I was at a local coffee shop here in Orlando and Jamie recognized me from my social media and told me about the troubles she is having with her boyfriend now that they have moved in together.
Everything was great at first. They moved in together, they got everything organized, the internet was up and they could finally relax.They did get in a small fight while they were moving into their new home, but she felt that wasn’t a big deal.
They have been living together for almost a year now and she feels her relationship is falling apart.
“We stopped having sex and that bothers me so much”
Jamie: “We stopped having sex and that bothers me so much. I mean we are really busy with work and school, but we were both busy before we moved in together and still made time to see each other and to have sex.”
Mr. Ayala: “Any ideas on what changed?”
Jamie: “I mean, I’m comfortable around him and it’s not as‘exciting’ as it used to be. I feel like an old married couple going through the motions already. We also fight a lot now. We fight about bills, who is pulling their weight financially, who is spending too much, what we need to get and how isn’t doing what they need to do. I guess that’s what really changed.We fight so neither of us wants to have sex or spend time with each other.”
Mr. Ayala: “What happens after a fight?”
Jamie: “We just stay civil with each other. When he is home he will work out and keep busy in the garage building furniture. It’s one of the things he really likes to do as a stress reliever and he makes beautiful pieces. I just stay on my phone and go out with my girlfriends.”
Mr. Ayala: “What’s being avoided?”
Jamie: “Haha! Yea…I’m avoiding talking to him. I know me. I am like my mother and I can get really fiery. I’m worried that if I speak up,I’ll just start another fight and that isn’t going to be helpful. I know that every time we fight it pushes back our talk about marriage. I want to get married, but I don’t want a marriage that looks like this. I’m scared I made a mistake.”
Jamie and I spoke for a bit longer and talked about some of the mistakes she felt she and her boyfriend made and some of the things she could do with him to start fixing the problems they have.
1. Learn How to Not Criticize
Gottman and Sybil Carrère studied how couples initiated arguments. They saw that 80% of conflict discussions were initiated by the wife and that couples who were going to divorce started off their conflict discussion with attacks such as, “You’re a pig that doesn’t do anything.” Those couples who were less likely to divorce started off their conflict discussions with a specific complain such as “The toilet seat wasn’t put down,” and the discussion did not snowball back to the attack of, “You don’t put down the toilet seat because you don’t care about me.”
Jamie saw in herself that she doesn’t say anything to her boyfriend until she explodes
Jamie saw in herself that she doesn’t say anything to her boyfriend until she explodes. She knows this is a problem and that she should not just excuse it because she is just as “fiery as her mom.” Being able to communicate with her boyfriend without criticizing him is the way too pen up communication with him.
2. Consistently & Consciously Work on Your Relationship
It’s about doing hundreds of small things for them all the time that takes little effort
Everyone is very busy. Between work, kids, school, holidays and family there is so little time for each other. The Secret to Love &Good Sex is to consistently make a conscious effort to pay attention and give attention to your spouse, regardless of how overwhelmed and busy you are.
It’s not just about kissing your lover goodbye when you leave or making sure there’s a meal on the table. It’s about doing hundreds of small things for them all the time that takes little effort, but that accumulates over time to show that there is love. It’s much like working out. You can work out one day and see no results, but if you consistently make a conscious effort to work out every day you will see results. The moment you stop working out your body degrades.
Jamie remembers when he used to always open the door for her and text her good morning and she explained that she missed that. Those small things made her feel secure and wanted. Him staying in the garage making furniture makes her feel unwanted, especially with the lack of sex. She also sees that her avoidance of him is no good. She refuses to hold his hand in public and when she gets up to get a mimosa, she doesn’t offer to get him anything.
3. Surprise Them
Routine and habits kill desire and lead to divorces and the breakup of relationships. It’s hard to try to fit in a surprise it feels sometimes.When would you surprise your lover? When would you have the time to do that?You will have to make time to do that.
We resist breaking our routine because we think it’s the only way we will be able to function. But what is true is that the routine is what will make you dysfunctional. Break the routine and go out for a surprise dinner or bring them a surprise treat from their favorite bakery.
One popular thing I recommend is for the couple to unplug the internet, clear your mind of any obligations you have, turn off your phones and spend at least 30 minutes having sex, playing a board game or talking to each other about the past and what you guys want your future to look like. This will reconnect and repair you two on an emotional level which is guaranteed to be lacking if you are living off of a routine and habits.
Jamie mentioned that she was going to “accidentally” cut the power to the house so he can’t work in the garage and she can get some time with him. She knows it’s going to stress him out that the power isn’t working in the house, but she’s going to make up a story that she called the power company and they will be fixing it soon.
4. Continue to Have Sex
One key to doing this is to fantasize about sex with your lover
When you two were dating you could not wait to have sex. Seeing them all the time now diminishes that drive, but your sex life isn’t one you should let diminish because of comfort. Dress up, put effort into yourself as you did when you were dating and make a conscious decision to have good sex.
One key to doing this is to fantasize about sex with your lover. Fantasizing about past sexual experiences with your lover and about new ones you want to have will reignite your desires and reignite your brain and body to crave sex with them a lot more than if you never had a fantasy or thought of sex. You can’t have a life without a fantasy life.
Jamie: “I wish he perused me. I don’t pursue him either so I guess I can’t be so mad. I’m just hurt over it. I guess he must be feeling hurt also. I get stuck in this ‘me me me’attitude that I forget to think about him.”
5. Still, Have Your Own Life
You can take interest in their hobbies, but don’t take over their hobbies.
You two have moved in together and it’s so tempting to never separate from them. This is a sure way to damage a relationship.
You had a life before them and they had a life before you and that life has to still continue. Your lover needs to go out with their friends or spend time alone with themselves participating in their hobbies.
This is a difficult thing to practice because you two are bringing your lives together when you move in together, but you two can’t be merged. You can take interest in their hobbies, but don’t take over their hobbies. Also, they can’t always be away from you doing something else and living their life while you’re alone.
The line between being smothered and being alone is a complicated line to understand for each individual and can only be learned through practice, mistakes, and communication. If you are feeling smothered remember to use Rule 1 and not attack or criticize your lover. Tell them what’s going on, hear what they have to say and create an understanding of what is needed. If you two can’t come to an agreement find professional help so this small issue does not become a great conflict.
Jamie realized that her boyfriend working in the garage was healthy for both of them, but he spent too much time in there just as she spent too much time on her phone and going out. They were taking something healthy,having their individual lives, as a way of avoiding each other and avoiding having conversations they needed to have.
6. Talk About Finances
Money is still one of the biggest reasons for divorce and why people break up. Make it clear who is responsible for what bill so there are no fights later on or resentments.
Jamie: “We are fine with normal bills. Rent, power and all that. But we got into a big fight about me buying a new car. I figured that he would pay for half of that also and he freaked out on me. He told me that my old car was working fine and that the new car wasn’t needed. I just feel this isn’t right because I do buy him tools for his workshop.”
7. Throw Away What You Don’t Need
You need to have the space to grow and gain things with them
Don’t bring items from a previous relationship that will stir up problems. Get rid of old sex tapes and things like that. If you don’t have anything like that you need to get rid of, make sure to downsize your closet. Look at every shoe and piece of clothing and ask yourself if you have worn or used them within the past year. If not, sell or donate them.
Make plans with your lover about what furniture you will be bringing into your new home. You have to make sacrifices and get rid of your bachelor posters and the flood of bachelorette shoes that you have. You are an individual that is starting a relationship and home with another individual,but you need to have the space to grow and gain things with them, not fill every inch of your new home with the past.
Jamie: “I love him, but the number of fuzzy area rugs he had was outrageous. It took me months to get him to get rid of most of them. They just clashed with our décor and listen, Mr.Ayala, it’s not the 80’s anymore. I mean I did well. I got rid of about half of my wardrobe before I moved in with him.”
There are solutions out there to the many problems we have in our relationships. My 4-Step Solution on How to Not Argue with your Lover will teach you what words to avoid and what to be thinking to avoid an argument or when an argument has started so you can continue to live in a way that is fulfilling to your lives.
Casey et. al. (2012): National Health Statistics Report. First Marriages in the United States: Data From the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr049.pdf
Gottman & S. Carrere (1999). https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-research-predicting-divorce-among-newlyweds-from-the-first-three-minutes-of-a-marital-conflict-discussion/