Relationships, like plants, require constant nourishment if we want them to remain evergreen. Neglect them for too long, and instead of growing, they wither and die.
Amid the crush of life's demands, it becomes all too easy to find ourselves pulled in so many different directions at once that we lose sight of the relationships that matter most.
We begin to take those we care about for granted. He's been here for the last 10 years, she reasons. Where would he go anyway?
Or worse yet, one day she looks across the table at him and wonders why she married him in the first place. Did he always talk with his mouth full? Must he forever leave his socks scattered on the floor of the bedroom?
He wonders, was she always this critical? When did she start paying more attention to the dog than to me?
And then there are back-to-school nights, soccer games, music lessons and keeping up with the bills. It's almost as if the constant thrum of everyday life prevents you from spending time together the way you used to.
If you've reached a place as a couple where you're no longer connecting, you may be particularly vulnerable to being drawn to someone else. Someone who will pay attention to you; who will value your opinions; who really looks at you, not past you. Someone who thinks you're wonderful, just the way you are.
If you find yourselves here, it's time to give your relationship a little mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It's important to nurse your relationship back to health NOW before it literally blows apart.
There was a reason you were attracted to each other in the first place; a reason you decided to spend the rest of your lives together. If you've forgotten what those reasons were, go back and take a look.
How did he complete you? Why was it that you couldn't live without her? Remember those long walks by the ocean? Can you still feel the electricity of his touch on your skin? Do you remember the way she laughed at your stories?
How can you recapture those moments together?
Start talking. Really talking. Not at each other. To each other. Listen. Connect. Recommit. Ask her what she needs. Ask him what he wants. Don't assume you know.
In his book, How Will You Measure Your Life?, Clayton Christensen describes coming home from work one day to find the house a mess, kids who needed to be fed, and a wife who had uncharacteristically taken to her room.
Thinking he knew just what his wife needed, he organized a toy pick up and made dinner. He reported feeling quite proud of himself for being so sensitive.
Until he found that his wife still wasn't happy. Not happy at all. But why? Hadn't he been really helpful?
The problem was that he hadn't asked her what he could do to help. He assumed he knew. What she really wanted was not a toy pick-up. She wanted to talk, to be heard.
He had inadvertently taken the wrong approach. Instead of taking it personally, he wisely tried again.
It's not uncommon for us to work at cross purposes with those we love. We think we know what's best, what will work for others. We don't ask curious questions, such as, "What would you like from our relationship?"
Or we ask a question, and we don't wait for the answer. Then when we're not appreciated for making an effort, we feel slighted. And neither one of us ends up getting what we wanted.
Dr. Christensen goes on to draw a parallel between a business client who wanted to increase sales, and a spouse who might want to improve his relationship. The client's goal was to sell more milk shakes in his stores.
He thought he knew what his customers wanted. More flavors.
What his customers really wanted were thicker shakes and faster service. When he made that change, his sales increased.
Try treating your spouse like a valued customer. Find out where she'd like to go for a weekend getaway. Find out what he'd like to do for date night. Don't assume. Ask.
And while you're at it, remember to let go of the little things. In the overall scheme of things, they simply do not matter.
Get back in sync. Get growing again.