7 Steps to Rescuing Romance
Are you meeting your partner's needs? Are your needs being met? What are they? After you know partner's needs, if you find yourselves still frustrated, realize that it's not that you can't meet your partner's needs, it's that you won't. Think about why you haven't yet.
Dr. Harville Hendrix, a relationship expert, offers advice on how to better your marriage when your partner is no longer willing to give you what you need. "You may try to coerce him into caring through criticism, intimidation, shame, withdrawal, crying, anger—whatever works," he says. This power struggle may continue for years, but it can end because of the love you have for each other. "The emotional bond created by romantic love evolves into a powerful organic bond through the process of resolving conflict," Dr. Hendrix says. "With self-awareness, we can correct what has gone wrong."
Step 2: Respect your partner
It shouldn't matter why your partner needs what he or she needs. Consider Dr. Phil's example: If one of your kids got up in the middle of the night and said, "I'm thirsty," would you just turn around and say, "Well, I'm not, so go back to bed"? The key is to appreciate your partner's individuality. Don't expect your partner to react exactly as you would; your partner isn't you!
Learn more about your partner and understand why he acts the way he does. Listening to your partner can reduce conflict, boost trust and lead to a more satisfying relationship. It's especially important to listen when your partner is upset—which could require some practice. "Practice listening in less-loaded relationships, like with customers at work or friends on the phone," says Dr. Steve Brody, author of Renew Your Marriage at Midlife. "After building up listening muscles in those less-challenging relationships, the weight of your partner becoming unglued won't be as overwhelming."
Step 3: Acknowledge your partner's wants
Think about the message you're sending your partner when you don't acknowledge his or her wants. How does this make your partner feel? How would it make you feel?
Chris Abani, a contributor for O, The Oprah Magazine, says there are a lot of things that men aren't telling women about their actions. "We are very insecure about how we look and what you really think about us, and we are excited when you do small, nice things for us like make coffee or come with us to the barber or just buy us a good book," he says. "We've been trained never to show this side to you, but it is there."
Step 4: Compromise
Know that you can fulfill your partner's wants. But by prioritizing your needs alone, you're making the conscious decision to not to fulfil his or her wants. Try talking about both of your needs and wants. Find the middle ground.
Sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman says it's important to connect emotionally with your partner and communicate your needs and wants in the bedroom. Bring your emotions, desires, fantasies and inhibitions to each other, allowing you to listen to your partner's thoughts and sharing your own too. Lose the sexual and nonsexual distractions, and get down to the bare, honest truth about how pleasure is factoring into your relationships, she says.
Step 5: Don't forget romance
Keep in mind that romance is an important element of marriage. Your partner might consider romance as the true measure of his or her value to your relationship. Be thoughtful and try doing something sweet for no apparent reason.
In 2004, DrPhil.com, O, the Oprah Magazine and Oprah.com conducted a survey about love. The survey found that romance is central to people's definition of love: Ninety-four percent [of people surveyed] responded that giving flowers, holding hands or taking your partner for a night out are hallmarks of love. Also, about two-thirds of respondents characterized chores like taking out the trash and doing the dishes as acts of love.
Step 6: Remember the 4-minute rule
You can predict how an evening with your partner will be based on the first four minutes of your time together, so make those minutes count! Bring flowers. Greet each other with a compliment. Ask questions about your partner's day. Smile; it'll make a difference.
Research shows that you must be nice to your partner to have a happy marriage. "The little things matter," social psychologist Susan Boon says. "You have to do nice things often. But it's harder to be nice when the heat is on, when you're really angry or when something has happened for the 15th time. Nevertheless, the balance must be heavily, heavily stacked in the positive to have a happy marriage."
Step 7: Open up to your partner
Be communicative and expressive with your partner. Remember, sharing emotions is not weakness; it makes you whole.
Dr. Phil offers six rules for talking with and listening to your partner, including insisting on emotional integrity and the importance of being a two-way, not a one-way, communicator. "Mean what you say and say what you mean," he says. "You don't have to tell people everything you think or feel. But you do have to be accurate when you choose to disclose."