“Recalculating.” How many times do you hear your GPS tell you this? If you’re like me, with a bad sense of direction, you hear it a lot. In relationships, we can easily get lost. We don’t have a savvy computer system looking ahead, alerting us to a communication accident, intimacy roadblock, or a life transition fork–in-the road. Without a navigation system, how do we know when to recalculate and find a new route?
When you first met your partner, you put in the same address: Loveville, population 2. Your navigation states, “Let’s get started”. For a while, the relationship is all smooth roads and scenic views. But like any journey, the road gets bumpier and you must avoid the pot holes. Warning signs start to go off, alerting you of the “looming conflict in 10 minutes”. Offering you an opportunity to reroute. Whatever warning sign your relationship presents, below you will find ways to recalculate and find a new route together.
Communication-Accident Ahead! The word “accident” makes people uneasy. We try to avoid them, but it’s part of the risk of driving. Nobody wants to take responsibility. We point fingers, and hope we don’t get blamed. In relationships, pointing fingers makes us defensive and keeps us stuck in the conflict.
Conflicts around money, sex & children are the most common conflicts and trigger our vulnerabilities. We aren’t good at risking emotional wounding and exposure with ourselves or our partners. This makes certain topics fraught and challenging.
Instead of pointing fingers, getting defensive, or playing the blame-game, try calling a time-out. Take this opportunity to lean into the discomfort and look into yourself. Ask your inner voice- what about this topic is making me so upset? What’s being triggered? What am I afraid of? What am I defending? When you know what you’re feeling, turn to your partner and have an open discussion. This is called Repair. It’s the difference between a totaled car, and realizing that although there was an accident, no injuries were incurred. Sharing your vulnerabilities and needs is brave and what brings us closer. Take the focus away from blaming. Begin to see the problem as the enemy, rather than each other.
Watch out: Intimacy Roadblock. There is no right way to intimacy. We are so worried about “normal”, movie-like sex that we put too much pressure on ourselves and our significant others. Without realizing it, we inadvertently take away from our ability to obtain pleasure. These unfair expectations and ‘shoulds’ stay unnoticed, until they become hazards.
Our anxieties about “doing it right,” create distance between us as partners. We freeze up about how to communicate our sexual needs and fantasies. Why? Are we worried we will hurt our partner’s feelings? Are we concerned they’ll think we are too kinky? Are we afraid they’ll never be able to meet those desires? You’ll never know the answer until you begin to identify and put words to the roadblock. Only then can you begin to explore a new type of intimacy together.
Intimacy, like menus give us so many options. Appetizers, salads, entrees, dessert. Have you ever thought about what you would want on a Sex Menu? Intriguing, right! Sit down, write it out, nothing is off limits. Allow your sexual imagination to become aroused. What was it like to write your menu? Did anything surprise you? Do you have expectations of what’s on your partner’s menu? Share your menus with each other. Then, choose what you both feel comfortable doing from your menus.
Sharing your needs and desires leads to improved intimacy. Allow your sexual space to evolve and create your own definition of intimacy. Play in the grey together rather than follow Fifty Shades of Grey. Take from the movies, experiment, but don’t expect it to look or sound the same. It shouldn’t – they’re faking it anyway.
Life-Transition Fork in the Road: In our life, we go through many transitions. Becoming parents is one of them. It’s a fork in the road as some partners choose not to have children, while others prefer to embark on the road of parenthood. It’s a big decision. It’s important to give yourself the space to explore if and why you want children. Are you prepared for the lifestyle change? Are you financially ready? Can you lead a fulfilling life without kids? Is now the right time? While we can never fully prepare for any transition, it’s important for partners to feel they are ready for what’s ahead in the transition from a twosome to a threesome.
Priorities and roles shift. Explore how you were raised and how you want to raise your children. How will you share baby duties? Will you both work? Who will care for your child? How do you want to discipline? What’s important for your relationship as you shift into parenthood? Don’t marry these ideas, leave space for them to evolve. As you travel down the road of parenthood, roles will continue to shift. Expect them to. Relationships aren’t meant to remain static – they are constantly evolving. Your task is to prepare, as best as possible for the shifts.
You’ve arrived at your destination. We are all waiting to hear these magical words in our relationship, You’ve arrived at your destination-the perfect relationship. The reality is, as soon as you find yourself feeling that way, another hurdle is going to come your way. Enjoy the moments where you both feel successful, because that’s what will help you continue to prepare for what’s ahead. More challenging pit stops such as illness, infidelity and divorce. Relationships are constantly changing. Each new journey brings opportunity for growth. Keep laughing, recommitting, achieving goals and creating new ones. Listen to your internal navigations. If and when you get really lost, pull over and ask for directions. Don’t be afraid to pull into a therapist’s office and get professional help. Some people just need a quick oil change and can go thousands of miles again. Enjoy the drive!