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Can You Cut The Chatter And Just Be With Your Partner?


When we're with our partners, all too often, we're not as present as we should be (even when we're sitting right next to each other).

It's easy to get bogged down in negative thoughts, whether they're about big issues like the future of the relationship (When are we moving in together? Are kids on the agenda?) or smaller conflicts (Why am I always doing the washing up?).

With minds constantly whirring and expectations and worries about the future, it's easy to stop being in the present and to forget the simple idea that what is happening between you as a couple, right in this moment, is all that you know (and all that matters).

When relationships become mired in conflict and argument, the simple pleasures disappear, especially the giddiness of that initial attraction you felt before things became more serious (and complicated).

"Sometimes couples are in a hurry to see where their relationship is 'going' and during this hasty journey, it's often easy to forget the simpler pleasures and excitement of when you first met," says behavioural psychologist and relationship expert Jo Hemmings. "Also, once we become an established couple, routines, habits and patterns develop - or simply having children - which detract from the carefree joy of the early days."

According to Hemmings, "the essence of what attracted us to someone in the first instance is often more enduring than we give it credit for." It's important to be reminded about what the simplicity of being together is really like, especially when small things start plaguing us and mole hills become mountains.

"Chemistry and compatibility are strong drivers in a relationship, but without the other two C's, consideration and compromise, they sometimes take a back seat. Doubts that creep into a relationship, concerns that we aren't with the right person, or issues that feel insurmountable are best dealt with by making sure you keep the fifth C alive - communication.

"Once that starts to ebb away in a relationship, resentment, anxiety and fear tend to take over. You're unlikely to ever agree about everything - and shouldn't expect to as two individuals - but dealing with concerns as and when they arise goes a long way to preventing bigger problems in the future," says Hemmings.

Hemmings says that getting back to basics in the relationship - triggering those initial memories and feelings of carefree excitement and pleasure - will take some effort. She suggests organising regular date nights as couple, going back through old photos and memorabilia together or initiating spontaneous sex as some techniques to find that happy, simple place.

When you're plagued by negative, intrusive thoughts (the gremlin kind that don't have your best interests at heart and have you leaping to worst-case scenario conclusions), it can affect every aspect of your relationship and even lead you to wonder whether or not your relationship is working.

However, it's important to remember that disagreements and arguments are commonplace in relationships - not necessarily a sign of incompatibility.

"If you find yourself questioning whether the person you are with is 'the one,' take an honest look at your expectations of relationships. If you are expecting an easy ride with your life partner, you are in for a surprise," says accredited psychosexual therapist, Julie Sale, a member of the COSRT (College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists) Ethics committee.

"Conflict is so typical of long-term relationships that it is a presupposition of every theory of the couple taught in sex and relationship courses. Combining the unique natures and histories of two people will inevitably lead to disagreements.

"Seeing your partner's differences as aspects of their individuality rather than attacks on yours will help. Also, letting go of the illusion that every other couple seems to get on better than you two do is advisable. Appearances are deceptive."

To get back to the simplicity of the early days of the relationship, Sale recommends going back to basics. Start looking at your partner, especially when you come home from work (make sure you make eye contact and say hello to one another).

"It is easy to believe the story that your partner has morphed from the love of your life to a monster when you stop looking at them. Making contact with your eyes allows you to maintain or regain heart (and genital!) contact," she explains.

As important as looking is, make sure to touch your partner as well. Sale advises that non-erotic touch be a constant feature of your relationship - brush your partner's arm or back when you pass them at home, hold their hand when walking down the street and stroke their face or hair before saying goodnight.

"Couples stop touching one another in this way when any touch is associated with an attempt to initiate sex. Agree clear ways to communicate a request for sex to allow space for regular, loving, non-erotic touch in your relationship," Sale says.

It's also easy to stop being as involved in your partner's world as your relationship moves from weeks to months to years - make sure to stay engaged and interested in their lives despite what may be going on in your own.

"In the early days you were fascinated by everything they had to say, curious about their thoughts and feelings, engaged in their day-to-day life. As time goes by and the responsibilities of a shared home/pets/children/careers intrude, we can lose touch with one another," says Sale.

She recommends taking time each day to give your loved one an update on your life outside of the home (what's happening with work, friends, colleagues, etc).

It's also crucial to reconnect with and remember the person you originally fell in love with: you can do this by actively reminiscing and talking about when you first met or reliving stories of the early days of your relationship. According to Sale, this will remind you of the qualities that attracted you to one another in the first place.

"Actively reminiscing about an exciting or particularly loving time in your relationship signals the brain to release the chemicals associated with that memory, taking you back to the heady chemical mix of your first love state of mind," Sale explains.

Just remember: keeping it simple means being a part of each other's lives, enjoying the present and being able to communicate with your significant other, rather than fretting about the future.

"If you don't know what your partner would do if they won the lottery, you have lost touch with their world," says Sale.

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