How do I reconnect with my partner?

Whenever I see a couple, or even an individual who wants to work on their relationship, their first question is "How do I reconnect?". They often describe this as a seemingly impossible task where the relationship feels irretrievably platonic. Love between them is described as familial and not of that from a Romantic Partner. The obstacle for these clients is often described as a lack of natural connection, that there is no natural urge for physical intimacy or discussing their deeper feelings. During this type of therapy the biggest road block is that the client(s) wish the work necessary felt natural and not forced.

There are a number of practical techniques that I recommend in these cases, unfortunately however that same story of the "unnatural" feeling of it all is described as a deal breaker or more dramatically an indicator of the "death of the relationship". One of the ways I try to circumvent this as a problem is by attempting a few basic exercises within the session that help perspective taking occur. The most consistent issue with long-term partnerships is that due to the complexity of two people attempting to co-ordinate busy lives that both people need to make assumptions about the likely reactions, likes, dislikes, and beliefs of the other person to make the road as smooth as possible. While this is important for any relationship in order to foster that "sixth sense" of understanding that grows between a couple, it can also lead to some very destructive behavioural patterns. 

In order to avoid the assumptions (e.g. "I can't tell her I forgot to wash up, she'll yell at me again") so the couple can regain connection (e.g. "I'll tell her I forgot to wash up, she'll joke with me, and I'll do it now") I have a few techniques. The task I'll describe here is a fairly simple one.

Firstly, I ask my client to write down, or tell me face-to-face what Values the client knows their partner holds. These Values come from the realm of Relationships, Work/Education, Self-Time, and Health/Spirituality. A Value is the direction someone moves in to live the life they believe in, not the goals they achieve (e.g. "Good Father/Mother).  

Secondly, I would ask them to write or tell me a direct example they have seen that proves their partner in some cases lives by this Value (e.g. "She/He sacrifices his/her personal time to help our son/daughter). It's a good idea to check with the client as to how relating this example makes them feel about their partner.

Thirdly, I ask that they think if they share this Value and if there is a corresponding example for themselves. This helps stitch back together the whole story of why this partner seemed like the right decision in the first place. Not only why the two are compatible, but why each is proud of the other as their own person and to take the time to relish in this.

Obviously this process can be fraught with other obstacles. With a personal session this model is particularly flexible to assist any relationship that needs a boost. I hope you might be able to use this exercise and feel free to call if you'd like a hand!