In the morning you’re rushing to get breakfast on the table and have no time to talk. When the evening comes around and you finally have a chance to sit down, you discuss what to cook for dinner or who is using the car the next day.
This is the daily routine for couples around the world – and many people struggle to keep their love lives exciting.
“The daily routine of responsibilities and obligations means many couples stop seeing themselves as lovers, and instead see themselves as a team,” says relationship consultant and author Sascha Schmidt in Germany.
This is especially true for couples in the busiest time of their lives, when they’re between 25 and 45 years old. This is usually when work and family demands are at their peak. In the rush to fulfil the needs and demands of those around them, the couple have less time and energy to focus on their own relationship.
And the situation is further exacerbated by another tendency. “When the honeymoon period is over, the people in the relationship start focusing more on their own needs,” says Schmidt.
The quality of a long-term relationship is about finding a balance between all of these competing needs. This involves rising to the challenges of everyday life, but also finding time for togetherness and being close.
Clemens von Saldern, a couples therapist in Germany, sees a lack of knowledge about how to work for and maintain a relationship as a major reason for the high divorce rate in many countries around the world.
“In our profession we are trained for many years, but in relationships we just assume people know how they work and what to do,” he says. Saldern’s advice is to take a closer look at the question of what a good relationship needs.
The most important step towards finding common ground again is to set aside time for each other on a regular basis. “It can be a walk in the park together or just half an hour on the sofa,” says Schmidt.
The most important thing is to be there for each other, to listen and not just talk. “If you do talk, do not discuss family or organisational matters!” emphasises Schmidt.
Having rituals and traditions also helps, such as drinking a cup of coffee together every morning. “You could also read the newspapers together and exchange ideas,” says von Saldern, who emphasises the importance of the small things. “It doesn’t always have to be a full evening of events.”
Christine Backhaus, a psychologist, recommends taking a more precise approach. Those in long-term relationships tend to focus too much on the negative, she says. She recommends examining small, precious moments more positively and also talking about them: “Tell each other much more often what you value or appreciate.”
Von Saldern emphasises the importance of physical encounters. Life gets in the way and all too often there is only time for a a fleeting kiss.
“However, we need more than that to feel close to someone.” Many couples find it difficult to get more intense. “If that is the case, you can try to make an effort to touch the other person gently or to kiss for a second longer.”
Schmidt emphasises the importance of addressing problems. “Many couples make the mistake of letting problems fall under the table, because they want to avoid the conflict when life is already stressful anyway.” But problems don’t always go away, and in the long run an increasing amount of frustration accumulates. – dpa/Bettina Levecke