When one couple I’m coaching announced they were moving in together, they didn’t realize all the conflict that would get brought to the surface by the stress of moving.
They thought that seeing each other more often would make them feel more secure in their connection, and they’d get to spend even more quality time together, which would bring them closer. But before they knew it, they were fighting about all kinds of things.
• They were overwhelmed with stress of moving and took it out on each other by criticizing, yelling, and then wishing they had more personal space.
• They had different ideas about how they wanted to decorate, and wound up arguing about it
• Even though they saw each other more, they were sharing less affection and quality time, and were starting to feel like roommates instead of lovers
• Their little annoying habits started to get on each other’s nerves
Fortunately, I’ve not only seen all of this before, but I’ve experienced it in my own relationships, since I’ve lived with all of my long term relationship partners; and I definitely learned the hard way how to make or break a relationship in co-habitation! The tools I now teach have allowed me and my clients to experience conflict as an opportunity for deep emotional connection.
3 Tips to Keep Love Alive
1) HOW you fight. Research shows that what makes a relationship work is not whether you fight, but HOW you fight. In one 6 year research study, researchers John Gottman and Sybil Carrère were able to predict divorce in newlywed couples from a 3 minute conversation based on HOW they engaged in conflict!
It’s important that when conflict comes up, you have skills to connect on a deeper emotional level than what the fight SEEMS to be about on the surface. [hint: its rarely really about whether you leave the toothpaste cap on; its about whether you’re deeply connected to each other’s needs to feel important, listened-to, and validated for each point of view.]
How are you bringing up issues? Do you share your vulnerable feelings and needs, or do you get critical and demanding?
With that couple, the first thing we looked at was their harsh fighting and name-calling. I was able to help them to see that underneath their hurtful criticism was a desire for the other to feel how much they were hurt. But they didn’t know how to provide a compassionate space to say “that hurt my feelings,” so they would just criticize and blame each other. So when I could help them feel compassion for the pain they were both feeling, there was less of a desire to hurt each other more, and they could feel the love again.
2) Staying connected to the pulse of what’s going on for each other. Lets face it; we’re all busy, and maintaining a deep connection doesn’t happen without being creative about quality time. This is not just hugging each other every day, and asking how their day went? It takes asking “How am I going to keep this relationship alive? How can we maintain that same level of interest, excitement, and passion that we had when we were dating?” Really being interested and curious. It’s easy for the communication to be about bills and plans, and not about what you’re both passionate about and feeling/needing. I provide a space for couples to ask these deeper questions and create fun ways of staying connected.
3) Make Sure You Put Fun In The Schedule! Scheduling date nights, or play time, may feel like killing spontaneity. But because we’re so busy, if we don’t carve out time to have quality fun together, we can get stuck in a rut of watching TV and squeezing in quickies. It takes creativity and forethought to schedule new ways to explore together, but the couple that plays together stays together!
The first thing I do when I work with couples is give an assessment to determine which areas of their relationship are strong and which areas need improvement. Then we can create a plan to experience connection, joy and fulfillment in the long term!
I’d love to hear from you! What challenges are you facing in cohabitation? Also do you experience the above challenges? How do you deal with them? Leave a comment below so I can serve you better!