Personal Dilemma: Can A Couple Fall In Love With Each Other Again?

Photo by Dương Hữu

Relationships often go stale and dull when couples settle into complacency, especially if they last a long time. The burden of keeping a home, looking after children who demand constant attention, while holding down a job, can rob the partnership of its freshness, vibrancy and excitement.

In Britain at least 34% of divorces involve children under 5! That’s a very sad statistic mainly because parents are not aware of how to blend a new child with their romance. They focus almost exclusively on the newborn (women mainly) while unintentionally excluding themselves from their partners. Soon enough, romance is killed or put on hold, one parent (mainly men) begins to feel resentful at the lack of attention and might look outside for comfort. Separation or divorce is not far off! So children can actually destroy relationships, if parents aren’t careful.

However, the main problem with many relationships is that couples soon begin to take each other for granted. They stop affirming and reinforcing each other and start being mean and critical instead. They gradually lose all the things they did when they were dating because they feel more secure with the partner in the bag. Many don’t bother to celebrate their partners anymore and, gradually, things go down the drain. But that does not have to happen, if there is real love in the relationship.

The following suggestions to rekindle romance should be of some value.

1. Tell each other ‘I love you’ as often as possible. It is the greatest compliment to tell a partner how we honestly feel, but some people do not believe in expressing genuine feelings to their loved ones. Many believe it is ‘unnatural’ or they could be ‘overdoing’ it. Yet there is no law against having positive feelings and telling someone about them regularly. The most loving things are done spontaneously, and as often as we feel the need to do them, not according to particular schedules. It could also be the last thing they hear from you!

2. Praise and appreciate each other. As relationships last longer, appreciation tends to gradually decline. We begin to become meanspirited with praise and gratitude, because we come to see every action as automatic. Yet praising someone’s efforts, no matter how small, helps to REINFORCE them, to value them and leaves little room for neglect.

3. Leave love notes around the home for them in unexpected places. There is nothing more endearing than loving surprises, especially when one least expects them. Leaving little messages of love, sending spontaneous texts, or just taking time out of a busy day to call to say ‘I’m thinking of you’ would really make that person feel special.

Photo by Aaron Burden

4. Establish routines for young children: Put them to bed at a set time each day. That should allow you both time together when they are in bed. Try not to take them with you to ‘adult’ gatherings. That should give you more time to enjoy each other’s company, especially with other adults. Most important, try to go out at least twice each month (wining, dining, cinema, concert, dancing etc). These allow you both quality time together doing something lighthearted, while giving you time away from the children. In this way, you will always have some time for yourselves, and quality time for your children.

5. Walk hand in hand when outdoors. Whatever you are doing, do it lovingly, especially walking together. Hug, hold hands, kiss his face now and then, kiss her hand, demonstrate that love to the world. Walking hand in hand gives a wonderful feeling of belonging, togetherness and joy. It encourages closeness while communicating or enjoying activities together. Moreover, on a practical level, regular walking keeps the weight down and encourages a more healthier lifestyle. These public actions might be restricted by cultural conformity, depending on where you reside.

6. Highlight the difference you’ve made to each other. This is a very important aspect, to AFFIRM someone and to let them know, constantly, how their presence has changed your life. We become different people the minute we meet someone because we are happier, more joyful, more purposeful and far more loving. When things go sour, we tend to forget those early magical moments. But being with someone new, who really gives us butterflies and adds meaning to our existence, is always a life enhancing experience.

7. Spend a whole weekend in bed making love, chatting and affirming. Having a healthy sex life is crucial to communication, to keeping the relationship vibrant and partners together. Yet this is the part that really gets thrown by the wayside, especially when kids are on the scene. Forget the chores and everything else. Book a room in a hotel, if possible, and allow yourselves to be pampered. This would be a poignant reminder of why you came together in the first place: to love each other, not just to have a family or keep a house.

Dating and romancing shouldn’t stop when the two people marry or settle together. That is the time the real dating should begin to keep that romance fire burning brightly for a long time to come. It could save a lot of unexpected heartache and loneliness down the line.


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Is Real Beauty on The Outside or Inside of Us?

Image by Nathanel Love

This is a question that has occupied everyone since the dawn of time. Most people will immediately say yes, it does’, as external beauty is superficial. But this is not quite true as all facets of a person should be taken into account. After all, how do you get to appreciate what is inside that person, the real personality, if you don’t really like what’s outside? 

Thus anyone who says that external beauty doesn’t matter is likely to be lying. If they are not, the statement has an association with how they view themselves and their own experience. It suggests they do not consider themselves to be any great ‘beauty’ so they are hoping people will ignore their physicality to concentrate on the inner person. But there is some conflict with this approach.

First, until we open our mouths and speak, nature has only one way of bringing people together: their looks. Thus the whole process starts with whether someone’s physical appearance appeals to us in any way for us to take it further and discover more about them. Then it moves to voice, then personality and finally the whole person. Yes, we have to have that inner beauty of warmth, compassion and care. But we cannot know anything about someone’s inner beauty until we make physical contact and it is the OUTER beauty that decides the fate of the connection before anything else. So, when someone says that looks don’t matter and it is only the inner being that should count, they might as well date a horse, because for them, only what’s inside that matters!

Men, in particular, tend to go for looks first. Do they miss the right partners because of that? Or is it impossible to see anything other than what is presented externally until we know that person very well? That could be why some insecure people move from one ‘trophy’ partner to another. All they see is the outward appearance: the perceived beauty, but not the brains, moods or emotional hang-ups. Yet it takes other important personal qualities for the two people to be compatible. An absence of other inner attributes like empathy, warmth and care, might be fine in the short term but usually spells long-term disaster.

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Problem Point: I Want a Relationship. She Wants to Be ‘Just Friends’. What Next?

Photo by Taylor Smith

If you meet someone, fancy them to bits, desire a relationship and the other person is mainly interested in being ‘just friends’, get out of there fast! It might seem like a great idea, playing to the other person’s demands to be ‘friends’ with the hope of being something more to them later on, or just accepting whatever they say to be near them. But there are a lot of things wrong with this situation, of which the following are crucial.

1. People who desire ‘friendship’ above intimacy, when there is clearly some attraction between the couple, tend to have hidden agendas. They are either commitment-phobes who cannot bear to commit intimately to anyone, but still want that person’s company, or, by being ‘friends’ they prevent the other person from finding someone else, deliberately to keep the attention on them, yet have nothing intimate to offer the party. Or they simply wish to control the relationship on their terms, regardless of how the other person feels. 

This is not a good situation at all because it means one person hands over their power to another who will be the decider of how long that ‘friendship’ lasts, and the rules they wish to play by, especially when any relationship between two people is usually decided by both. In fact, in these ‘friendship only’ cases, it is likely that the other party doesn’t fancy that person at all, but lacks the courage to say so, or just wish to keep the attention they’re getting.

2. You cannot have real friendship between a couple when the expectations are diverse. It means that only one person – the party controlling the relationship – will be getting what he/she wants. Worse still, the other party will be constantly yearning to move the friendship on, constantly hoping for something else and cannot do anything about it, perhaps wanting to hug them, embrace them and love them, but have to keep their distance. That can be sheer torture and causes a lot of negative feelings and unnecessary anxiety. In short, one person will always have to be hiding their true feelings and treading on eggshells to keep the ‘friendship’ going. 

That is not a healthy way to live. The longer this goes on, the more anxious and inadequate one party will feel, as they are denied attention and affection, and the more stress there is likely to be between the couple, especially if any pressure is being put on the other person to change the relationship to a more intimate one.

3. You cannot mix sex and real friendship. Genuine friendship is a platonic state where we like that person without intimacy because we are attracted to them in a supportive rather than a sexual way. The best friendship between couples who share attraction usually comes when the sexual attraction has worn off, or has been addressed, and the two people now understand each other more, can value each other because of what they have experienced together and view each other from a position of mutual strength and respect. Once there is sexual attraction, that will dominate the friendship until it is sorted. Hence one cannot have a one-sided friendship where someone is really attracted to the other person intimately, yet they just want to be ‘friends’. No kind of real friendship can result from that mismatch. One person is simply being used for the other person’s benefit.

4. Most important, while the couple are concentrating on being ‘friends’, one of them is missing the opportunity to find their true date or mate. They could have been using that time to be available to someone else who genuinely fancies them, instead of hanging around a person who doesn’t. Not only that, they will feel very crappy and excluded when the so called ‘friend’ then fancies someone else and they are supposed to accept it readily without a murmur. That is usually the worst part of the deal: seeing the ‘friend’ going after others while the other party has to simply watch, grin and bear it, and say nothing.

Be clear about your friendships so that the boundaries do not blur. Be friends with someone you fancy, by all means, but only when you have found a partner, too, and they can see that friendship means just that – a platonic association – to both of you. You’ll then be befriending that person on your terms, too, instead of just being a puppet to theirs.

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Problem Point: How Can I Avoid Conflict With a Spouse Who Seems Set on Fighting?

Image by succo

When someone seems to like conflict in a relationship rather than harmony, at least four things are happening:

  1. That person genuinely feels that the only way they can engage you is through arguments and conflict. You obviously don’t like their behaviour, and try to avoid them, which means you pay more attention to preventing clashes developing than to any other way of resolving issues. That person feels they get your attention at such times, and so will spoil for an argument whenever they can.
  2. They do not feel they are being listened to, or acknowledged in their needs or complaints. When we feel the other person doesn’t want to listen to us, and makes no effort to help to deal with our concerns, we are likely to adopt a form of sabotage in its place, just to get attention, and feel heard. That’s the only tool they believe they have and will use it as necessary.
  3. When respect and care are deteriorating. If we have little respect for the other person, we won’t care how they feel, and we won’t care what we do to hurt them either. That is perhaps the state of your relationship just now: two uncaring people seeking to ignore or hurt each other in the best way they know how: one by not listening, or paying any attention to the other, while they, in turn, seek to cause as much conflict and discomfort as possible.
  4. One person is low in self-esteem and has a need to feel more significant by using aggression against the other in order to exercise some power. Conflict and perhaps intimidation is their only way of feeling in control.

When things have reached such a low level, it is time to reboot your relationship in a more positive vein, before it disintegrates altogether. For example, begin by scheduling a set time each week (like 1–2 hours) to sit together and talk about concerns. Actually LISTEN to each other without commenting until the other is finished, and try to work on solutions together. You might have to do this twice per week, initially, until you both get used to trusting each other again, and want to work as a team instead of two opponents and coping with frustrations.

When these sessions are in place, if there is any conflict arising, you politely explain that it won’t solve anything, and that any grievance should be saved for the discussion sessions, as conflict will only exacerbate the situation. If the person refuses, you should leave the scene entirely and do something else. But one hand cannot clap, and if you stay where the person can use you for their frustrations, they will carry on doing it in exactly the same way.

Sooner or later, the hope is that they will see the beneficial effects of the discussions and regular communication: mainly that they lead to far more positivity than constant arguments and conflict. You will also be reinforcing the discussions with listening and empathising, while refusing to join in any argument to please them or to give them any sense of power over you.

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Having Lots in Common, or Shared Values: Which is More Important in a Relationship?

Photo by Everton Vila

Both are important in any successful relationship. However, while having a lot in common helps to keep the parties together in mutual activities, what really underpin any relationship, and control its direction, are the shared values between the couple.

No matter what is happening superficially – differences with looks, beauty, personality, activities etc. – people will stay connected only if their basic values are in tandem. Real opposites represent conflict from the beginning because there would be little alignment in needs and objectives. This would keep the parties going in different directions. For example, it is unlikely that someone with criminal tendencies will have a successful relationship with someone who believes in honesty and integrity, no matter how much both might like playing golf or attending the same events. There would be too much conflict in reconciling their values.

For example, you don’t get greater difference than an Indian guy in a turban from Kenya and a devout Catholic woman from the West Indies! Totally different upbringing, cultures and perspectives about life. I met a Sikh when I was 19, and married, to much opposition, across the racial and cultural divide. No one, least of all his parents who tried everything at the beginning to break us up, expected the marriage to last more than a couple years, at best. We went on for over 30 years and when we parted, we still had very strong feelings for each other. At the end, though the love was there to a large extent, our direction and values had clearly changed in what we sought in our lives.

At the beginning, my ex-husband and I complemented each other in many ways, because we believed in the same things when we met. We were both rebels in our communities; we both loved reggae and Bob Marley, and we both had the same outlook on maintaining a home and raising children. Without realising it then, I also sought a kind of protector, being young and naive in England, and, being very clever and more secure, he wanted someone to protect. Bingo for our expectations!

When I began to feel more independent and to value other things in life, like my own creativity and freedom to act in ways I enjoyed, the dynamics began to shift and our values gradually differed, especially as he grew more conservative and controlling in approach. In fact, we became opposites in our needs over such a long time and stopped connecting, appreciating and communicating with each other.

So, having lots in common do help for better enjoyment in a relationship, but the individual perspectives and beliefs that form our values have to mutually align to keep a couple together.

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