When Was The Last Time You Had a Date Night?

When Was The Last Time You Had a Date Night?

Couples who’ve been together for a long time can start to take their relationship for granted — staying together even as both partners work less and less to maintain their intimate connection as lovers.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Most of us want more closeness, excitement, and variety, but few of us take proactive steps to maintain or improve our love life with our partners.

And while some men have been conditioned not to be romantic, almost all women yearn for it, and will often feel far more open sexually if their partner still flatters them with some romance. For them, it’s how their man demonstrates to her how she is special to him. Whether yours is a traditional male/female or a same-sex partnership, keep an eye on how these traditional differences can play themselves out.

One excellent way to re-spark the connection and develop a lifetime romance is to prioritize a weekly “Date Night” that finds the two of you enjoying being together, without the usual trappings of children, family, electronic distractions, or talk of work. Date Nights are simply fun time spent together, the way it used to be when you first met.

If not weekly, Date Nights should happen at least once every two weeks. Put it on your calendar and take turns planning the night. You need not spend a lot of money; besides dinner and movies, here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Indoor picnic: Set up a picnic dinner on a rug on the floor with candles.
  • Surprise your partner with a pair of tickets to an interesting place or event
  • Sign up for dancing or another class together

If possible, start this week by planning and executing your first Date Night.

 

Suggested add-on for your Date night: The Art of Gentle Lighting…and a Foot Massage

You will need either a pair of pillar candles or a half-dozen tea lights. Place them on the bedside table or around the bedroom. Gentle candlelight works best, as it provides just enough soft light to see each other and into each other’s eyes without any glare.

In the gentle candlelight of the bedroom, take turns massaging each other’s feet. Attending to your partner’s feet makes them feel loved and cared for. Start with general overall light squeezes, using your whole hand with a gentle grasp. Then begin to work each area of your partner’s foot, paying particular attention to the arch and ball of the foot. Finish off with light gentle overall touch, and move to the next foot.

If you’re the massager, you don’t have to be an expert. Just move slowly and be intentional If you’re the massagee, make sure to relax into the pleasurable receiving of the massage. Give your partner clear and gentle feedback as to what feels good. Doing so will help them build their repertoire of what you enjoy.

 

How Well Do You Know Your Partner?

Research by the Gottman Institute has proven that how much you know about your partner —and the amount of interest you show in learning it — are two essential factors in creating a high-quality relationship. You might already know the answer to the following questions, or you might not. Either way, asking and getting the answers will give you an opportunity to assess how much you know about your partner…and how much they know about you.

Start by focusing on one of you first, asking and answering all 15, then switch to the other.

  1. What has been your partner’s biggest highlight of his or her life so far?
  2. What stresses is he or she facing at the moment and in the immediate future?
  3. What has been your partner’s favorite birthday celebration so far in his or her life?
  4. What has been your partner’s best sexual experience the two of you have shared?
  5. What has been your partner’s favorite birthday gift you have given him or her?
  6. What life experience has your partner learned the most from?
  7. What is your partner’s favorite way to spend an evening?
  8. What personal improvements does he or she want to make in his or her life?
  9. What is your partner’s favorite way of being soothed?
  10. What are a few important events coming up in your partner’s life, and how does he or she feel about them?
  11. What is your partner’s biggest fear?
  12. What job would be an ideal one for your partner?
  13. What is your partner’s worst childhood experience?
  14. What is your partner’s favorite vacation destination?
  15. What is your partner’s biggest dream for the future?

Remember: These are great conversation starters — you can always ask even more questions and get to know your partner even better!

Connection Rituals To Help Keep The Spark In Your Relationship

Shared rituals both large and small play an incredibly important part in each partner’s sense that the relationship is safe and supportive. They also give the relationship a sense of continuity, along with a regular sense of connection that stays intact even in the face of the busy-ness of everyday life. They also give both partners something to look forward to.

Anything can be a connection ritual as long as it’s important to both of you: A particular kind of exercise, a favorite TV show, even a household chore done together — the most important thing about having rituals is that they’re important to both of you.

Following are some rituals, both informal and formal, that I invite you to discuss with each other.

Are any of these worth adopting? Being aware of (and guarding) your connection rituals is a powerful ingredient in sustaining a good relationship.

 

Normal Life Rituals

Mealtimes:

Regularly eat at least one meal a day together, with cell phones and TV turned off, in order to easily talk with each other or with the family.

When leaving the house:

Always find your partner and give him or her a kiss, making sure you know at least one thing he or she will be doing while you’re away.

When arriving home:

Always make sure to find your partner and give him or her a long and loving kiss. Do this before you do anything else.

Talk time each night:

This is a high-priority ritual: Make sure to spend time every evening sitting and talking to one another about your day, sharing what you’re thinking and feeling, and catching up on family news. It can be helpful to meet in the same place.

Bedtime:

It’s important to spend at least a few minutes cuddling and kissing in bed. If one of you goes to bed earlier than the other, do this then.

Date Nights:

Especially if you have children, it’s crucial for the two of you to schedule (and protect) a regular Date Night — preferably once a week, but at a minimum once every two or three weeks. It allows you to escape your everyday responsibilities and create romantic and special “couple time” together. Date Nights don’t have to be expensive — a picnic on a blanket under the moonlight costs no more than a meal at home. Take turns organizing these.

Weekends away:

A regular romantic weekend, even if it’s once every few months, is a powerful, relaxing connection ritual. Again, it need not be expensive; take turns planning them.

 

Special Circumstance Rituals

When one of you is sick:

For most couples, how their partner cares for them when they’re sick or feeling vulnerable is important. Are you someone who likes a lot of attention, or do you prefer being left alone? Talking through this in advance allows you to best provide for each other when the time comes.

Celebrations:

A promotion, a milestone, a personal goal: When one of you has achieved success, how do you celebrate it? Do you create a culture of praise for and with each other and your family?

Bad luck, failures, or exhaustion:

How do you support one another when one of you is stressed out, exhausted, or experiencing failure? Do you acknowledge his or her difficulty? Does the other step up and carry more of the load? (There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.) How do each of you prefer to be supported in tough times?

Entertaining:

Do you have an agreement and a divided workload for entertaining visitors? Who cooks? Who cleans? What do you do together? How often do you entertain? How late does it go? Do you clean up at night or in the morning? Do you wait for each other to go to bed, or not? What do each of your prefer?

Keeping in touch with friends and family:

Do you have particular rituals around staying in touch with friends and family? Who contacts whom? How long between catch-ups? Do you do the same routine each time or change it up?

Making love:

With the daily schedules of life (and particularly with children), making time to make love can be difficult, particularly if you believe sex and lovemaking should be spontaneous. Research has shown that you’ll have a better sex life if you make love regularly, so it can be a good idea to plan a “sex date” together at least one night a week. For many couples, this can often coincide with Date Night; for others, late afternoon on the weekend might be a better time.

Vacations:

How do you take vacations as a couple? Who comes up with the idea? Who organizes the details? Do you always travel together, or do you sometimes go places alone? Do the two of you prefer active or relaxing holidays, or some of both? Is it okay to work on vacation? Do each of you have time to “do your own thing”?

Birthdays and anniversaries:

How do you celebrate these important events? For the two of you as a couple, what’s the norm (and the budget) for of gift-giving, going out, and trips away? Are there particularly special ones to acknowledge? Would you like these celebrations to be different in any way?

Do you feel like you’re competing with your partner’s mobile phone for attention?

Do you sometimes feel like if your partner had to choose between you and their mobile phone, it may not be YOU?

More and more I am seeing in couples coming to relationship counselling where one partner is complaining about the amount of time his/her partner is on their phone, taking away from the quality time they can spend together.

In established relationships, particularly when you are trying to balance work pressures and raising a family, it is especially important to carve out quality time together just as a couple each night.

And, as if this is not difficult enough to achieve, with the demands of work, commuting, giving the kids attention, meal preparation, organizing the children for and in bed, just when you have finally finished with all these demands on your time and it’s time to relax together, you can find your partner would prefer to be on facebook or is distracted constantly by their phone.

Research on Relationship quality and Mobile phone use

Interesting research from the University of Essex study has shown how much just having a mobile phone sitting next to you, even without using it, can negatively impact your relationship closeness.

In their study, they found that when couples were discussing anything of meaning to them, just having a mobile phone near them (and without using it) both partners reported feeling less trust in each other, and felt their partners showed less empathy than when there was no phone present at all.

The Mobile Mindset Study has also found that:

  • We are constantly connecting. Nearly 60% of people said they don’t go an hour without checking their phone. Those between 18 and 34 were the most addicted with 63% of women and 73% of men saying they can’t go an hour without checking their phones.
  • Our connection never sleeps. 54% said they check their phones while lying in bed: before they go to sleep, after they wake up, even in the middle of the night.
  • We need access everywhere. Nearly 40% admit to checking their phone even while on the toilet.

 

Mobile phones are a huge part of our lives and are here to stay, but overuse of them can really hurt your relationship.

So when you make the time to spend quality time together each night, you might want to consider making a phone-free zone, for a least half an hour a night.

You might be surprised what a qualitative difference it will make to your relationship.

More on the Core values in a healthy relationship in next week’s blog.

Warmest regards

Julie

If you are in Sydney and are experiencing this kind of problem, please check out our Sydney Relationship Team of Psychologists.

How secure do you feel in your Relationship? Take our Attachment Questionnaire

 

Attachment Questionnaire

How Safe and connected do you feel with your partner?

Take this quick quiz to determine how secure your Attachment is.

From your view point, is your partner accessible to you?

  1. I can get my partner’s attention easily. T F
  2. My partner is easy to connect with emotionally. T F
  3. My partner shows me that I come first with him/her. T F
  4. I am not feeling lonely or shut out in this relationship. T F
  5. I can share my deepest feelings with my partner. He/she will listen. T F

From your viewpoint, is your partner responsive to you?

  1. If I need connection and comfort, he/she will be there for me. T F
  2. My partner responds to signals that I need him/her to come close. T F
  3. I find I can lean on my partner when I am anxious or unsure. T F
  4. Even when we fight or disagree, I know that I am important to my partner and we will find a way to come together. T F
  5. If I need reassurance about how important I am to my partner, I can get it. T F

Are you positively emotionally engaged with each other?

  1. I feel very comfortable being close to, trusting my partner. TF
  2. I can confide in my partner about almost anything. T F
  3. I feel confident, even when we are apart, that we are connected to each other. T F
  4. I know that my partner cares about my joys, hurts, and fears. T F
  5. I feel safe enough to take emotional risks with my partner. T F

 

 

To score, total the Ts                                                                                                  Your total ……….

 

Scoring:

7 or more – Yes, you have a secure attachment or bond with partner

Les than 7 – Your bond and connection with your partner does NOT feel secure. You most probably feel you have an under- responsive partner.

You may want to talk with a Relationship Psychologist to help rebuild your bond and feeling or secure attachment.

More on do you feel you are competing with your partner’s mobile phone in our next blog.

Warmest regards

Julie

Why do my relationships not go the way I want them to?

Have you ever wondered why your relationships don’t go the way you want  them to despite your best efforts?

It all starts way back when you were growing up.

As a child, we all need respect, understanding, empathic attunement & mirroring of ourselves from  our parents or caregivers.

We need our parents to serve as a mirror to us, to see us clearly, to respond appropriately to our feelings, to reflect them back to us, reassuring us that they are ok, and reflect our core goodness and potential back to us.

It is only in doing this that we get to know who we really are and appreciate ourselves and feel confident about developing towards adulthood.

Unfortunately, most parents are unable to do this, as they themselves have not received this level of empathic attunement for themselves. They see their children through the dark coloured distorted glasses of their own limited perceptions of themselves, as well as their own hopes, fears, expectations and unmet needs.

They simply couldn’t give us the kind of recognition they never gave themselves, nor allow us to have feelings, needs or sensitivities they never allowed themselves to have either.

This provides an incredibly challenging situation that many children have to find a way to deal with.

To the extent that we don’t receive this empathic attunement of ourselves as a child, we grow up feeling that there is something wrong with us, or our experience; that we are in some way deficient, unworthy or unacceptable, or that we don’t exist or are  completely insignificant.

This is experienced as deeply hurtful, and this core wound and sense of emptiness can haunt us for the rest of our lives.

This attachment wound then can play itself out in a myriad of ways:

– At a level sometimes below our consciousness, we can feel deeply hurt & in shock and so we shut down our natural openness of our being

– We can have very little awareness of our real emotions and needs, as we have had no or very little validation of them.

– We can protect our sense of safety by believing that our parents must be right, and therefore we develop a haunting sense of deficiency and poor self esteem, and a most primal core belief that “I am deficient, I am unworthy, I am unacceptable, I don’t exist”

– We can develop a False Self/ Ego/ Rigid Personality which gives us:   

                          An identity

                          A sense of control and safety in the world.

                          A sense of superiority

                         An avoidance of vulnerability

But can also give us:

A lack of empathy and compassion to ourselves and others

A lack of openness and softness to ourselves and others

A sense of numbness and inner emptiness

And a life that feels flat, stale and joyless

– We can medicate ourselves by getting addicted to TV, alcohol, material success, food, social media, shopping, love, spirituality and many other things, to numb the feeling of emptiness 

– We relate in all our relationships from a rigid personality and an Insecure Attachment style 

– We have no idea of who we really are

So, our relationship with our parents helps shape our brain in a way that was highly adaptive to the circumstances we found ourselves in. We survived, we adapted and we did the best we could.

However, this closing down emotionally and feeling poorly about ourselves shapes our neural processes, self-esteem and emotional regulation capacities throughout our later life, as well as how securely we feel attached in our relationships.

Additionally all of these aspects play out over and over again in all our subsequent relationships, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy as we behave toward new people in ways that reproduce old negative relationships.

In this way almost all of us have ongoing life experiences that repeatedly reinforce earlier learned patterns of being in the world with others.

I will talk more about Attachment in the next few blogs. How secure our attachments are and what our attachment styles are, are very important components in understanding why our relationships don’t work the way we would like them.

Stay tuned for more information on understanding your attachment styles in the next couple of weeks.

If you are needing more information and help with your specific relationship click here for information on what our relationship counselling can offer.

More on how secure you feel in your relationship in our next blog.

Warmest regards

Julie

4 Steps to H-E-A-L your Relationship when it goes Off track

 

Even the strongest relationships get off track sometimes, because of the stresses of living,  mismatches in expectations or either of us being triggered from wounds from the past.

Melanie Greenberg has developed a simple 4 step  H-E-A-L  (Hear – Empathize – Act – Love) technique to repair damaged relationships by replacing defensive self-protection with compassionate presence and loving connection.

HEAR – To Hear Your Partner, Stay Present & Listen

When your partner speaks, make an effort to stay mentally present & listen. Open your heart and take down your defenses. It’s not about defending yourself, but about trying to understand your partner & learning to fulfill each other’s needs.

Listen beyond his/her words for nonverbal signs of emotion. Does he/she have an angry expression on his/ her face or sadness in his/her eyes? Is his/her body language open and reaching towards you or closed off and guarded?

What do you think your partner is feeling? What are the needs he/she has that are not being met (such as for love, companionship, understanding, control,or respect)?

The best way to soothe an angry spouse is to let him know that you hear and & accept his/her unmet needs and are willing to make changes to help meet them.

EMPATHIZE – Allow Your Partner’s Experience to Deeply Affect you

Once you think you understand what your partner feels and have checked it out with him, pay attention to what feelings YOU have when you observe him feeling this way.

It is especially important to search beneath the surface for the softer, tender feelings. My clients often express anger when what lies underneath is feeling stuck, sad, or lonely.

Can you stay present with your partner, and connect with his/her deeper experience, perhaps feeling pain because he/she is in pain?

Can you feel compassion, and let him/her know that his/her expression of pain or anger affects you deeply?

Your first instinct in hearing your partner’s distress may be to try to solve the problem or give advice. Often this advice comes across as critical or judgmental, which makes things worse.

On the other hand, staying emotionally engaged and expressing compassion can provide healing comfort and connection. Many times, that is all he/she needs.

ACT – Take Action to Address Concerns & Show Willingness to Change

The next step is to commit to intentional action to address your partner’s needs and concerns.

These actions can range from helping more with the dishes to calling your partner during the day to let him/her know you are thinking of him/her, to spending less money because it makes her/him anxious.

When your partner sees that you take his/her concerns seriously, he/she will be more likely to feel valued and respected.

This can create a positive cycle in which he/she appreciates you and feels more loving towards you.

You don’t have to be perfect at it – just the fact that you care and are trying to change is enough to help most people feel validated.

 LOVE – Feel and Express Unconditional Love

Make space in your life to deliberately reconnect with the loving feelings you have for your partner, even if recent interactions have made you feel distant or angry.

Think about the good qualities he/she has that originally attracted you to him/her.  Perhaps look at old photos or visualize special times in your relationship and the hopes and dreams you had together.

Can you find a way to forgive yourself and your partner for the mistakes you have both made that got you off track? What do these feelings of love motivate you to do? Might you want to reach out to him/her and express your love and affection physically or with action, such as cooking a meal or writing a note?

Love is defined as a concern for another’s wellbeing and a warm feeling you have towards another. Do not make your expressions of love contingent on what your partner does, but rather reach out and express unconditional caring, support, understanding and forgiveness.

If there are unresolved trust issues that hamper your ability to love your partner freely, think about the next steps you could take to air these issues and what it would take to rebuild trust.

SUMMARY

Contrary to the way relationships are portrayed in the movies, they are not all sunsets and roses. A better analogy is that of an ever-changing, complicated dance.

When two people come together with different life histories, sensitivities, and current stresses, you are bound to bump up against each other or get blown off track over the course of a many-year relationship.

Repair your relationship using the H-E-A-L technique. By Hearing, Empathizing, Acting to Change, & Loving, you are actively reaching for your partner and letting them know that they matter and you care. This should create HEALING energy to move your relationship back to health.

If you need further help with any of these techniques, give us a ring and book in for a relationship counselling session.

More on why our relationship not go the way we want them to in in our next blog.

Warmest regards

JUlie

Rules for a healthy relationship

As we all know, having a happy and healthy relationship is never simple.

Even the best of relationships and marriages will get stuck in too much distance or blame. The natural course of relationships is often downstream, unless you are intentional about paddling against the current.

Relationship Essentials

Here are some of the absolute essentials Harriet Lerner, a very experienced couples Therapist and renowned author on relationship feels is important to pay attention to:

1. Warm Things Up. Make at least two positive comments every day to your partner and speak about the specifics about what you admire (“I loved how funny you were at the party last night”). Make sure that your positive comments exceed critical ones by a healthy margin.

2. Dial down the criticism. Try to let all but the most important issues go by. When you have a criticism, make it in three sentences or less. Remember this: No one can survive in a marriage (at least not happily) if they feel more judged than admired.

3. Overcome Your Listening Deficit Disorder. Whole-hearted listening is the greatest gift you can give to your partner. Drop the defensiveness, and listen only to understand, without interrupting, correcting facts, or counter-punching. Save your defense for another conversation.

4. Be self-focused. Connect with friends and family, pursue your own interests, and be of service to others. If your primary energy isn’t directed to living your own life as well as possible, you’ll be over-focused on your partner in a worried or critical way.

5. Apologize. Offer the olive branch. You can say, “I’m sorry for my part of the problem” even if you’re secretly convinced that you’re only 28% to blame.

6. Don’t Demand an Apology. Don’t get into a tug of war about his failure to apologize. An entrenched non-apologizer may use a nonverbal way to try to defuse tension, reconnect after a fight, or show he’s in a new place and wants to move toward you. Accept the olive branch in whatever form it’s offered.

7. Sweat the Small Stuff. When you say you’ll do something, do it! Never assume that your overall contribution to the relationship compensates for failing to do what you have agreed to do, whether it’s picking up your socks or moving the boxes out of the garage by Sunday.

sydney loving relationship counselling

8. Stop the emotional pursuit. Under stress, don’t press. If you pursue a distancer, he or she will distance more. Consider it a fundamental law of physics. Focus less on your partner, and more on your own life plan. A distant partner is more likely to move toward you when he or she has breathing room and can see you taking good care of yourself.

9 Say it Shorter! A distant partner may avoid conversation because it feels awful to him or her. Sometimes the culprit is the sheer number of sentences and the intensity in our voice. Slow down your speech, turn down the volume, and lower the intensity.

10. Know your bottom line. Be flexible in changing for your partner 84% of the time, but don’t sacrifice your core values, beliefs and priorities under relationship pressures. Your relationship will spiral downward if you have an “anything goes” policy.

11. Exit a conversation when you are on the receiving end of rude or demeaning treatment. You can say, “I’m giving myself a time out from this conversation. I’m here to listen when you can talk to me calmly and with respect.” Keep your actions congruent with these words.

12. Be a mystery. It’s comfortable and cozy when two people know absolutely everything about each other but we’re more likely to be drawn to a partner who has connections and a passion for life outside the relationship. So take a dance class, skiing lessons, or join a book group with friends. The more passion you show for life outside your marriage, the more zest you’ll find within it.

13. Make rules about technology. Agree on “time-out rules” from anything you’re prohibited from using during takeoff and landing in an airplane. For example, mobile phones off and out of sight during food preparation and eating meals and no answering land lines. No taking calls in the middle of a conversation or when people are visiting.

relationship counsleling for sex in relationships

14. Initiate sex. If you are the distancer in bed, initiate sex once in a while even if you don’t feel like it. A long-term relationship won’t flourish if your partner is someone for whom sex is an enlivening essential force and you’re too unavailable. To decide you won’t be a physical partner because you don’t feel like it is like his (or her) deciding that there will be no more conversation because he’s not a talker. If you have a fair and good partner, there is probably something you can do that wouldn’t be too terribly difficult. (P.S. If you’re the pursuer in bed, back off.)

15. Work on relationships in your first family. Become a good questioner about family history, and observe and change your part in triangles and dysfunctional family patterns. You’ll stand on more solid ground with your partner if you navigate family-of-origin relationships with more creativity and less reactivity.

16. Start Small. Remember that it’s the direction of change that matters, and not the speed of travel. Real change sometimes occurs at glacial speed. Pick two rules from the above and stick with them. Your relationship thanks you in advance!

If you need any help in your relationship please contact us. We have 70 Relationship Psychologists Australia wide who can help you.

(Adapted from MARRIAGE RULES by Harriet Lerner, 2012.)