“You will probably kick me out of here if I answer those questions honestly. But for once in my selfish life I need to tell someone the truth. I’m married. My marriage is in the toilet. I have a girl I’ve been seeing for about four years. You would say I’m stringing her along, although I thought I really wanted to be with her. And just about nine months ago, I reconnected with my high school sweetheart on Facebook. So drugs and alcohol are my only peace of mind.“
He told the story while pausing to let the lump in his throat pass between sentences, and wiping tears away that he hoped no one had noticed.
It was not the first time I had heard of such a story in my in-residence (live-in) treatment center. And although the first time I had heard such stories, I was probably pretty judgmental, I came to understand that such a story was not uncommon. Maybe not with multiple partners, but it was not uncommon to hear about relationships being in the toilet.
It was not uncommon among CEOs. Not uncommon among devoted Moms. Not uncommon among Christians, even those in ministry. Not uncommon among alcoholics. Not uncommon among any socioeconomic group. Not uncommon among any cultural background.
Maybe everyone does not have three relationships. But no matter how many are involved, a relationship in the toilet is a far greater pandemic problem than Covid. (Please do not send me a nasty gram. I’m not saying that Covid is not a serious issue. I’m just saying that there are other issues that are just as prevalent that we are not addressing.) Today I am going to talk about the elephant in the room.
Whether a broken relationship, a relationship in the toilet, or a relationship that is just “okay” … it’s not too late! Either the sun is setting on your relationship (Coming to an end.), or the moon is rising (Woohoo! Great things are ahead!) on your relationship. Rarely is a relationship in neutral. And if it is, it will not remain there long. It will either enter into a sun setting or a moon rising. But a moon rising will NOT happen without intentional action done consistently!
The steps to a rich, extraordinary relationship, no matter its current status, are the same.
I hope that you will read this with an open mind and an open heart. The steps I will outline will be easy to read and set aside. The steps will not work if you read them and set them aside. They will only work if you launch them with ACTION! I often tell my clients that we do not live in a time where there is lack of information on how to do things. We live in a time when we want to read them and get a little spark of hope. But we then put them away.
I hope you get the spark of hope. But I hope and pray you will take the spark to light a fire in your belly and a fire on your backside to put these steps into ACTION!
1. Re-commit to the relationship.
What is commitment? Commitment is the state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to a course of action or to another person. It is the trait of sincere and steadfast fixity of purpose.
Are you bound emotionally to your partner? Do you have sincere and steadfast fixity of purpose? If not, you must do things DAILY that show you are bound emotionally to that person. You must be sincere and steadfast in your fixity (the state of being unchanging) of purpose. Have you changed in who you are or what you were doing in the beginning of the relationship?
My hunch is that 99% of us need to re-commit to our relationship. So what is the truth about commitment?
- Commitment is a decision, not a feeling! That means that even when you are upset, disillusioned, frustrated, or any other upset feeling, it does not change your commitment. We live in an uncommitted society. We are committed as long as it feels good. That is relationship immaturity. Your commitment must go beyond how you feel at the moment. Because it is a decision you made. Honor your decision!
- Commitment is not always easy. DUH! There are moments when we all think: “This is just too hard!” I’m sure there are moments when it would be easier to just go find someone else. But commitment does not do that!
- Commitment is something you do even when you don’t feel like it or want to. Commitment is something you DO! There are plenty of times when we don’t feel like it or want to. Like when we want to go do something that our partner considers a deal killer. Or we just want to escape the tension in the relationship. Commitment does not do that. Commitment stays and works things out, even when we would rather escape.
- Commitment is a decision to never quit or give up. Never. Unless there is abuse in the relationship, don’t quit. Don’t give up. Do all five of these steps (whether or not your partner is willing to do them!). I PROMISE you will see results. Don’t wait for your partner to go first! YOU GO FIRST!
- Commitment builds character. Commitment, when practiced, will make you a better person. Your character will grow tremendously.
Re-commit and watch your relationship flourish!
2. Re-evaluate who YOU are in the relationship.
Are you someone you would want to be in a relationship with? Are you? I was speaking with a beautiful woman after I spoke at an event recently. I asked her that question, and without pausing, she said, “HELL NO!” LOL! But then she said, “But I don’t want to be in a relationship with him either, he’s not exactly Prince Charming!”
Likely, she is correct. He is no Prince Charming! I asked her this, “Are you allowing yourself to be other than your best self just because he is not a Prince Charming?” She nodded affirmatively. I then probed further and asked, “How do you feel about yourself based on how you are behaving and participating in your relationship right now?” She looked at the ground, and looked up with tears in her eyes and a quivering chin: “Horrible.”
I asked her how it would feel if she brought her best self to the relationship, even if he didn’t become Prince Charming. With a knowing grin and a nod, she confessed: “Much better!”
Then I asked, “What keeps you from doing that?” She was transparent enough to grimace and confess: “Because I don’t think he deserves it.” Then my last question, which was actually rhetorical, “Why would you not bring your best for your own sake?” She nodded again, and committed: “It’s the right thing, and I will do it.”
What about you? Are you a person in your relationship that you would want to be in a relationship with? If not, bring your best!
3. Re-energize your efforts in the relationship.
One of the ways we begin to let the love and “magic” slip away is by allowing the energy devoted to the relationship to wane.
In the beginning of a relationship, we give bare minimum energy to our businesses or jobs. Bare minimum energy (if any) to our hobbies and interests. And sometimes bare minimum energy even to our self care (we don’t sleep enough, we let workouts fall between the cracks). Why? Because we want to pour tons of energy into the relationship.
Over time, as we become closer, make commitments; it is easy to not only pour less energy into the relationship. We tend to pour ourselves back into other things. We bring “leftovers” to our relationship.
Pouring energy into the relationship keeps it alive. What do I mean by that? Jump up from your recliner and give your partner a hug when they come in. Plan a special activity that you think they would enjoy. Do something for them that they normally do themselves (take their clothes to the cleaners, do the dishes, put gas in their car).
Consider pouring energy into the relationship the same as putting gas in your vehicle. If you don’t keep it full, it will not keep running. Keep your relationship full of your energy.
Familiarity is an energy drainer. Get off the couch (and go for a walk together). Put the remote control down (and kiss that guy/gal like you did when you first met). Get out of bed (and bring the other a cup of coffee occasionally). Get out of your sweats (and fix yourself up for your partner like you do for your job).
Pouring energy in and re-energizing your relationship is FUN!
4. Re-kindle your early love.
Remember when you would talk all night? When you would pick wild flowers for her out of the park on your way over? When you would prepare his favorite meal? When you would put your hand on his arm the moment you got in the car and tell him how sexy his muscles were? When you actually noticed what she had on, and gave her sincere compliments?
There is no rocket science to re-kindling early love. Start doing what you did when you fell in love.
I give an assignment to couples that they hate at first, but eventually love. First, I have them write down 25 things the other did that made them feel loved (that cost less than a dollar, and required less than 10 minutes).
When I first assign it, they look totally “dumbfounded” as if they can’t remember a thing. Then I ask a few questions to get them started. What did he do in the car that felt so wonderful? What did she say that made you fall in love? Hold your hand? Wink at you when at dinner with others? Send you random texts “just because I love you”? Smile when you told her about your day? Listened with great interest when he was sharing his dreams? Kissed you on the forehead when you were talking to someone on the phone? Cuddled up next to you when you were watching football?
Then after they choke 25 of those out, next session, I ask them to add 25 things that you wish your partner would do that would make you feel loved. Then the next session, I set up 25 more, until they have a list of 100 things that make them feel loved.
How on earth can your partner work to re-kindle the love if you don’t even know what makes you feel loved?
Then I have them pour out 10 – 25 of these things daily. It is truly like a firestarter on the love in the relationship.
Re-kindle it. The wood is not wet, you just are not bringing the fire!
5. Re-focus your efforts.
“Where focus goes, energy flows.”
We overuse the term, “taking each other for granted.” However, when our focus is on other things, we truly are taking for granted that the relationship will survive. It might for a while, but it will run out of fuel.
How do you focus on your relationship?
First of all, set your RAS (Reticular Activating System) in your brain to looking for positive and wonderful things about your partner daily. I suggest that couples begin each day either sharing this verbally, or if the morning is hectic, sending it in a text before 10 am. “You want to know something I just love about you? _______________________”
And then share that thing you just love about your partner. It not only sets your own RAS to looking for great things, but it also sets your partner’s RAS to seeing positive things in you.
Secondly, share gratitude’s and wins with one another in the evening. It brings any angst or fear to rest, and creates a better night’s sleep.
Third, set specific times during the day to think about your partner, and let them know you are thinking of them. I know many people work in stressful situations, but you found time in the beginning of the relationship to let them know you were thinking of them. It’s even more important to focus on your partner and your relationship to keep the love alive.
There will always be thinking of other things vying for your focus. Do not allow your relationship to slip down the list. The payoff of keeping your focus on your relationship is a great healer!
There are plenty of other “re’s” I could add to the list. Start with the five above. If you are consistent with it over a period of 30-40 days, it WILL MAKE A MAJOR DIFFERENCE!
My client committed to ending his other two relationships, and I actually helped him make both calls in a respectful and kind way. He also committed to the five steps above.
Because his wife came to see him for visitation, I told him he needed to start with whatever time he had with her over the weekend. After he got past all the excuses: “This isn’t normal for me.” And, “She will think I’m up to something.” He started with some sincere efforts.
The weekend before graduation, we did a “family weekend,” and for those who were in relationships, we did a “relationship weekend.” His wife came and participated fully. At the end of the weekend, she pulled me aside and said, “I don’t know what y’all have done to him, but he’s like a different man. I actually planned to file for divorce once he got through this program. But I think I’m falling in love again.”
It was a beautiful thing to experience.
I want you to have that same beauty in your relationship. Whether it’s in the toilet, or “just okay” … make a commitment to working the five steps above. And watch your relationship come to life. I hope to hear about the moon rising over your relationship!