- “We don’t connect like we used to…”
- “We’re more like roommates than husband and wife…”
- “I don’t feel heard or taken seriously…”
- “It’s like we’re living parallel lives.”
In relationship counseling I often hear statements like these from couples describing their frustration and disappointment as they’re struggling with poor communication or not feeling connected. Sometimes the distress of feeling distant from each other leads to more fights and arguing; which is certainly understandable. But frequent arguing is not only painful, it’s also destructive to your marriage.
With other couples there isn’t any fighting… just passive avoidance and distancing from each other. I hear their confusion as they tell me….
“We still love each other, but we aren’t close anymore….
…something special we had before is missing.”
We all desire closeness and connection in our marriage or relationship.
Nearly all couples start out having a “special connection” between them, which can leave a huge sense of disappointment and confusion if it starts fading.
Of course, we know that magical glow at the beginning of a relationship drops off over time. And that’s probably a good thing… or we’d just stare into each others’ eyes and make love all day.
But, having a unique and deep connection with a special person is a major reason we couple up or marry. We want to be known and understood by our partner… and feel we’re able to rely on each other. It gives a place of “belonging” and enriches our day-to-day lives. And having a solid connection is essential to experiencing the pleasure of truly sharing our life with another.
Even though our initial infatuation with our partner must subside, we still want to “feel felt” by them. We want them to know our true self – be assured they value us – and to have our lives enhanced by being together. And, of course, we want our partners to experience the same from us.
What actually creates connection and closeness in marriage?
That remains a mystery for most people. It can seem truly unpredictable and almost magical at times, like it’s ‘just there’… or it’s not.
Early in our relationships the connection can be so powerful it’s easy to assume it’s “just a special part of us” and it will always be there.
But sadly, it doesn’t work that way, because our brains don’t work that way.
Keeping your love connection alive and vibrant over the years requires understanding what feeds and nurtures it – and weaving those interactions into your marriage or relationship.
Couples don’t plan to drift apart. It starts almost invisibly at first – a little at a time… usually as other demands of life create subtle shifts in priorities, our busy lives assert themselves, and other demands begin taking up more of our time and attention.
Bit by bit, choices and actions that contributed to your special connection get delayed or put aside. It’s common in consultations for a couple to nod knowingly when I suggest “It sounds like you’re only giving to each other your least best self after everything else is done”.
But, there are ways to shift out of these patterns and be consistently building a deeper and fulfilling connection…
A Solid Marriage Connection Doesn’t Take Rocket Science!
However, it does involve a little neuro-science. Although feeling connected with your partner may seem mysterious, there’s actually solid research behind what makes it happen… and also, what makes it NOT happen.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be an expert in neuro-psychology to put this knowledge to work in your marriage. With the guidance of an experienced relationship therapist you can target specific choices and actions to restore and strengthen your attachement, without needing to understand all the underlying science.
Part of the therapist’s job is to distill this knowledge and provide you ‘just what you need – when you need it’ to understand how you can create the unique marriage or relationship that fits and works for you.
Some master marriage counselors and researchers, such as Dr. John Gottman, have done extensive studies to discover what happens in relationships when a couple is solidly connected. Applying his research, Gottman can predict with over 90% accuracy if a couple will remain married or separate… from a fifteen minute interview.
He can do this even though every couple is unique, because there are basic principles about what builds or destroys connection for couples. There are identifiable choices, actions, and attitudes that encourage and build momentum for closeness and connection. And there are behaviors, words, and patterns known to tear down or destroy closeness.
Sadly, many couples find their special connection fading despite their best intentions, simply because they lack some basic knowledge around ‘what’s required’ and ‘what works’.
The Good News for Your Marriage is…
… now that the attitudes, choices, and behaviors to naturally strengthen a marriage are understood; you can learn how to apply them to your marriage. Once they’re established – they not only guide a marriage that’s become stagnant back into being a dynamic, intimate, and fun relationship… but, they’ll keep on strengthening and enhancing your connection with almost no effort.
Many of the adjustments needed to reclaim closeness and connection in a marriage are fairly small and simple things by themselves. However, because the benefits keep building up and compound over time they truly can be game changers.
However, it can be tricky to discover how to make these adjustments on our own, because our brains form ‘invisible habits’ in the interactions with our partners. Because these habits develop without a conscious choice and operate outside our awareness, it’s usually quite difficult to notice our own patterns or clearly see how they’re impacting our marriage connection.
Relationship Counseling for Communication and Connection
Relationship counseling helps you identify hidden patterns, habits, and beliefs that have evolved in your relationship and have now become obstacles to closeness and communication… and how to replace them with new patterns that naturally support, strengthen, and deepen your connection.
Changing your marriage habits and patterns to create a stronger bond is a pretty simple idea. However, since 75% – 90% of what we do with our relationship partner every day runs on auto-pilot (are habits) it’s a very powerful idea.
But yes, there’s a catch. Habits don’t like being changed. After all, that’s what habits are… behaviors, responses, and even thoughts or emotions our brains depend on as ‘short cuts’ for going into action automatically – without needing thought or decision-making.
Relationship Counseling helps you ‘cut through the clutter and confusion’ and identify what shifts in the patterns of your relationship will allow you to move from conflict to connection. Counseling guides you to watch and change your thinking in order to create and implement new habits more easily.
Injecting new and supportive patterns into you marriage is a critical part of restoring closeness, because unconscious habits and beliefs are always either increasing connection or preventing it. There really is no ‘neutral mode’ or ‘pause’ function. Every day habits are being replayed and they create your experience. Good or bad.
Of course, the assistance from a Relationship Therapist to have a fulfilling marriage isn’t only about changing habits.
- Marriage counselors guide you to discover each others unique ‘connection code’… the conditions that allow you to experience that special experience of ‘us’. It’s natural to assume what causes you to feel most connected is also true for your partner. But, many couples are surprised to discover their partner’s ‘connection code’ is quite different from their own.
- Counseling helps identify words to invite and encourage communication. Some commonly used words automatically trigger defensive reactions and immediately break connection. There are also words that disarm defensive reactions and naturally encourage more sharing.
- Counseling helps you uncover ways for nurturing your core connection and creating and protecting a “space for each other” within the demands of busy lives. This includes managing the potential risks of digital communications, which is becoming a major source of disconnection for couples.
- Couple counseling provides specific methods for being clearly heard and understood by your partner… and how to ‘listen differently’, so you both feel validated.
- Counseling helps you to recognize when your partner is “available for connection”, how to know when your partner is reaching out to make connection, and how to talk about these issues directly free of shame or blame.
- Counseling offers you new perspectives, actions, and mindsets to resolve differences without falling into an automatic “right vs. wrong” stance (which is deadly to communication). It guides you to successfully manage the 60% – 70% of differences in relationships that simply cannot be resolved. (Shocking, right?) But, you simply cannot have closeness and intimacy without a way of managing this reality.
Creating Magic in Your Marriage… with Science
When you’re experiencing that deep loving connection with your partner it can feel magical, but it’s not magic. And there’s nothing magical about counseling either.
At Asheville Marriage Counseling – we use practical, tested, real world science to understand what our brains automatically do in relationships… and how to create what you want within that reality. In relationship therapy we’ll pull back the curtain to uncover what’s actually happening when you feel that magical sense of closeness – and how to create more of it.
It absolutely is possible. But like developing any new ability, you do need to put in some time, effort, and practice at first and then build it into your relationship.
We don’t need to know how a magician is creating the illusions to enjoy a magic show… but, you do need some “insider knowledge” about how your brain and relationships work to create and keep a magical connection in your marriage.
But unlike the magic show, once you learn and apply these ‘how to’ principles, what you create isn’t an illusion… but genuine appreciation, intimacy, and connection between you and your partner.
It just feels magical.
I offer a free initial consultation to help you see if I’m a good fit to assist you in restoring communication and a solid connection in your marriage.
These are deeply personal issues and you need to have confidence and feel safe with your Relationship Therapist to get the most value from your counseling.
The only effective way I know to do that is meeting in person.
Schedule your free consultation by calling (828) 686-9601 Consultations typically last 60-75 minutes.