It’s hard work to stay in love with another person. This is especially true once life becomes complicated. When a relationship is new, the connection is strong and it can be easy to look past a few hurt feelings. As couples age, one or both partners often feel like they are taken for granted and their spouse no longer appreciates them or doesn’t show love anymore. Fortunately, there are steps you can both take to reintroduce that sense of appreciation.
1. Plan a Marital Check-in to Discuss
There is often no good time to have a deep conversation about your marriage especially with something as sensitive as feeling taken for granted. Generally speaking, if you feel connected, you might not want to rock the boat. And if you feel stressed, it’s very hard to have a meaningful and spontaneous conversation. Therefore it’s important to schedule a time to connect with each other and check in regarding deeper topics.
2. Prepare Your Main Points
I highly recommend organizing your thoughts before your check-in so you have some idea of what you want to say and more importantly how you want to say it. You can create a bullet list of the general talking points, or you can write your partner a letter that either you read or hand to them. However you decide to communicate, make sure you are describing what you want and not what you don’t want. Avoid venting or complaining. Rather, paint them a picture that describes exactly what you want and most importantly how you want to feel.
3. Identify Simple And Clear Steps
Make sure that at the conclusion of your conversation there are actual steps your partner can start taking. They might need time to digest what you are saying before they make any changes, so be prepared for gradual change (which is more likely to create lasting change by the way), and make sure you reinforce their successes by showing appreciation. For example, if you requested that when you do laundry they say thank you, or help you put it all away, it’s important for you to also acknowledge their follow through. Positive reinforcement is the best way to increase wanted behaviors.
4. Now Listen. Do They Also Feel Taken For Granted?
I have been amazed by the number of clients that have the same feeling in their marriage, and they just don’t know because they haven’t talked with each other. There is a strong possibility that if you feel taken for granted, your partner does too. Use that to build empathy since you know exactly how it feels. Couples often get trapped in negative cycles because they start to resent the partner quietly. Break the cycle by speaking up and then listening to your loved one.
If you have fallen into a pattern of disconnection with your spouse, use the steps above to help increase a positive connection. The feeling that you are taken for granted is only going to increase unless you take an active role in stopping and reversing it. If you need professional support, learn more about how couples counseling can help improve your marriage and feelings of connectedness and appreciation. Everyone deserves to feel appreciated, and you have the power to achieve that.