To learn more, we turned to relationship advisor and therapist Dr. Terri Orbuch, author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. She explains that many couples only think they're communicating, when it fact what they're really doing is merely maintaining the status quo -- deciding who's going to pick up the kids, who's going to make dinner, who's going to get the groceries. "They're not really communicating -- communication is when you share intimate thoughts, goals, dreams and things about yourself," she says.
At the beginning of a relationship, when things are new, we ask our partner questions, spend more time and effort listening to them, and encourage them to set and follow through with goals. Then life happens (cue the ongoing debate about dinner duty) and the relationship gets put on hold in order to address all the other responsibilities that arise like work, finances, family or social obligations and other day-to-day concerns.
When we don't ask our partner questions beyond what they want for dinner (or what kind of fabric softener they prefer), we don't really know their intimate worlds or understand what makes them tick, Orbuch says. We forget to take notice of our relationship and then end up assuming we know everything about our partner and that the relationship won't change. "We can never assume we know everything there is to know about our partner. People change, situations change and we can't mind-read," she explains.
But all is not lost. Orbuch has some relationship tips for ensuring we don't lose sight of the fact that all partnerships require effort and we need to continually learn about each other in order for the relationship to work.
Practice the 10-minute rule: Talk to your partner for at least 10 minutes every day about something other than work, family, chores or the relationship. Instead, talk about the kinds of things you might have discussed when you were first dating, like what you're most proud of, where you would travel if you won the lottery, who your favorite childhood friend was and anything else that will spark deeper discussion about feelings, goals and desires.
Learn to be a good listener: Sometimes we get so concerned about telling our partner something, we forget to really listen to them. Instead of nodding and smiling while waiting for your turn to talk (or secretly playing Angry Birds), ditch the distractions and give your partner your full attention. And if you don't understand something, ask questions so you fully grasp what they're saying.
Get out of the rut: All relationships get into ruts, but couples who stay in those ruts are the ones who end up unhappy. Ruts are caused by boredom so rather than be complacent, do something to bust out of your relationship rut. Implement change by doing fun things together like joining a gym, taking up a sport or learning something new.
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