I recently read an article written by the incredibly enlightened Esther Perel. In it she spoke of the problems with modern dating and modern relationships, specifically where excess access and choice are concerned. It really struck a chord for me, because it’s one of the recurring issues that I regularly encounter when working with clients. The good news, my friend, is that there are solutions. It’s just a matter of acknowledgement, acceptance and commitment. 1. The Pool’s Gotten Bigger… So Remember Why You’ve Chosen Your Partner
If you think back to when your parents or grandparents began dating, it’s likely that they had a far smaller social circle or “pool” of people from which to choose. Many years later, in burst the Internet in all of its connective glory. The Internet, and the mobile app, allow us to instantly connect with tons of people in our own city, within driving distance and from all over the world. Apps like Tinder, and sites like Match, allow you to instantly browse through thousands of profiles with the touch of a button.
Don’t get me wrong. I think having options is the only way to truly discover what it is you want and what it is that you don’t want. However, this constant access to unlimited options can really have an affect on the development of a new relationship. Partners sometimes find themselves second-guessing their situation based on the tiniest flaws, daydreaming up “what if” scenarios and even find themselves tempted to “just have a look” elsewhere. So, how do you stop it? Here are two suggestions:
Let's say you met someone online and you've mutually decided to be exclusive. Actually have a conversation around, "Are we taking our profiles down?" And, if you like, actually take them down together and then take yourselves out on a celebratory date. This communicates that you've both decided to be all in on developing the potential of this relationship.
Sometimes a year or even 10 years into a relationship, you can forget why you chose this person. Completely normal and common! If this happens I encourage you to sit down and even write out all the things you enjoy (or even love) about the person that you’re with. Place your focus there, really feel it within you rather than letting your thoughts constantly focus on the things that aren't currently working.
2. Empathy Has Become a Rarity… So Regularly Practice Compassion
In today’s society, as well as in relationships, empathy has become a more rare trait than ever before. Our fast paced culture of “always on” and personal satisfaction has left less room for compassion, understanding and even accountability. This fundamental change in human character and behaviour greatly impacts how couples interact with each other.
You can imagine how this decrease in compassion has resulted in an increase in selfishness. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking out for yourself and ensuring that you live the life you truly want and deserve. There is, however, a problem when your doing so comes at the expense of someone else. It’s so important that, in a partnership, you regularly exercise compassion and empathy. Moreover, that you help and support one another in your collective efforts to live a fulfilling, satisfying and mutually rewarding life.
To improve your empathetic abilities, I encourage you to ask yourself, “What can I do to better support my partner?”. If you are both asking yourself this, you are feeding the relationship what it needs. It works better than each of you asking yourself, "What can my partner do for me?" which has more of a "taking" mentality to it. Often times, you’ll find that even the smallest of things, like offering to pick up the kids when your partner is having an especially stressful or demanding day or making their favorite homemade treat, can truly make all the difference and if you are each doing things for each other, you get this real sense of having each other's back.
3. We Spend More Time Away from Home Than Ever Before… So Don’t Forget to Stay Connected
While work-life balance continues to be one of the most talked about subjects, and many companies tout optimal balance as one of the benefits of working for them, the reality is that people are working more hours per week than ever before. Whether it’s longer commutes into the office, longer hours or more time spent answering emails and taking phone calls from home – North American society is filled with workaholics.
The more time spent away from home most commonly means more time spent away from your partner. While you may not be able to completely change your work schedule, there are things you can do to help keep your relationship strong. At some point during the day, take a moment to check in with your partner. Whether it’s by phone, text or email, send your partner a quick message to let them know that they’re on your mind and that you’re thinking of them. I promise you that this small effort will have huge impact.
When you are both home in the evenings and on the weekend, use that time wisely and do your best to not only physically be together but mentally too. If you read between the lines here, sitting on the couch next to each other scrolling through social media feeds isn't what I classify as connecting and being together! :) While it’s completely fine (and very healthy) to fill up your calendar with book clubs, exercise classes and plans with friends, quality connection time with your partner keeps the relationship healthy. And isn't that what drove you to open yourself up to being in a relationship in the beginning? Honor that.
To your authenticity,