When I start working with a couple, I always begin by listening to their story. I love to hear how people met, and how the relationship developed. I ask questions like: "What attracted you to each other?"
"Why did you choose to date?"
"What did you talk about?" and
"What made you decide that this person was who you wanted to spend your life with?"
There really is a method to my madness. Most couples light up when they are reminiscing about their beginnings -- they remember what brought them together. As a clinician, I am trying to find an anchor in the relationship. If there was a spark in the beginning, I believe they can rekindle that spark.
Last week, I listened to a video by Esther Perel, a leader in relationship work. She addressed whether or not the concept of "the one" exists. Her take is that because there are no perfect people, we will never find anyone who can fulfill all of our needs, wants, and desires. Instead, we find someone who we want to write a story with. And, just like any rich story, this story has amazing chapters, chapters where you feel stuck, and chapters where you feel lost.
As many of us have found, if we have been in relationship for a while, we can lose our spark. Careers, finances, sickness, children...life tends to take over. It’s common for couples to feel like they’ve lost their connection, lost their ability to communicate, and/or lost their desire for intimacy. If a couple does not actively try to connect and to work through some of these concerns, frustrations brew, and betrayals, or even divorce may occur.
So, what can we do? One of the reasons Brandi and I are excited to offer retreats and workshops is that we want to catch couples before they have spent years feeling discontent. We want to catch them before they have to heal from betrayal. We want to catch them before they walk into the office with very little hope.
From personal experience, I know Brad and I feel pretty disconnected and stressed at times. We have found that if we disconnect from our everyday grind for a date night, or, even better, for a weekend, we find our spark again. When you can sit at dinner without reminding your eight-year-old to use his napkin instead of his sleeve, the energy feels different. If you can spend one night away -- a night where no one is going to knock on the door announcing their biology project is due by midnight -- you can find a spark. If the dresser that needs organized isn't staring at you, you can find a little spark! If you can have a conversation that doesn't start with "do you mind snagging milk?" it will help you remember who you are beyond your responsibilities.
It just so happens that I am writing this from Moscow, Idaho, where Brad and I met over 18 years ago in Plant Physiology. Our journey started with Brad bringing lab supplies to my table and stating, "I noticed you needed a petri dish." Pretty smooth, Brad! It’s funny to sit here now and reflect on all that has happened since that moment. We’ve had all types of chapters, but we continue to schedule in the time needed to find our spark.
I invite you to make 2019 the year that you intentionally take time to rekindle your relationship. Whether that is a weekend away, a weekly date night, or a retreat, find a way. The key is that you need a little air, away from your day-to-day, to find that spark!
Learn more about the Thriving Relationship at www.thethrivingrelationship.com.