Articles by Jacqueline McDiarmid, Couple's counselling

How to save your long term relationship

Regain the connection with your partner.

Do you worry that you may never get it back or wonder where your relationship is going?  Do you feel lonely in your relationship or have you started
seeking outside connections with friends or even another potential partner?

Years of bickering, criticism, lack of relationship time and external stresses can all lead to this point.  Add in children – which most people do
– and it’s not difficult to see why so many couples struggle with staying connected to each other.

I see a lot of couples who have lost their way and want to get the connection back.

In order to succeed it is necessary that each person is capable of compassion, empathy and love.  The couples who succeed are the ones who are able
to access the reasons why they committed to each other in the first place and are the ones who are prepared to do the work to get it back.

Often when couples come in to see me it is a wonderful opportunity for change.  To look at a new relationship and all of the new possibilities can
be exciting.  But again each person needs to be up for the work.

Here are some some fundamental things you must both be prepared to do to re-gain your connection:
Stop worrying about getting the spark back

The “spark” or “in love” feeling doesn’t last in any relationship beyond 2 years.  Once all those yummy brain chemicals have settled down you are
faced with working on your relationship to keep it energised and alive.  If you have love for each other then you have the potential to get your
relationship back on track and where it needs to be.

It requires maturity to understand that the “spark” is not what you should be looking for.  It’s deep love, safety and attachment that is the key
to understanding the evolving couple relationship.

Work on your friendship

Recognise you are not opponents.  Be kind.  Be supportive.  Take an interest in your partner’s day and work life.  Talk to your partner
like you treat one of your very close friends.  Most of us make an effort with our friends and give them lots of attention. We also talk to them
respectfully.  Do the same with your partner.

If you have a good friendship, work well together as parents and basically have the same values you have the foundation for amazing changes to your relationship.

Stop criticising, blaming and judging your partner – it’s cancer for a relationship

Most couples get in a rut with this.  Especially with every day stresses like children and stressful work.  Health issues can also add stress.
Criticism often becomes a habit – something somebody does without thinking.  Often this is to let of steam from some other stress but the partner
is the one who cops it.  It is important to discuss how criticism is showing up in your relationship and to take measures to stop it.  Focus
on complementing your partner at least once a day. Mindfulness work is good for this.

Go on dates

There is no greater gift to a child than to see a strong connected couple relationship mirrored in the home.  The lesson is that relationships require
work and are not there to just walk away from when things get too hard.  Invest in your relationship and go on dates, talk and get couple therapy
when needed. You both need to put in the effort to organise dates and time together otherwise resentment comes in for the partner who feels like they
are doing all of the work.

Stop looking at that screen

Many people have a more intimate relationship with their screens than they do with family members, friends – and yes – partner.  If you want good
healthy interaction between all family members and want to increase intimacy with your partner than switch off your device and put it in a corner somewhere.
This requires self discipline and a blanket rule for all family members.

Sort out external stresses

Losing a child, having an unwell child, dealing with financial stress or issues like addiction, depression and anxiety all hijack our relationship with
our significant other.  If external stresses are infecting your relationship get help for these stresses and work out a plan so you can stay connected
through challenging times.

Sort out your resentments

See above for all the things that can feed into resentment.  The next step to take is to develop compassion, empathy and understanding for your partner
and the mistakes they may have made.  The second step is to own your part and demonstrate your remorse.  Sound easy enough?  It is but
only if you are willing to put down your pride and do the work.  Your choice.

Touch each other, cuddle and share a 6 second kiss

Make a point to touch and cuddle your partner.  Ensure children are in bed at a reasonable time so you two have space to bring awareness to your connection.
Tell your partner you love them and share a six second kiss.  Research shows that a six second kiss shared will lead to feeling desire and connection
with your partner.

Have sex

This part can be so tricky.  So many people wait until they feel connected to have sex.  Or worse still wait for it to be spontaneous like it
might have been when they first got together.  If you have had challenges in your relationship which have resulted in a loss sexually getting
the sex back in is never going to just happen without you taking a conscious step to do it.

And having sex with your partner usually leads to feeling more connected to them.  So make the time and do it – and the sooner the better.

Talk about your goals

Major life transition stages (or crisis) throw up all sorts of anxieties about life and what it all means.  Children arriving, starting school and
leaving home can all bring issue to the fore.  As can menopause or retirement.  Make time to put together some shared goals or dreams.
Go for walks and talk about your goals both individual and shared.

Go to Couples Counselling

If you can’t find the space to talk safely in your relationship then seek a safe space.  This is exactly what couples counselling should provide for
you both.  You will not advance your relationship without talking through resentments, misunderstandings, needs and wants.  You just won’t
– so don’t delay – people often say to me that they wish they had attended counselling a whole lot earlier.  It’s a regret you don’t want.

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