Long term love is made up of many things: compromise, romance, friendship…and windows of time where you wonder, “how in the hell did we get here?” We’re all familiar with the warm and fuzzy stuff; it’s the hard times of exhaustion and emptiness that throw us for a loop. We never saw them coming and that’s why they hit so hard. Sometimes they even make us question if we have lost our connection with the person we once loved so deeply.
Days where you barely communicate, nights that you don’t touch at all, and moments when you’re not even sure you really know one another anymore. Cold. Numb. Blank. I call these “intimacy droughts.” They are real and any couple that’s been together long term knows that they are a part of true companionship. Despite the media and society’s portrayal of love as fun, exciting, and supportive, real relationships aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. Movies like “the Notebook” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 days” portray loving relationships as always being based on passion, humor or deep friendship. In reality, love takes much more than just those things. It takes endurance, patience and commitment. It takes accepting the bad times as part of whole deal, because along with the joy inevitably comes the pain.
Every relationship goes through seasons:
Spring- when you first meet and everything is fresh and new and exciting.
Summer- when passion has built and your connection is getting stronger as you get to know each other better and better.
Fall- when the growth of excitement starts to level off and the realities of individual differences (and all relationships have them) start to settle in.
Winter- when some things die off, it can become cold or frozen. This where the intimacy droughts are.
One of the most common causes of these intimacy droughts is the busyness of life. During times of transition (raising young children, starting a new business/career, grad school, or caring for loved one that is ill) life can get crazy busy. When the to do list of your day becomes 100 tasks long it’s difficult, if not impossible, to have the head space/heart space to go the extra mile for your relationship. When you fall into bed from exhaustion it’s not that you don’t want to cuddle or have sex. It’s that your mind, your body, your soul is tapped out. It’s not that you don’t care about one another, it’s that you’ve given all you had that day (week or year) and have nothing left to give. But this is today, not forever.
Like nature’s seasons, the Spring of your relationship can and will return. Nothing in life is permanent. If you’re raising small children the days of sleep deprivation, constant tending to other people’s needs and lack of alone time (as a couple) can feel endless. But they are not. Eventually your children will need less from you and normal sleeping patterns will resume.
And life will not demand 110% of your energy just for survival. One day you will wake up and realize that while you and your partner aren’t exactly the same two people who fell in love that first Spring, you have a curiosity to get to know this new version of him/her. And that you yourself are not quite the same. You have become stronger, wiser more accepting of realities of adult love.
The lack of romance you felt was not a lack of love. It was a redirection of your energy for survival. You focused on what demanded your attention at the time, you were aligned with the priorities of your life. Now that things had shifted you can come back to creating intimacy in your marriage. The clouds will break and connection and love will rain down. Spring has returned. And your relationship is stronger than ever.
In the meantime as you weather the hardships here are the things to do to maintain your sanity and hope:
Frequently tell yourself (out loud) “this is today, not forever. While things are hard right now they won’t always be this way.”
Get support from people that have more emotional availability right now, while your relationship is burnt-out. Friends, family, co-workers, a therapist or a coach.
Make time for self-care. When you can indulge in 30 minutes of down time, take a warm bath, drink a cup of tea, go for a walk in nature. Do something to reconnect with your sense of “being” that does not involve “doing.”
Have you ever experienced an intimacy drought in a relationship? How did you get through it?
Want some help surviving an intimacy drought or saving your marriage? Let’s talk. Click here.