As you sit across the table and chew a piece of the mashed potatoes, you glance over the person sitting in front of you and you wonder, "where did my best friend go?!"
Uttering any sort of words would be more painful than sitting in silence... You wish you could vocalize the loneliness that your heart carries and the longing for those moments when you and your partner were best friends.
Fear is the only thing preventing you from reaching to your "old friend's" hand across the table. Fear to encounter a warm hand but a cold heart. Fear that your loneliness will not meet the comfort that you so much need in order to keep that last bit of hope alive.
As you swallow that very well chewed piece of mashed potatoes, your eyes encounter your partner's eyes, and, although you've spent the nights, weekends, vacations, outings together, you say: "I miss you. I miss us."
And your best friend's hand reaches out to yours and you feel the warmth of the hand and of the heart.
Many couples find themselves in a similar situation, where they feel that their relationship is doomed to a world of loneliness. They look at their partner and they cannot see the person they feel in love with. However, the disappointment, resentment, or loneliness are what's preventing couples to reaching out to each other. Allowing such feelings to dominate your heart will bring even more distance to your relationship. There are a few things within your control that you can do to reconnect with your partner/best friend:
1. Revitalize your friendship
Like with your other friendships, the relationship with your partner needs to be worked on as well. Spend time with your partner talking about how you met, and what attracted you to each other, etc. Friendship is also about sharing what you appreciate on the other person and what are the things they do that you are grateful for. Finally, pay attention when your partner is talking and show genuine interest and support.
2. Have a daily time to talk about your day
Not knowing what is going on in your partner's life and heart is conducive to more distance. Make it a priority to talk to your partner, every day, about your day, your hopes, fears, or anything else. If you have children, take a few minutes after they go to bed to do this.
3. Talk about your inner feelings, don't shout them
When disappointment sets in, couples start seeing the partner as an enemy and someone unable to fulfil their emotional needs. Due to that, couples have frequent (and often ugly) fights. Instead of keeping your disappointment inside or yelling it, take advantage of those daily talks to say what you need from your partner, in a gentle way.
4. Spend time together having fun
When was the last time you had fun together? Or planned a vacation, or any other activity together? Pen in your calendar an activity to do with your partner. It does not have to be anything ultra sophisticated. Just spend time doing something with one another. If you have children, hire a nanny or ask friends to watch your children for a few hours.
These ideas are inspired in the work of Dr. Gottman. To learn more about his work, read other posts on my blog www.relationshiptherapyamsterdam.nl/blog or on my Facebook page www.facebbok.com/relationshiptherapyamsterdam.