“We decided to give it another try”. That’s an announcement that many couples who were previously in crisis are relieved to say and broadcast. When they have successfully weathered the storms of betrayal and rebuilt the foundation of trust, they are happy to be back in their safety and comfort of their unions. Trust me. Their reconciliation didn’t come easy. It was a process filled tears, trials and tribulations. It was a journey filled with pain, purpose and promise. Reconciliation was a trip down memory lane and a giant step into the future. It was a journey to understand the truth and a lesson on how to tell the truth. The process required each partner to give, and at the same time, required each partner to take. Reconciliation required the use of abilities that the couple had already mastered, and a few abilities that they had to learn (responsibility, vulnerability, respectability, culpability, accountability and teachability). Reconciliation required all the energy that they had to give, and even some energy that they had to find. If you ever experienced the process/journey of reconciliation, you know what a blessing and relief it is to say “WE MADE IT!!!”
Now that you have completed your relationship rehabilitation, what do you do? Since you have resuscitated and revived your union, what are the next steps? Yes, you have learned a few things, said a few things, tried a few things, compromised on a few things and prayed about a few things. So what are the Relationship Rules now needed to strengthen the connection? In other words, how do partners now connect the proverbial dots to ensure continued relationship satisfaction, fulfillment and longevity? All are good questions but unfortunately there are no universal answers. Every situation and every relationship is different; there is not one right way to do anything when it comes to love.
But despite the variability in circumstances and the differences in partner personalities, I want to offer a few suggestions to consider that may provide some guidance to support and strengthen your recommitment. None of the ideas are novel or earth shattering; you have probably heard many of them before. But I have learned that the best advice and the most helpful hints are usually simple concepts that are often overlooked and/or underutilized. Let’s review a few.
Tip 1: Realize that everybody will not be happy that you and your partner have reconciled.
You will have haters who will not agree with your decision to reunite. Know who they are! You don’t have to avoid them but don’t expect positivity, support and affirmation from them either. Many times the naysayers are our family members and our friends who are attempting to show support for us, but are having difficulty endorsing our commitment to our union/marriage.
However, don’t get or be angry at them. You invited them into your relationship when you shared aspects of your marriage that should have NEVER been made public. In the future, remember to only share with those who are also invested in the maintenance of your union. Friends who have their own successful relationships, counselors, therapists, clergy and other people with some expertise should be your “go-to” people when you need advice or when you need to vent. Lil’Man, Pokie, June Bug, TT, Ray-Ray, Momma, Daddy, Granny, Aunt Mae, ex-girlfriends, ex-wives or others who don’t have the ability to be objective, who don’t support both of you, and who are not able to keep their own relationships together don’t need/deserve to pour and speak into your relationship. Always seek help; that’s good. But choose your help wisely. The health of your relationship depends on it.
Tip 2: Realize that the changes in awareness, actions and attitudes that helped you reconcile, will need to be continued to keep you reconciled.
When people are in crisis, they tend to do and say whatever needs to be done and said to survive. They are open to change, open to grow, open to learn and open to listen. They are OPEN. But many times after the emotional storm is over and the breaks-up has been averted, inertia sets in. For some reason, many couples who do the hard, emotional work to rebuild their relationship don’t always exert the same energy and consistency to maintain the relationship.
For example, when partners are in crisis, they were affirming. After the crisis, you can’t pay them to give each other compliments or give positive feedback. When they are in crisis, they are at the gym working on their bodies to regain their health and sexy physiques. After the crisis, you can’t bribe them to get on a treadmill or even drive past the gym. When they are in crisis, they have great conversations infused with vulnerability and empathy. After the crisis, they somehow stop talking or their conversations are peppered with judgment and impatience. After the storm is over, some partners become complacent and lax and often settle, and sometimes unknowingly, return to their old destructive patterns that initially jeopardized their relationship. They stop doing what they know to do. It is unfortunate, but it more common than you think.
Here is some truth. When you know better, you MUST do better. Nothing breeds more resentment in a relationship than knowing that your partner is emotionally and physically capable of doing something, but refuses or neglects to it. And, refusing to do something that she needs and desires feels intentional and mean. Failure to do something or the failure to even try communicates a lack of concern, a lack of interest and to some, a lack of love. For many, it feels like rejection.
Also when you refuse to do something or withhold emotional support, it makes your partner think that you just feigned some changes just to get her back. Now, that cuts deep. She may feel bamboozled, tricked, hoodwinked, fooled and confused. All are terrible emotions to experience, right? Feeling tricked breaks trust, destroys respect, breeds hostility and poisons love.
So what do you do to safeguard against relationship complacency? First, agree that you both have permission to lovingly assess each other’s performance. I am not suggesting that you judge each other. I am advocating that you create emotional space in your relationship that allows you to tell your partner that she is getting slack, that you need more attention, that you see some regression in an important area and that you miss the improvements.
Even though some regression is expected, full relapses are never welcomed. Let’s face it. Everybody sometimes takes his/her foot off the self-improvement accelerator; that’s natural. But to keep your foot off the improvement accelerator ensures stagnation, boredom, resentment, bitterness and disconnection. And unfortunately many relationships that are newly reconciled don’t have the trust bandwidth to recover from these types of emotional set-backs so be careful and prayerful. Complacency is a major relationship killer.
Here’s my advice. Honor your hard work. If there are other things happening in your life that prevents you from performing our honoring the commitments made during your reconciliation process, share them. For example, let her know if there are new stressors on your job that are affecting your interest in sex. Let her know that mother’s health diagnosis is affecting your concentration and your ability to be fully present. Let her know your children’s decisions are making you feel unsettled and irritable. If something is preventing you from following through on the promises you made during your reconciliation process, share them with her immediately. Ask for help. Ask for a hug. Ask for time. Ask for massage. Ask! Don’t step away. You know better so do better. Apply your new communications skills and relationship knowledge. Don’t let yourself off the hook and don’t expect your partner to let you off the hook either. You both deserve better.
Tip 3: Realize that you will still have conflicts.
Just because you have reconciled does not mean that you will always agree. So, don’t be scared to share your opinions and perspectives. Don’t be reluctant to share your needs, wants and thoughts. Don’t run from conflict; embrace it because conflict is healthy and human. Let’s be honest. You will still feel, think, behave and believe differently. That’s ok. You are a couple not clones.
Remember this….you must always speak up when something does not feel right in your spirit. Why? Because peace is not given; peace is MADE. Peace is made when two people are willing to be transparent, honest, authentic and vulnerable with each other. If you want to have peace with yourself and peace with your partner, you must always communicate. And not only communicate, but communicate with the BIG 3: an open mind, open heart and open hand. The BIG 3 should always be a part of every interaction if you want to nurture and solidify your bond.
Also, embrace and implement what I call the “A Rule”. If you are wrong, apologize. If you have a change of mind or heart, acknowledge. If your partner sees or believe something differently, accept. If something is not working in the relationship, adjust. If you don’t understand, ask. If you feel powerless, assert. If she asks a question, answer. If she does something loving, appreciate. If she is doing something admirable and wonderful, affirm. If she needs more consideration, allow. If you have a new understanding or skill, apply. If you have an issue, address. One of the only “As” to avoid is the word assume because we all know what assume really means: a ___ of u and me. The “A Rule” when consistently applied works wonders. Try it….your relationship deserves it.
Tip 4: In life and in love, NEVER give up 2 rights: the right to be wrong and the right to change your mind.
We all make mistakes and hopefully we all will grow because of them. If you believe in self-improvement, there will always be times when you are wrong and there will be times when you will realize that changes are needed to support and serve you. Why is that important to remember? When people are in crisis, they are motivated to accept conditions, sometimes any conditions, to maintain their relationship. Some requirements or agreements may work well in the short-term, but some are difficult to emotionally manage and maintain forever. There may be times when you are not aware of your inability to maintain a certain behavior or to keep a specific promise until life demonstrates that you can’t. You are human so it may happen. So what do you do?
What you should not do is ignore the problem or issue; it will not go away. You should not berate yourself because I am sure you reviewed and considered the proposed agreement to the best of your ability. I believe that you should face reality as a couple and look for new opportunities and ways to address the need or solve the problem. Don’t turn away from each other; turn toward each other and stay positive.
So what, you were wrong. It won’t be the last time. So what, you changed your mind. That happens when you gain experience or expertise. When people are committed to learning, their views or perspectives may change and that’s a good thing. Leverage the change and expand your capacity to love, experience and grow personally and with your partner.
Never forget that the biggest room in any relationship is the room for improvement. Also remember that mistakes and changes are helpful because both are part of the refinement and development process. So continue to try new ideas and creative ways to love each other. Some ideas will fail and some will work temporarily but never stop trying to improve yourself and your relationship. Failure is always a healthy part of the learning process.
CREATing Love and CREATing relationships don’t just happen overnight; there are processes. They are journeys filled with detours, distractions, differences and disagreements that when addressed properly can strengthen your resolve to love. If you want a relationship that serves, satisfies and celebrates you, commit to fully engage in the love creation process because being in love is a wonderful and amazing experience.
Love is a tremendous gift and we all know that the best gifts are always worth the wait and worth the work. So don’t give up and don’t give in to neglect and complacency. Stay tuned into your own spirit and stay tuned into your partner/spouse/lover. You both deserve it!
There are more reconciliation suggestions but I hope these will get you started. I look forward to discussing more relationship tips at the 2014 CREATE LOVE Conference. Are you registered? If not, what are you waiting for ☺? I look forward to meeting and seeing you soon.
I look forward to seeing you on March 8 at the 2014 CREATE LOVE Conference! Make sure you get your tickets.