I'm a huge Motown fan. One of the first tapes I ever got was a Diana Ross and the Supremes album. If you listen to their recent #1's collection, you'll notice that in one song, she gets the guy. In the next song, she loses him. And then she gets the guy, and loses him. I'm not sure if they meant for the entire album to follow that pattern, but sometimes in relationships, it can seem that way.
The love comes.
The love goes.
The love waxes.
The love wanes.
You came into my heart
Now that I surrender…
You now wanna leave
Just what is love, and where does it go?
Let's start with the basics. What is love? For centuries, poets, storytellers, and musicians have been trying to form a definition that really captures the meaning.
I love chocolate chip cookies. I love sitting on my porch. But those two types of love don't compare to the love I have in my relationship.
When I'm in sessions with couples, and I ask them why they love each other, they stop and think. Even though they have been together for years, it's hard to put into words just what love is, and why you love the person you do.
They even blush a bit when they try to put it into words. No matter how deep the feelings are, it often sounds a bit trite and cheesy when you try to share it.
“I love you because you get me.”
“I'm attracted to you.”
“You make me laugh.”
“You give me the best back rubs.”
Do you see it? Even though you may mean those things with all of your heart, when you try to say why you love someone, it never seems to quite capture just what you feel and how deep those feelings are. Couples often bust out laughing at some of the responses. Or sometimes, the other person feels a bit dejected, like maybe anyone could make their partner feel that way; it has nothing to do with them specifically.
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt that even though you knew the other person cared for you and loved you, that somewhere along the way, the love went away?
Ooh, baby, baby
Where did our love go?
Ooh, don't you want me?
Don't you want me no more?
The secret to why this happens has to do with connection.
Couples can be busy, and can even live in separate states, but if they feel connected to each other, that's what makes the difference and keeps the love alive. Connection helps partners to feel like the other person is there for them, on the good days and on the hard days. And when the other person is there for you, it helps to build trust.
Connection also helps partners to heal after tough moments. Whether it was a family dinner gone bad, a tough argument, or infidelity, connection is the thing that helps couples to move past the pain and to feel safe again.
Feeling connected to your partner can help you to feel less depressed and more optimistic about life. In fact, the best predictor of relationship success is when the woman feels like her partner cares- by being there and being connected to each other.
So what happens when couples don't feel connected to each other?
You stop turning to each other on the hard days. Instead of trusting that they will return your call when they have a break at work, you don't even send the text to tell them that you could use a laugh.
You may stop saying good-bye when you leave the house. You may not kiss each other when you came back home. You may not say goodnight. You may not watch TV together. You may not even try to eat dinner together. You gradually drift into separate worlds.
It often starts as an accident. Maybe you had a silly argument over how to load the dishwasher. Instead of apologizing, each of you went off separately to pout. And instead of saying you were sorry, you waited for the other person to say it first. But since they were waiting, too, neither or you ended up saying anything. And then, you forgot why you were even upset in the first place. But the gap had started, and you weren't sure how to get over it. You may have been afraid that they really were upset with you, instead of trusting that they had been silently hoping you would just start acting like normal again.
This is when secrets and lies can start and get out of hand. This is where trust disappears. This is where hope dissolves. This is where couples start to drift apart.
So what do you do when you wonder where your love has gone?
- Look for the openings to connect. They are there, but you have to look for them. When he grabs the remote, ask, “What are we watching?”
- Give invitations. Ask him to join you on a walk about the block. Ask if he wants to go with you to try out the new Thai restaurant. Even if he doesn't accept your invitations right away, keep extending them. Remember: he's looking for reassurance, too.
- Focus on his emotions. During those tough moments, it's easy to go on the defensive and to give reasons for why you did what you did. But this only increases the distance. By focusing on his emotions and what he shares, you'll prevent things from getting sticky, and it will build that closeness between the two of you. Once his feelings have been addressed, you'll realize that you actually did share your reasons without even realizing it!
If you would like to learn more about how to increase the connection in your relationship, be sure to register for the upcoming virtual class Effective Communication for Happy & Healthy Relationships: How to Decode and Connect to your Partner. Click here to find out more and to register. It starts next week- I hope to see you there!