The course of relationships is something that has always been fascinating to me.
A common experience I hear from couples I coach is that everything is amazing at the beginning; everything just flows, is incredibly easy and the passion is on fire.
Then, as time passes, the passion cools, issues arise and the simplest of conversations become a potential minefield, where answering the wrong way can leave you in the doghouse. While our natural inclination is to focus on “why aren’t we as close as we used to be?”, I have become more interested in “who do we get to be in order to reconnect?”
Of course, the “why” is important. From my experience, however, we can spend so much time looking at why things are wrong that we miss some very easy fixes. The “why” is usually chalked up to complacency, laziness or life developments, such as having babies, that distract from the relationship.
The real answer is that we are simply not taught how to have successful relationships, and are sold on fairy tales of how “true love” is supposed to look. Consider that the complacency, the laziness and succumbing to “life,” are the results of us just simply not knowing how to sustainably relate.
While it is true that people may enter into relationships with different goals in mind, and this can be a major cause for drifting apart, for this, I am going to assume that both are committed and genuinely want to have things work.
One of the main ways of being that keeps the fires burning with couples, is to be curious. If you think about it, at the beginning of a relationship, you are very curious; you want to know more, you want to see more and you want to feel more.
Even if the knowing, seeing, and feeling are focused on different things, they are still sources of interest about your partner. Once we discover “enough” of what we want to know and see every inch of them and experience what they feel like, our curiosity can fade, leaving the two of you with the experience of disconnection and a lack of depth.
The extent to which you can bring that curiosity—or interest—back into your relationship will determine the depth of your connection. The catch is that many of us are afraid to go there.
It is unfortunate that we tend to have so many hang-ups surrounding being curious. I have heard many times that some partners will get defensive when asked about things, such as how their day was.
They feel like they are “being grilled,” or that their partner is “being nosey,” or that there is some ulterior motive in asking that question. On the other hand, partners who are asked why they do not ask more questions, often say things like, “I don’t want to impose.”
This all comes down to a basic fear of being open and authentic with each other. We are afraid of being judged, we are afraid of being wrong and so we tend to gather just-enough information from each other and hope for the best. When we can set that aside, learn to ask questions, and give more than one-word answers, we create opportunities to connect with each other.
The truth is, not everyone requires long conversations to connect, however, you can also take your curiosity into physical activities. Exploring new things together is another way to exercise this.
Art classes, concerts, hiking and trying new restaurants together, are just some examples of things you can do that will keep things new and intriguing. Observing how your partner experiences an activity and expressing what that activity is like for you, feeds your desire for discovery; and they will feel your interest.