Several years ago, I was stuck in a dark place in my marriage.
Listen to the post below
This darkness seeped out as anger – I would storm and bang around the house in a passive aggressive fury, without saying anything to my husband.
It seeped out in my avoidance of intimacy – my libido was practically non-existent.
It seeped out in my energetic output – he could feel my anger and would respond by being more cautious and standoffish . This made me angrier (and around we would go).
Our marriage was starting to feel more unsafe and less loving – for both of us.
Often, when we are in a dark relationship place, such as the one I’ve described above, we think we need our partners to change. We think: if I could just feel more love from him first or if he could just behave in a different way, then everything would be better.
But, in my experience, waiting for him to change or trying to change him doesn’t work.
And it feels very dis-empowering waiting for someone else to change.
So what does work? What can YOU do?
Here are three things you can start to do now to feel more love in your relationship:
First of all, we have to stop thinking that disagreements are mistakes or that there’s something wrong with the relationship when we disagree or fight.
Rather, instead of focusing on trying to avoid problems or conflicts (because in partnership, that’s impossible to do), we focus on getting really good at Repair.
Repair means taking the steps to make up after a fight or disagreement. It is the act of apology, explanation, debrief, exploration and sharing of deeper values to allow you to make sense of your conflict and grow together..
As a result, there is more love, connection and clarity in your relationship.
Everyone needs this relationship skill but most of us have never learnt it. I talk more about repair here.
What you can do right now
Make the effort to repair something you feel has been left unfinished.
You know your relationship best and what will work for you and how you can go about it.
You could try the words: “Hey, I was wondering if you would be open to chatting about what happened between us the other day. I am not proud of the way I responded….”
In couples there is often a (mostly subtle) tussle for power.
Who gets to be right? Who gets to decide on things? Who has more power over the different realms of love, sex, money, children etc?.
Power struggles can create a lot of conflict.
But now it’s time to shift the way you feel about and look at power in your relationship.
Your power in your relationship is not about your partner and what he or she does or doesn’t do.
Your power comes from having a strong sense of self. A sense of who you are, what you value, what you need, and what you will and won’t put up with.
In other words, power in your relationship comes from self-empowerment.
And self-empowerment is all about boundaries.
Boundaries are your limits. What is and what is not okay for you. They are your way of looking after yourself within the relationship space.
Don’t feel like you have good boundaries? No sweat! Boundaries are not set in stone. They change as your relationship grows. They need to be constantly evolved and tweaked as you learn and become more informed and equipped to nourish each other. In other words you can start today.
When you are boundaried and self-empowered, this minimises the power struggle and creates space for more love in your relationship.
What you can do right now
If something doesn’t feel right in your relationship, this can be a sign that there is a need for a boundary. Take some time. work out what is not working for you and create a boundary that feels appropriate. Start small.
3. Share yourself
The most valuable resource in your relationship is your connection with your partner.
When your relationship started, it was founded on it being a connection that felt good, it worked for you both and you wanted to continue to nourish it and keep it alive.
Which is what you still want, right?
Connections can be business-like, brief interactions or more physical by nature.
But in a loving, intimate relationship, connection is preferably heart to heart – this is what intimacy is.
To be heart to heart means there is a sharing of your inner world – your feelings, fears and truths.
Often sharing heart to heart happens more regularly and easily in the initial stages of romantic love. But then, after many years together, it can become very business-like. It is common for couples to stop sharing and become more focussed on the logistics of picking up kids, cooking dinner or co-habiting.
Despite the time pressures, there’s also a deeper reason why we don’t share.
We often have beliefs and presumptions we hold about marriage, what it means and how we should behave within it (by married here, I mean any committed relationship). We shame ourselves into believing “I shouldn’t be thinking or feeling this way. This is not what a ‘good’ wife thinks, feels or needs.”
When you feel ashamed of your thoughts, feelings and needs, to then share yourself can be very scary and vulnerable.
In my marriage, shame kept me isolated for far too long. When I finally took the brave step of sharing myself, from that dark place, it changed everything. It was a huge relief for my husband to hear my truth because he had presumed the worst.
What to do right now
Start small. Explore where you might be shaming your feelings, thoughts and needs. Then, gently find a hidden part of you that you feel comfortable in allowing your partner to see and feel.
- Look at the list above and choose one area that feels like a priority to focus on/ heal/ take your responsibility for. Look here if you need one-on-one help.
- Sign up for my 3 steps to stop being a bitch
- Read my previous post in the 4-part series: Why do I get so angry at my husband?
- For a deeper dive, join my online workshop: "How to stop being a bitch to the one you love"
Want to listen again?
You can listen to my posts as podcasts. On Unbreakable Love, or listen to this post below.