or mean.
Instead of taking the accusation or the inquisitor role, you could become curious and kind.
Try to see his behaviour through a filtered lens – and the filters are Love and Understanding.
You love him and you want to understand him. You might like to ask him in an encouraging voice – “Look, I feel like you have a lot on your mind right now and I’d love to understand what is stressing you lately. When would be a good time for you to talk about this?”
You are not challenging him. You are not blaming him. You are not accusing him of any wrongdoing. You are simply curious. And you give him a wide opening to respond.
I’m sure you will find that the moment you are open to listening and understanding where he is right now, that in his response, you’ll feel heard by him.
It is human nature; you are helping him to voice what it is on his mind; you may even find that your new behaviour will encourage him to be curious and understanding for you too.
The more you practice Love and Understanding in your relationship, the less likely you are to fall into the dangerous trap of comparison and stress from unmet expectations.
If you like personal support with your relationship please contact me for an obligation free call where we can explore whether and how I could help you.
In my big relationship model – which I share at my live events – I talk about the importance of acknowledging that we all have a past.
We all do.
We all have a metaphorical chest full of memories, experiences and – for lack of a better word – trauma. That’s the baggage we all carry with us through our lives.
Not talking about these things, not acknowledging that they are there is dangerous for your relationship.
They are dangerous actually, for two reasons. First, your partner might involuntarily step on a time-bomb and unintentionally trigger you to explosion point – which is not a good dynamic in a relationship. Secondly, if you bury your past under a mountain of work, actions and distractions, you might internalise things for too long, which could easily come back and bite you.
I always recommend to have many active appointments in your relationship, and one of the most important reasons for this is because it gives you both an opportunity to exchange stories and trauma from each other’s past.
Now, your future is even more important.
Why? Because you have the chance to create it. You can learn from your past experiences and traumas, and use the lessons learned and wisdom gained to craft a relationship that you really want.
This is your life, it is your relationship, and these are your dreams. No one else can create your future but yourself.
You’d be surprised to know that in my online survey there are many couples who have been together for more than 7 years, and they have neither common life goals nor agreed on a family-budget.
How do you expect to create a respectful and lasting relationship if you have not shared the life-changing moments from your past, which will ultimately help you set up aligned life goals for your future?
I recently met two young people – they’ve been a couple and decided that their vision for the future was so different that they’d rather split up now instead of being disappointed two or three years down the track. One of them had a clear plan of when to settle down and have children, and the other was way more open to what the future might bring.
They clearly spoke about their goals and future and explored whether their vision was at all compatible. As they found out it wasn’t, so they decided to end it amicably in the present, to avoid it dissipating sadly in the future.
When your vision is stronger than your memories, then you can move forward.
Remembering and acknowledging your past experiences and memories is important and that’s why it is good to look into that chest of baggage every now and share it respectfully and trustingly with your partner.
Focus on your vision for your future together, your goals and aspirations, so that your baggage can be put to good use.
You want to lift the fog.
You want to see the path in front of you.
You want to be able to walk this path together with your best friend – your spouse.
So what can you do?
The easiest way is to write down what you want in the different areas of your life. What do you want to do, be or have in five or ten years’ time?
You could write an essay or just a list.
You could make a mind map or post-it notes.
The more detailed, the better.
Lift the fog of your future. The clearer you can describe and articulate your vision, the better your mate will understand.
Create a visible representation of your ideas and dreams – called a vision map. Use old pictures from magazines and newspapers and stick them on a visible reminder of what your goals are.
You too can build your future.
Once you have done this, you could encourage your partner to do the same and then go ahead and compare.
You might actually find that this is so much fun, creating your future together with your partner and helping them to create theirs.
And the most exciting part is that – in a few years – you will find that many of your dreams and aspirations actually came true.
If you want to learn more about how to create your future and which areas you should include, please send me a note. I’ve got a pretty cool process for this and am more than happy to share.