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Ask Wendy: Avoiding the Invisible Door

"We've got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can't just accept it and leave it in the cupboard, or just think it's going to get on by itself. You gotta keep watering it. You've got to really look after it and nurture it." -John Lennon

Dear Wendy,

"I am not sure if my relationship can even be saved at this point, but I am writing in hopes of trying to get what went wrong. We were so great when we first moved in together. But now living with my partner for just over 7 years feels like living with a ghost- or actually his shadow. Even when we are in the same room together, we don’t talk. He is on his phone and I am on mine. We are both looking for someone else to text with or talk to. I don’t know how to break through- he says everything I say feels like nagging. I can’t remember when we stopped taking walks or thinking up what to make for dinner. But now when I suggest sex, he says “I’m not feeling it….” Me either, but I wish I was again."

-L.M., Idaho

Dear L.M.,

Losing the people we care about happens in all kinds of ways- illnesses, accidents, growing old… but one of the most painful is how couples grow apart, often without even noticing it. Suddenly, they find themselves as estranged as they once were in love. There are many reasons that people stop communicating and being present with each other, but a couple of the most common are just bad habits. Here are a few of the most common ones that can help you re-think and maybe even rebuild with your partner:

Listening More than Talking

Communication issues are often at the heart of a relationship impasse. This is because we all mistakenly believe that we can tell someone how things are. Truly, successful communication actually takes place in listening. Listening is such a powerful form of communication that most people cannot tell it apart from feeling loved. Even though it is hard to listen when someone isn’t speaking, sometimes just leaving space and asking questions can be the start of finding your way back to someone.

Get Over "My Needs Vs. Your Needs"

One thing that really helped me get out of the seemingly endless tug-of-war between how I perceived my needs vs. my partner's, and who was getting more of them met, was when I learned about the idea of considering our relationship almost like a third person. When you begin to imagine your relationship as a living, breathing container of love that has needs of its own, there is this weird magic that takes over. By taking care of the relationship's needs, both your own and your partner’s needs are held and balanced. Both partners need to take up the practice of focusing on what the container that holds you both needs to be sustained, and it is remarkable how this refocusing takes the conflict out of most every decision. When you start choosing for love instead of either person, the best choice also becomes the clearest.

Take One Foot Out the Invisible Door

I have vivid memories of the years I spent before I started thinking of the needs of my relationship, when I constantly mired in feelings of despair over not having my own needs met. My doubts were the leader and in some kind of weird solace-like way, I kept one foot out of an invisible door.

Relationships can only move forward when both people have two feet in. The sad thing is that you can’t even really imagine the relationship you are missing when you are holding an invisible door ajar with one foot. It is an entirely different potential relationship when both partners are paying attention and really committed to making their promises work.

So, who knows what is possible if you both agree to be in the same place together.


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