Great Relationships: What to Do When You Have Drifted Apart

Picture, if you will, the following scene:

A man and woman, somewhere in the great expanse of middle age, walk into a sandwich shop and sit down. They don't speak to each other. They do speak to the waiter when he comes to take their order. And this is the last time they speak, to each other or anyone else, the entire hour they are there. They each have a book, and they proceed to get lost in reading and eating.

Now maybe they had just heard some bad news, or were the parents of 12 kids, hired a sitter and needed some peace and quiet. Maybe. But the feeling you get is that they really have nothing to say to each other. They just look bored.

It's a sad scene.

How does something like this happen? You know there must have been a time when there were not enough words for all they wanted to say to each other.

I bet there was a time when they could talk all night.

How does a couple get from those early days of falling in love to falling into the rut of boredom?

I have found that people slowly drift out of love. If it happened all at once, they would be able to react and change. Because it happens slowly, over time, the process just sneaks up on couples.

It's like the story of the frog in hot water: If you put a frog into a pan of boiling water, he'll do his very best to hop right out. But if you put a frog in a pan of water at room temperature and slowly increase the temperature to a boil, he'll stay put until it's too late.

According to Florida State University psychology professor Dan Boroto, ``The process of falling out of love is the direct result of undisclosed communication.''

What that means is that couples no longer talk about feelings, hopes and dreams.

The things left unsaid can vary from not really liking carrots, even though your spouse thinks it's your favorite food, to not talking about how lonely you are.

If you recognize your relationship here, it doesn't mean that it's necessarily over.

Here are things you can do to begin to restore communication:

Talk. I know that sounds too simple, and I guess I could make it harder, but that really is where it begins.

Take a risk and begin to talk about issues that may have been difficult in the past.

Recall the times you were able to talk with each other and simply repeat what you did then.

Ask questions. Become curious about your partner's world.

Begin with, ``Can we talk about ...?''

Schedule times to be together and talk. Many couples I know who do this say it gives them something to look forward to when life gets stressful.

If you find you can't break the logjam yourself, it might be time to sit down with a counselor or attend a seminar to give you a jump start.

While couples seem to drift apart without knowing it, to grow back together again takes conscious attention and intention. Take some time in the next week to re-establish communication in your relationship.

It might make all the difference in the world.

For more tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship, visit relationship coach Jeff Herring's SecretsofGreatRelationships.com

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