Do you sometimes find yourself on a dig, trying to unearth those mysterious things you used to have together, the things that seem to have disappeared from your relationship with your partner? Maybe you are busily engaged right now, digging through your relationship ruins, searching for artifacts and clues to help you figure it all out, or to put it all back together.
Hopefully your marriage or long term relationship is not in a state of decay, like an ancient ruin. I am not addressing relationships that have really serious issues and dysfunction. I am talking about people who still care for each other deeply, but who are just dissatisfied because they remember the past as being so perfect (I doubt that it was, but memory can distort). Things are unlikely, though, to be the same as they were 5, 10, 20, or 40 years ago. Relationships are dynamic. As the people in them change, so do the relationships.
Still, you may long for how it used to be way back in the beginning. Time, familiarity, family responsibilities, money worries, illness, and any number of factors, can slowly cause any relationship to become overgrown with “vegetation” that obscures the important connections and feelings you once had. What you remember and yearn for may have gotten buried because nobody took the time and effort to tend to it, to nurture it, and to see that it was preserved and able to flourish. Maybe the feelings and commonalities on which you built the marriage or relationship were ephemeral, and weren’t durable enough to sustain the connections you once felt. Perhaps there has been a slow collapse, like the mud huts of Mesopotamia collapsed. As life took over, you and your partner may have begun to pile on structures and attitudes over the foundation you first built, so that you buried your original bond, and any remnants of it, as you moved ahead and built too many artificial structures over the original site.
If you didn’t allow distractions and troubles to interfere too much with your investment in your primary and most important relationship, if you worked on your communication, on your kindness and your growth, both as individuals and as a couple, then you probably built a foundation that is sturdy like brick or stone. . In that case, it is more likely to be standing today. Certainly, it will look different than it once did, and you may lament that, or even walk around feeling seriously depressed over what was, or what you perceive once was, but that isn’t anymore.
Before the spade hits the dirt, and you spend an inordinate amount of time searching, digging, and feeling bad too, you have some reflecting to do, in my opinion. What is it you hope to find? Do you hope to recapture something resembling that old sense of newness? Do you hope to regain your lost passion? Do you want to resurrect that time when your ideas and dreams truly excited each other, if it feels to you that this isn’t the case in the present? Are you remembering when every day together was like an adventure?
I will tell it like it is! You are unlikely to recapture that exact past, that passion, that sense of newness and adventure. Is that such a terrible thing though? Once you cease living in the past and live in the relationship you have NOW, you can view what you have together in a different way, and therefore, things can change. You would be surprised at the shifts that can be created by mutually agreeing to let the past go, and to work together to find ways each day to appreciate each other, and the life you have now.
If you are committed to growth and to stretching your own experiences and views, you will always find a way to surprise yourself. If you bore yourself and are completely predictable, even to you, how do you ever expect to susprise and interest your partner? It’s good to have a certain core of stability and dependability, but it’s also nice to be someone who sprinkles his or her days with a little unpredictablity too.
When you remember the past with a sense of wistfulness and wish it were still here, as far as your relationship goes and how you recall it in your mind, are you negating or forgetting the good that has taken a long time to shape? You didn’t just wake up one day in the place you find yourself today. It took a lot of living, a lot of doing things by trial and error, a fair amount of failure, probably some pain, also a lot of successes, both individual and shared as a couple. You have most likely learned some not-so-productive ways of communicating by this time, and have settled into patterns like ignoring each other’s opinions and feelings, not noticing each other enough, and rarely complimenting each other.
One day when you find yourself daydreaming or getting upset thinking about the way it used to be, why not sit down with your pen and paper, or at your computer, and make a list of how each of you has grown in ways that enhance the other’s life? Make a game of it, perhaps. Do it together! Instead of focusing on what is no longer the same, what you don’t have, include the unique things, the ones you usually take for granted, that have developed over the years and that you like. There’s something to be said for trust, security, familiarity and understanding. You have a shared history, both positive and negative, so spend time identifying the good that has taken a long while to blossom. If you can’t easily do that, how about making the commitment to improve the marriage or relationship by seeking the help of a counselor or a relationship coach? You would be astonished how an impartial third party with some healthy distance can help you understand and change your perspectives and manner of communicating.
There really is no time like the present. Remember that in English, the word “present” also means gift.
Iris Arenson-Fuller, CPC, ACC is a Life Stage, Family & Relationship Changes Coach. She is a writer/poet, a mom, grandmother, and former non-profit adoption agency director for many decades. Iris offers free consultations for people who are going through difficult life stage changes, or who are anticipating them and who want to change less painfully, and more organically and successfully. Iris works with many clients on issues of loss of all types and also with all members of the Adoption Community. Give Iris a call soon, or email to talk about what to do to improve your life and how you feel.