One of the most common problems I see in couples is the loss of emotional (as opposed to sexual) intimacy in their relationship.
This is true even among couples who love each other, who are committed, and who are not fighting. They report a sense of distance, of something lacking, and having trouble finding time to get together and do something meaningful.
They literally cannot be in the same place at the same time, doing something that is worthwhile.
Spending memorable time together, just the two of you, is critical for a feeling of closeness.
The most important talks a couple can have are discussions about what the two of them have done together and what are planning and looking forward to for in the future. Couple chatter that revolves around scheduling and planning for things for the children (or parents, or pets) is a necessary part of being a high functioning couple who accomplish important tasks, but it doesn’t do anything to cement two people together.
I’ve seen plenty of marriages where spouses feel lonely and alienated from each other, yet they function wonderfully for the children. But for the parents, they are in a relationship that has commitment without passion or intimacy.
Is this the kind of relationship you’re in? I have a simple technique that can help you begin to reconnect.
I call it the Route 1 Technique.
Imagine Jim and Tara. They really love each other. They each like each other, too. But somehow, they never connect.
For instance, Jim suggests they go to a line dancing party on the weekend. Tara says that her knee is killing her. The suggestion is dropped.
They spend that weekend, pretty much the only time they could really have any relaxing time together, doing low-value, low-stimulation, low-connection activities like separately playing games on the Internet or watching TV.
Before you know it, the weekend is over and the stresses of the work week begin. They both feel a little more alienated from each other.
The next week, Tara asks Jim if he will go to the museum with her on Saturday. He asks what is on exhibit, but when she tells him he’s clearly less than enthusiastic about it. They drop it again.
Tara goes to the museum and then out to dinner with a friend on Saturday. She comes home at 10 p.m., but Jim’s ready to go to sleep.
What about Sunday? Jim realizes he has to work on the family taxes. And so another opportunity to connect is gone for the week.
Don’t be like Tara and Jim. If you’re serious about having a great relationship, you can’t operate that way. You two have to keep coming up with suggestions for an activity, until one sticks. Take turns making suggestions.
At a seminar I took years ago, the speaker said, “It’s ok to fail, but fail fast.”
He meant that if one thing you try fails, immediately try another. And if you refuse your partner’s idea for an activity, it is up to you to quickly pitch an alternative.
One of the couples I counsel taught me this trick, which I now call the Route 1 Rule.
There is a long road called Route 1 that runs north out of Boston. It’s a fast, large road, lined with all kinds of restaurants. It’s not scenic (one Boston Globe article claimed it was the transportation equivalent of a face only a mother could love), but if you have lived in Boston, you have fond feelings for this road.
Driving north on Route 1, there are varied, reasonable choices for hungry people. But you have to know what you are doing. The traffic goes fast, and it’s not easy to turn around if you miss something.
If you waste making a decision, the restaurants end and you’ve missed your chance to eat. And you will find yourselves on a long stretch of rural road.
This couple loves to take day trips around Boston. But they would often get into a stalemate driving up Route 1 when it was time to eat. One person would suggest a particular restaurant. The other person would nix it, but then fail offer an alternative suggestion.
So they’d keep driving north, and before they knew it, they’d be past all the possible restaurants. Then they were hungry and cranky with each other.
So they made a rule: If you nix your partner’s suggestion about where to eat, it is on you to throw out another idea — quickly.
The couples I work with use this rule for suggesting activities to do together. They find that they’re having much more fun together, their lives are more interesting, and they feel closer.
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