I’m often asked, “What is one of the most challenging issues couples face today?”
While every couple is different, there are themes that I see in my work as a couples counselor and relationship coach. One common issue is the difficulty couples have in prioritizing their relationshipa form of relationship neglect.
Relationship problems stemming from relationship neglect
Have you ever thought of yourself as neglectful? Probably not. When people think of neglect, it usually has to do with issues regarding children and parenting. But the fact is that many couples ignore their marriage or relationship to such a degree that marital and relationship problems often resultisn’t it neglectful to ignore something so much that it becomes damaged or unhealthy?
As long as you and your partner continue to neglect the relationship, you increase the chances of marital problems or relationship problems.
Why is relationship neglect so widespread?
1. Lack of awareness
One reason is that couples simply don’t realize that attention must be given their relationship in order to keep it healthy. The “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it” mindset keeps couples blind to the fact that relationships require ongoing maintenance, before problems surface. Try to develop a preventive medicine mindset to keep your marriage or relationship running as smoothly as possible.
Now that you’ve read this section, you’ve raised your awareness enough to stop relationship neglect!
2. Lack of adequate attention
“But we had ‘date night’ last month and still nothing has improved ”
You and your spouse/partner probably spend a great deal of time together. What percentage of that time would you say is dedicated to nurturing intimacy and the relationship? Two hours of ‘date night’ each month probably won’t cut it. It wasn’t enough for the couple quoted above. While it’s a great idea to create specific times designated to focusing on each other, don’t short-change yourself and the relationship in the time department.
You’re in good company if you are too strapped for time. If so, rather than plan for large chucks of time, try shorter but more frequent meetings where the two of you can connect.
3. Lack of follow through
Emotional pain pulls for your attention and some sort of action. When you or your spouse/partner are in distress (due to a lack of intimacy, frequent conflicts, or unhappiness with the relationship) you may find that you’re ready to give your relationship some attention. This might involve efforts to improve communication, creating opportunities to have more fun together, or even making an appointment with a marriage therapist or couples counselor.
Too frequently, couples take these initial steps, feel a little better but then fall back to their neglectful patterns. And when this happens, it’s easy for you to conclude: “I tried, but things between us are just hopeless.” Improving and sustaining the health of your marriage or relationship takes consistent and sustained follow throughnot a one-time barrage of good will and attention.
Becoming good at something takes both time and effort: Great athletes, musicians and artists practicea lot. When they stop, their performance suffers. Why should your relationship be any different? Couples who have successful marriages or relationships work at it.
Are you ready to create a plan to prevent relationship neglect so that you can experience the gifts of love, intimacy and a fulfilling union?