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**The Relationship Rehab Series focuses on the intersection between mental health and intimate relationships. Specifically we look at ways to optimize your love life through psychologically proven practices.**
Check out Part 1: Starting the Conversation here: https://mysoulbalm.blog/2020/04/07/relationship-rehab-series-part-1-starting-the-conversation/
Check out Part 2: Fighting Fair here: https://mysoulbalm.blog/2020/04/10/relationship-rehab-series-part-2-fighting-fair/
Fix the Roof When The Sun Is Shining
There’s an old proverb that says “the best time to fix your roof is when the sun is shining instead of during the storm,” meaning it’s better to solve a problem when things are good instead of when tensions are at a peak.
The same goes for rebuilding intimacy in a damaged relationship. Now that you know how to Start the Conversation and Fight Fair, you might notice more sunny days with your spouse.
This is great! Give yourself a pat on the back, you earned it!
But the work is far from over. Now that you and your partner are more on the same page it’s time to Rebuild the Connection!
How to Rebuild the Connection
Even though it’s work, rebuilding your former intimacy is actually the fun part for a lot of people. It’s like dating your partner all over again; you might even get a good hit of New Relationship Energy.
Except it’s not exactly a new relationship; it’s one that still has the pain of slings and arrows from years past. So this time around it’s going to be a little bit more of a challenge to build trust, love, and commitment again.
But don’t worry – you can do it! You’ve already come this far.
Here are some practical tips to get you started on your Relationship Rebuild.
Pay Attention to love tank Levels
If you don’t know about Love Languages and Love Tanks, I suggest you give this article a good read before moving ahead: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/2008/10/keeping-the-love-tank-full/
Once you’ve done that let’s talk about keeping those Love Tank levels high (for you and your partner).
Keep track of each other’s Love Tanks
Really knowing how your partner is feeling on any given day is a powerful thing. Bruce and I use the Love Nudge App to track our Love Tank status and communicate it to each other.
It’s been helpful to physically see how well (or poorly) I’m doing at filling his Love Tank and vice versa. The app also includes helpful automated nudges that drive connection at the push of a button.
Take an interest in their hobbies
Does your spouse have a hobby they generally do on their own?
Take an interest in it.
Even if it’s just showing up to cheer them on during a soccer game or asking questions about their woodworking hobby, taking an interest in something they’re passionate is a great way to grow connection.
Who knows, you could even learn something new!
Do small things daily
Doing small things daily is a proven way to strengthen relationships over time.
Nothing can rebuild a Love Tank quite like these small daily moments of affection. Things like holding hands, giving each other compliments, or helping each other with chores may seem innocuous but if you do them consistently, you’ll see your partner’s Love Tank levels go up and up.
As you work on repairing your relationship, you’ll find that trust in your partner maybe isn’t as easy as it once was. That’s pretty natural: it can be hard to trust someone who’s hurt you repeatedly.
But that’s exactly what you have to do if you want to move forward. You both have to let go and learn to rely on each other once again.
Here are some practical steps to rebuild that trust.
Rebuild the boundaries
The most important thing about this step is that you can and should forgive your spouse their trespasses.
But forget? Definitely not.
If you’ve been hurt by your partner’s behavior in the past it’s crucial now to set strong boundaries for yourself, especially if they haven’t fixed said bad behavior.
For example, if your spouse’s default during a fight is to be snide and sarcastic, calmly let them know you’ll be walking away from the conversation if they practice that behavior (and then follow through).
Enforcing your boundaries lets your partner know you’re serious about this process and helps them to work out their own issues at the same time.
Maintaining healthy boundaries can be a challenge (check out this article from Psych Central to learn more about the subject). But it’s an essential step in rebuilding trust.
Do cooperative activities together
Nothing builds trust like having to working together. This can involve things like doing a puzzle together, figuring out a new exercise routine, or collaborating on an important work project. Basically any situation where you can mindfully rely on each other’s strengths to succeed.
Appreciating the different perspectives your partner brings to the table is a fast and easy way to build trust.
Sure, your SO might not solve things the same way you do, but that’s the point. Often, if you listen to them carefully enough, you’ll notice they find key solutions you might have missed.
Be cautious here though! The key is to be mindful during this process. If you go about this with the same attitudes you had before, it’s only going to be a powder keg. So play nice together!
Notice and Modify Negative Patterns:
A lot of times we can’t readily see the negative patterns we’ve developed over the years. They just seem normal after a while, even comfortable.
But just because something’s comfortable doesn’t mean it’s good for your relationship, especially one that’s been struggling. Believe it or not, a big part of rebuilding your connection is going to be rooting out the seemingly benign habits that are actually driving a stake between the two of you.
Check out some tips below to identify and change negative habits in a relationship.
Map out your patterns
If you were to write out every daily activity and interaction between you and your SO, what patterns would you see? Would they be ones that drive connection or would they be ones that promote distance?
A great exercise is to map out your patterns, preferably with your spouse, so you can physically see what’s working and what’s not for each of you.
Make small changes
Once you’ve got your map, this is where the real work begins! But don’t worry, this is pretty easy stuff. All you really have to do is make some tweaks in your daily routine.
For instance, if you see you have a habit of running out of the house in the morning you can tweak that to spend just 5 minutes to enjoy a little breakfast with your loved one.
Or if you normally don’t text your spouse during the work day, send them a little message saying you’re thinking of them.
As I said, these are small easy changes; but if they’re done consistently enough their magnitude is going to be felt through your entire relationship. The small stuff will build into big connection in no time.
Make an effort to understand one another
And last but not least, it’s super important to understand your own patterns and how they affect your spouse (and vice versa).
You may not know that raising your hands during a fight scares your partner. They may not know that your habit of scrolling the phone instead of paying attention is actually a symptom of a mental health issue (Executive Dysfunction).
Neither of you may understand why you do what you do. But it’s critical to correct that if you hope to rebuild a loving connection with your SO.
Why? Because misunderstanding breeds contempt and contempt is poison to a relationship. Understanding breeds connection.
Knowing your partner’s wants, needs, machinations and desires helps you figure out how to successfully interact with them. It also provides a good guide on what not to do in times of stress.
This is a good time to speak with your spouse on a deep level, ask questions, do research about things affecting them, and add a little compassion to your interactions. Believe me, you’ll never regret doing this step but you will if you don’t.
And there you have it – some practical steps to Rebuild the Connection!
Remember, while this is supposed to be the part where you fall in love all over again, things aren’t ever going to be quite the same as they were in the beginning.
Even though there’s a good chance it’ll be better, there are still going to be tough parts about this step because of old wounds. It helps to take it all with a healthy dose of compassion, a few new boundaries, and a lot of understanding.
You can do this, we’re all rooting for you guys <3
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