When a marriage reaches a point where communicate has broken down to the point where repairing problems on a day to day basis is no longer possible, the death knell of the marriage has already begun to sound.
Relationship expert John Gottman has identified the final four stages that signal divorce is imminent:
You see marital problems as severe.
Talking things over feels useless—you solve problems yourself.
You start leading parallel lives.
Loneliness sets in.
By the time you get to these stages, the emotional separation is so acute that it is likely too late to salvage what is left of your relationship.
It’s not that healthy relationships are without conflict. Quite the contrary, conflict in relationships is inevitable and 65% of marital conflicts will never be resolved. Happy couples simply are able to work though the conflict and repair their relationship before negativity permeates all interaction.
It is so important to tune into one another every day to make your love last to ensure you will never have to find out what these stages feel like.
“Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.”
— David Whyte
I was reminded recently of the expression “Love is not what you say, Love is what you do.” It’s so easy in a long-term relationship to forget this simple lesson.
I see too many couples, who have learned this the hard way, AFTER resentment and contempt takes over and it is too late to resurrect the relationship.
In any relationship, the secret to preventing stagnation and making love last instead is really simple: paying attention to one another with genuine interest, respect, and caring over and over again each day. Unfortunately, too many couples in long-term relationships become complacent and take each other for granted.
Whereas at the beginning it seemed as though love would last forever, somewhere along the line, one or both partner lost sight of the things that made each fall for the other in the first place. Usually, if not always, this drifting apart doesn’t happen intentionally or with any ill will, but simply from a place of honest ignorance to the true meaning of love.
This might seem like every day has to be a RomCom complete with vacations on the beach, candle-lit dinners, decadent bubble baths, and rose petals waiting on the bed, but the truth can be quite the contrary. It’s the little moments repeated over time that count. It could be something as simple as noticing a cardinal in the tree out the window, listening to the news together, doing the dishes, or simply listening to one other recount the events of their day. Or it could be as affectionate as tuning in and sending love notes, or offering a back rub at the end of the day.
John Gottman, the psychological researcher from the University of Washington pioneered this concept with what he refers to as ‘bids’ for attention. By turning toward each other moment by moment, day by day, couples can keep the proverbial pilot light of their love burning so when it is time to turn up the heat, the love will ignite effortlessly and love will flow freely between one another. Failure to do so will eventually lead to distance, long periods of awkward silence, increased conflict, criticism, contempt, and ultimately, the death of the small civilization that was once a happily ever after.
Couples I work with are often surprised that making love last is so easy to accomplish. This is why it is so important to learn and develop these practices early in a relationship BEFORE it becomes too late.