If you want to protect your relationship, then you need to plug up these five love DRAINs, writes Brisbane Psychologist Shokria Siddiqui …
“And they lived happily ever after.” Movies, TV and books, especially fairy tales, promise that falling in love (and getting married) is all that’s required to live happily ever after.
Unfortunately, it’s a myth.
Successful marriages and relationships require plenty of hard work, communication and flexibility from each partner. Otherwise, love can slowly drain from your relationship without you even noticing, until it’s too late.
Nobody’s perfect, and no matter how much in love you may be, there are times that you will be tired, stressed and cranky – and your partner will irritate you, and find themselves on the receiving end of your bad mood (and vice versa). As Deepak Chopra has said: “When you struggle with your partner, you are struggling with yourself. Every fault you see in them touches a denied weakness in yourself.”
Here are five of the most common behaviours which drain love from your relationship, as explained by Dr Russ Harris in his book, ACT with Love.
5 Love DRAINs
1 – D is for Disconnection
Connecting with your partner is really important.
In any marriage or long term relationship, it’s all too easy to focus on all the other things that are going in our daily lives – work, studies, children, in laws, money worries, health problems, etc.
Even when we do spend time with our partner, are we fully present with them? Are we actively listening to what they are saying – verbally and non-verbally – or are we just letting the words wash over us? Do we invite and allow our partner to share openly, without judgment?
Paying attention however is just the start. True listening and connection happens when we are able to put aside our own preconceived ideas and agenda, and tune into our partner.
Yes, there will be times in your relationship when your partner says or does something that hurts you (however unintentionally). Our natural human instinct is to withdraw; but when we allow this to take hold and become our status quo, in a misguided effort to protect ourselves, disconnection from our partner results.
2 – R is for Reactivity
Many of us live on auto-pilot, which means that we react to many situations – including when our partner upsets or annoys us. When we react we are acting out of habit, and we lose sight of the things that we value in our partner and our relationship … draining the love out of it.
Reacting damages relationships, because many of our behaviour patterns have been embedded many years ago, perhaps even in childhood – long before our partner was on the scene. In essence they are being punished for how somebody else treated you a long time ago!
However when we are living mindfully, in a state of open acceptance and awareness, we are able to choose how we respond to people and situations instead of simply reacting.
Or as Russ Harris explains: “With the regular practice of mindfulness in your everyday routine, you may notice it become easier and easier to meet the present moment in an open and responsive way, free of your old problem-saturated patterns of reacting“.
3 – A is for Avoidance
We are all guilty of avoiding things that are unpleasant, and that includes those times when we need to raise an issue with our partner.
While it is definitely a good idea to choose a time when your partner is not too tired or stressed to have these difficult conversations, avoiding and ignoring them altogether creates a whole new raft of problems. Your partner is not a mind reader – so if you don’t raise the issue, there is no opportunity for it to be addressed. This means that it will continue to annoy you, and over time resentment will build.
As the number of issues you are avoiding increases, the love in your relationship decreases. And more than that – avoidance is not good for your mental health either, increasing your risk of depression, stress, addiction, anxiety and other issues.
4 – I is for Inside your Mind
If you want your relationship to thrive, it’s important to remind yourself that your partner loves you and would never do anything intentionally to hurt you (and if they would you’ve got a problem).
When your partner does something upsetting or hurtful, it’s normal to think about it and entertain negative feelings towards them. While it’s okay to entertain them briefly, when we get stuck in them, and find ourselves bringing to mind a whole shopping list of their wrongdoings over the entirety of the relationship, love begins to drain away.
But just like learning to respond instead of react, acting with love requires you to step back and take a look at the bigger picture in your mind, instead of getting caught up in the negativity. Why not consciously look for the positives instead?
5 – N is for Neglecting Values
What are the things that are most important to you and your partner, in your relationship? Kindness, compassion, generosity, humour?
According to Harris, values are “your heart’s deepest desires for what you want to do and what you want to stand for during your brief time upon this planet.”
Again, when we are angry or stressed, we may act in ways that are at odds with our values. If we value kindness, giving in to the urge to criticise and be cruel when our partner has upset us, will allow love to drain from the relationship.
Making sure that your actions are aligned with your values at difficult times, takes hard work and practice – but will ultimately benefit your relationship.
How you think and act in each moment within your relationship, is either building it – or letting love drain away. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for couples can help you and your partner to work through your difficulties, and create the sort of relationship you both really want.
Author: Shokria Siddiqui, BSc.Psych, PGDipPsych, PGDipMH, MPsych, MAPS.
Shokria Siddiqui is a Brisbane Psychologist providing couples counselling to those wanting to form a closer connection with each other, as well as those experiencing relationship distress. By implementing evidence-based therapies that have been scientifically tested, building rapport with her clients, and creating a safe therapeutic space, Shokria helps her clients to better meet life’s challenges.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Shokria Siddiqui, try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or or Online Booking – Loganholme, or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129 or Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) on (07) 3088 5422.
- Harris, Russ. (2009) ACT with Love: stop struggling, reconcile differences, and strengthen your relationship with acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA, USA: New Harbinger.