There is an unspoken rule in relationships that partners can’t have any fun together until they “get over” the significant problems they face or stop having any kind of conflict.
The truth is, all relationships have issues, and if you wait until they are resolved to start enjoying each other again, you may be waiting a very long time. Love is a feeling that must be cultivated with quality time together that does NOT focus on the issues you currently face. Whatever you’d like to address, whether it be recovering from an affair, resolving a disagreement on a major life issue, or facing the normal waning of romance in the daily grind of life, unless you focus some effort on what is RIGHT in your relationship, you may miss the opportunity to improve it.
But Cindy, you say, I would be faking it. Things are not all romantic and happy right now. I need to be real, right?
Yes, be authentic about what you feel and need, and tell your partner in a safe way, like through Imago dialogue. Still, sometimes you gotta fake it until you make it. When there is much that is wrong, and you are both hurting, it is hard to keep in mind that your issues are only one part of your relationship, not its whole story. You can consciously decide to work on those things at a particular time, like at your marriage counseling appointment, and live in the now otherwise. You are not ignoring the conflict, you are choosing to be strategic about how you use your time and energy.
Sometimes you have set aside what’s wrong for a while to save what’s right about your relationship, to be able to remember the way things once were, or to be able to dream together about what it could still be.
That’s why I encourage couples to give each other appreciations. Notice and verbalize what you are grateful for or admire about your partner. Continue to enjoy fun activities together, especially physical pursuits such as working out together, dancing, or my personal favorite, a round of golf (you’d be amazed at how therapeutic four hours together with no interruptions can be). Do something new or go somewhere new together. Surprise your partner with something he or she would enjoy. Find a way to laugh together (I Love Lucy reruns?) and keeping having sex or affectionate hugs and touch. Both belly laughs and sex release oxytocin, a bonding chemical that can help you feel closer.
In short, keep working on your issues and start acting as if your relationship was strong and healthy until it starts growing that way. Until it starts feeling that way again. Until it is strong and healthy again.
Read more Relationship Rules to Break. Check back each Tuesday over the coming weeks to see more rules and why you should break them. You can also follow The Imago Center of DC on Facebook and Twitter to get our latest articles directly in your newsfeed.