Did you know that more couples split during the week of Valentine’s Day than any other week during the year?
During this period, known as “Breakup Season”, people are still thinking about achieving their New Year’s resolutions while reflecting on how they want their lives to be. As Valentine’s Day approaches, the difference between what they want their life to be and what it actually is, combined with the inevitable pressures inherent in a marriage, often cause one partner to want to exit the marriage. Here are some tips to help you navigate through this breakup season and reconnect with your partner.
How To Reconnect With Your Partner During Breakup Season
There are a number of self-care practices that can help when times are stressful. One is a gratitude practice. Increasing your feelings of gratitude is one of the most effective ways of increasing your feelings of well-being. It can be as simple as thinking of three things you are grateful for each morning. Another terrific way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal. People often find that the act of writing things down makes the practice more powerful. It also allows them to look back on how they’ve evolved.
Another great form of self-care is meditation. Meditation can sound daunting to some, but all it takes is as little as 2-5 minutes a day! Over time, it can significantly increase your mental clarity. One approach to mediation involves following your breath or focusing on other points of physical sensation. As your attention wanders and goes to your thoughts, just remind yourself that you are mediating and bring your attention back to your breathing.
Another type of meditation is visualization. A great practice is to simply imagine how you would like your day to go the next day, or how you would like your life to be. Spend some time imagining what you will be feeling, saying to yourself, and doing. Really feel that experience for a few minutes. Soak it in.
Many people perform the breathing-focused mediation first thing in the morning. The visualization can be made more effective by doing it right before sleep, but you can do it however it best fits your schedule.
Take Stock of Your Relationship
Once you have initiated some self-care practices and you sense that your relationship is in jeopardy, it’s a good time to take stock of the relationship. Is it meeting your needs? Are there any red flags? What do you really appreciate about your spouse? What are the values that you share? What have you built in your marriage?
After making this assessment, odds are that you want to get a better understanding of where your partner is at and get their help in improving the relationship for both of you. This is where the process of ‘repair’ comes in. Here it is in detail:
- Recognize as you go into the conversation that you are both doing your best and that there are tools you can use to come to greater understanding.
- Start a vulnerable conversation about your relationship with your partner. Choose a good time for both of you. Avoid the time right when they get home from work and aim for a moment when you both have the bandwidth. Let them know that you want to talk about something that’s important to you and make sure that you are ready to really listen, hear some new information, and share your true feelings. Tell your spouse that you are concerned about the health of your relationship and wish to discuss it with them.
- Next decide who goes first. Remember, if you share first, the depth of the honesty and vulnerability might well set the standard for their share. Take responsibility for your own feelings. Try not to lay blame on your partner – that will likely make them defensive and take them out of the intimate space you are trying to create.
- When your partner is sharing it’s really important that they feel heard. It will let them feel safe enough to share openly and release any pent-up emotion that may have been festering under the surface.
When they pause in their sharing, you can let them know that you heard them by repeating one of two important words that they have just said. For example, if they say: “Sometimes I feel angry and alone especially when I have to make dinner for the kids by myself.” If you respond to “angry and alone”, they will likely feel heard and share even more of their experience without further prompting. This listening technique is called ‘keyword backtracking’. Don’t try to paraphrase. Using other words to try and say what they meant will not feel nearly as good to them as hearing their own words repeated by you.
Another really important method you can use to understand your partner’s perspective is to clarify why they use some of those key words. You can say, “I’m curious, what does ‘freedom’ mean to you?” Or, “what exactly do you mean when you say ‘closeness’?” This can be help you see the world through their eyes.
Take Stock of Yourself
Once you have heard them out, it’s time to take responsibility for any patterns you exhibit in the relationship that might be contributing to the issues that they shared about about. For instance, “I know in relationships I can get clingy when I am feeling insecure and end up bombarding my partner with questions when I know they just want to relax.”
Make sure the pattern is something that has occurred in multiple relationships, only admit to a pattern if you feel it is authentically something that you do and negatively affects your partner.
Reconnect With Your Partner
Here are some other tips to help you reconnect with your partner and recover your relationship during breakup season:
- Reassure your partner. You want them to know that you value them and the relationship. Show them that you want to continue with the relationship and strengthen your bond. For instance, you might say “I know that the way I act feels smothering sometimes, but I want you to know that I really value all you are to me and truly want you to have all the space you need to feel the freedom you desire and to feel good in this relationship.”
- Switch. Make sure it goes both ways, and that both parties get to express what is problematic for them in the relationship. Allow your partner to feel heard.
- Assess. Are you both feeling more connected with each other? Are you both feeling heard? Is there something more one of you wants to express?
You might want to go through this process again if something additional comes up, or go through the process again later, even with the same issue.
Breakup season and the days leading up to Valentine’s Day aren’t easy for couples going through troubles. These tools for self-care and effective listening can be helpful in many areas of your life, and are processes you can come back to again and again. Remember: a mutually supportive, vibrant marriage requires consistent care!
Chuck Rockey is a Princeton-educated software engineer turned dating and relationship coach. His coaching method considers the unique patterns we exhibit when dating and within our intimate partnerships to forge and strengthen our most important relationships. Chuck prides himself on guiding people to add new dimensions to their lives – such as self-acceptance, focus, greater connection or whatever they desire to add to their world. www.chuckrockey.com