Do you remember the classic 1964 hit by the Righteous Brothers, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling?" What a beautiful and passionate song! So poignant. Who can't relate while listening to the pain being expressed?
...If you would only love me like you used to do, yeah.
We had a love...a love...a love you don't find everyday.
So don't...don't...don't...don't let it slip away.
Written by: Phil Spector, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil.
Well, we can't do anything until we realize there's a problem. We need to develop a sensitivity to how our spouse is experiencing our marriage. How is the health of the relationship in this song measured? Intuitively and very accurately. He gauges his partner's actions rather than her words and he is forced to acknowledge that her affection and love is slowly dying. I think we can understand how powerful intuition is and that's why this song resonates so profoundly. Nonverbal cues can speak to us more than words. If you 'feel' that your spouse is pulling away, don't ignore your 6th sense. (See Scientific American, "The Mirror Neuron Revolution..." for an interesting explanation of how mirror neurons enable us to be empathetic to others.)
Despite the sentiment of begging for a relationship to not be allowed to 'slip away' being very touching, is there something we can actively do about this if we find ourselves in the situation? How do you stop 'it' from slipping away? You can't grab 'it,' yet there is most certainly a way to make the relationship work. And when it does, those loving feelings will come back and your marriage can be stronger than ever!
So, how does a couple magically make their relationship work? How do they overcome whatever has been sapping the energy, the vitality, that fed their love? There's no greater magic than committing to doing what is needed for each other.
Step 1: Research - Communication
The two of you should ask each other what previously made the relationship positive and enjoyable. This is not a general question as to whether you've enjoyed each other's company; rather, you each need to know specifically what you did that fed the love. Then, based on the information you each receive, you can answer the following questions about the current state of your dynamic:
- Which needs are not being fulfilled?
- What is preventing the two of you from doing more for each other?
- Can you express yourselves such that your spouse can listen to you without being too defensive?
- What negative behaviors most annoy each other?
Step 2: The Plan - Moving from Understanding to Action
- Start addressing the top items on their list.
- Whatever your partner enjoyed that you may no longer do, restart.
- Simultaneously, it is very important to stop your annoying habits.
Step 3: Problems in Implementation - Realization & Challenge
- There's a good chance that you'll find it difficult to do some of what your partner needs. That's why you weren't meeting these needs originally.
- So, how do you grow and transform yourself?
Step 4: Initial Solutions
- Just force yourself to start doing those things that you are lazy about. You'll soon be rewarded with a warming up of your relationship. The reward you feel will quickly inspire you to further progress.
- Be patient when you see your partner honestly trying. Mistakes will continue to be made.
Step 5: Longer Term Solutions - Personal Growth
We all have unique personalities. Some of us are more anxious. Others anger more easily. While one individual may be very generous, another may be incredibly cheap. Changing a personality is a lifelong challenge. So, how do you address those issues that are still causing pain in your marriage? I think that the answer is: very methodically.
- If you respect your partner, you don't want to hurt them. You will need to develop a sensitivity to anticipate when your negative personality traits may surface. Try to control the triggering circumstances. Work out contingencies together with your spouse.
- Consider seeking the guidance of someone who can help you to deal with more persistent challenges and difficulties.
- Making sure that you take care of your health can assist you in being more resilient, relaxed and energetic in the face of daily stressors.
If both of you are committed to each other, there should be no reason to 'let your love slip away.' Recommit, think, analyze, plan and adjust. Marriage isn't a 9 to 5 job. It is a 24/7/365 opportunity for growth and love. Don't be so passive. Get to work and write a more uplifting love song.