How to reset your relationships in 2022

There’s such a thing as spending too much time together — and that can weigh on many couples.

The general story I see in my psychotherapeutic practice is that prolonged periods of forced time together have resulted in those whose relationships were already strong becoming even closer. But if things weren’t great with your other half before, spending time close together will likely reveal the cracks.

The reality is that it’s a lot easier to muddle through when you’re busy with your own life. But when the usual distractions are absent — work trips, parties, office hours, weekend breaks — people are forced to face the blunt truth about their relationship. What they saw came as a shock to many.

Some, who had been together for years, had settled into a comfortable, or at least tolerable, routine. But after that was removed, they found they could no longer communicate except for practical, everyday tasks. For some, these strange and difficult times have led them to realize there was no spark left.

If any of this sounds familiar, it doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed. Far from it. Here are some easy ways to reset it for the new year and get things going again.

Are you heard?

One technique I use is to get couples to sit and face each other. After one has spoken, the other must tell them everything they heard. You can immediately see where the gaps are. Most of the time, when people think they’re listening to their partner, they’re actually formulating answers in their heads. But most of all, in a relationship, you want to be heard by the other person. It’s part of how we feel connected to one another.

Then I ask the speaking partner to repeat what they want to express until their partner understands. Then I ask the listener: what do you hear and what does that mean? Does it make sense to you? Only if you make an effort to understand where your partner comes from will they feel validated.

Crucially, you don’t have to be able to offer solutions. Empathy is often enough; Words like “I understand how you feel”. I find that women in particular simply want to be heard and are not dependent on an answer from their male partner.

Many men, on the other hand, are often afraid to express their own needs, partly because they don’t always know it themselves and partly because they have been socially conditioned not to do so. But allowing yourself to be vulnerable means allowing yourself to be understood.

Your partner is not a mind reader

Almost every couple can remember a time when they couldn’t stop talking — usually early in their relationship when everything seemed so exciting. What would you do to go back to that time? is that what you really want? Try to remember how you used to talk to each other. Just because the ease with which you once communicated has been lost doesn’t mean it can never be regained. I try to encourage couples to say one thing they want more and one thing they want less about in the relationship. Gradually, this can help both of them express their wants and needs.

Often it is anger or frustration that stands in our way. So I say to people, ‘Do you really think your partner is purposely out to make you unhappy? When in doubt, can you agree with them and accept that this is not their intention?” The goal is to neutralize some of the negative emotions that hinder good communication.

We must not expect our partners to be mind readers. We need to be better at expressing what we are feeling and if possible why.

Don’t turn around to drink

If you do the above correctly, you have come a long way in achieving the connection and intimacy we crave in every relationship. But accept that it won’t always be easy. Sometimes I say to couples, “Let’s not try to find solutions today or even talk about the problem. Let’s just sit with this uncomfortable feeling and see what happens.” I think true intimacy comes from being able to.

Try breathing in tandem or just acknowledging that things are difficult and we will all have difficult moments. If we form a bond strong enough, we can weather stormy times.

Don’t let your relationship problems distract you, for example by drinking. This means that you don’t address them and they have no way of resolving the issue.

Give your partner a reason to want to sleep with you

The physical side of the relationship often falls by the wayside when you’ve been together for years. People stop bothering, and it’s rare to meet a couple where both partners want the same amount of sex. A more common scenario is one where a partner wants more than he or she is getting.

For women, it is often the desire for more intimacy that leaves them unsatisfied, rather than the desire for more sex. But I’ve observed that women seem more willing to compromise: they can sacrifice intimacy and have more sex than they want, while men are less willing to sacrifice sex for intimacy.

There is no magic bullet for rekindling physical attraction, but one simple step is for both partners to make an effort to be appealing to the other. Too often we make ourselves attractive on the outside, then get home in ancient sweatpants and expect our partner to want to jump into bed with us anyway.

See yourself through your partner’s eyes: do you give them a reason to want to sleep with you? Have you started neglecting yourself at home and assuming that just because you’re there, they still want you?

It’s worth it for both partners to make the effort and see if anything changes. When you revitalize your sex life, other improvements often follow.

find a spirit of adventure

Long-term couples can also forget the sense of adventure they once had together, which is important to keep the relationship fresh. Ask your partner what they would like to do and what would make them happy. It can be something small, like spending a night together where you don’t talk about the kids, or receiving a compliment. You can take as many expensive vacations as you want and buy all the fancy gifts, but none of that is a substitute for feeling valued. If you can try new things together and also have great – or even average – sex, then you’re on the winning side.

Jean-Claude Chalmet is a psychotherapist and the founder of The Place Retreats, Bali. He heads the London Practice in Notting Hill

As I said to Rosa Silverman

This article has been updated with the latest advice and information for 2022.

What have you learned about your relationship since the pandemic and what do you want to work on in the new year? Let us know in the comment section below How to reset your relationships in 2022

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