The artist Vincent Van Gogh said, “What is done in love is done well.” Loving another person, however, can be very, very hard. That’s because putting your heart and soul into a relationship leaves you vulnerable. Being in love is wonderful, but it also hurts.
When romantic bliss wears off
Often, partners find it next to impossible to cope with the heartbreak, disappointment, frustration and misunderstanding that inevitably arise in long-term relationships. Early on, romantic bliss tends to obscure fundamental differences when it comes to personality, values and overall compatibility.
For example, initially many people fall in love with an idealized image of their significant other. But the illusory aspects of love are bound to wear off at some point. When it does, people often ask, “Do I really love this actual person — and not just the person I thought I was falling in love with?”
Fighting for love
Asking this question is not a sign your relationship is in trouble. Rather it’s an indication that you may have some work cut out for you as you navigate a new phase in your journey together. Similarly, unhappiness and conflict with your partner are not necessarily symptomatic of a failing partnership. However, it is an indication that the two of you both have some adjusting to do.
When frustrations mount and discouragement and toxic feelings prevail for long periods, then at least one partner in a couple will probably entertain thoughts about breaking up. This can be a gut-wrenching time. No one wants to be hurt (and few of us truly want to hurt our partner). However, sometimes the pain of staying together can seem unbearable.
However, love is not something most of us enter into lightly. Understandably, we want to do everything we can make our relationships work. If there is a last resort option that might tip things in a positive direction, then most of us will want to give it a shot.
View conflict as an opportunity for growth
No single last resort method will work for every couple, but perhaps I can share an approach that has helped me repair frayed bonds with the love of my life. Instead of running from conflict we’ve embraced it as an opportunity deepen our relationship. We’ve done this by changing our scenery and having a small adventure, which allows us to re-experience the magic of being together. Perhaps I can explain this all best by a story.
I thrive on routine whereas my girlfriend is especially fond of spontaneity. Most times, our differing outlooks compliment one another or we work out a happy medium. But one time, early in our relationship, my reluctance to go with the flow seemed to strike a nerve.
I thought my girlfriend was making a mountain out of a molehill, but she thought I was inflexible. Talking about some of our pent up frustrations helped, but only so much. I could sense the doubt she had about us as a couple.
A carpe diem adventure
Thankfully, we had a charity walk the next day. It was something we were both committed to and couldn’t get out of. Focusing on a cause beyond ourselves seemed to put some of our unease in perspective. But what really helped was a little carpe diem adventure we undertook.
Carpe diem, of course, is Latin for “seize the day.” It’s the notion that you should grab life by the horns and live fully in the moment. If you are not trying to spread your wings and savor life’s possibilities, then you are bound to feel stifled and unsatisfied.
Driving home following the charity walk, I saw a road sign pointing to Historic Tarrytown in New York. I knew immediately that it was a detour my girlfriend would want to take. “Would you be interested in a little impromptu visit?” I asked. Of course, I already knew the answer.
What followed was a delightful day that neither of us expected. It included a colonial village, inspiring landmarks and a late night stroll through a historic graveyard. We were exploring uncharted territory. In the process, we were rediscovering each other.
That afternoon, we set aside our frustrations and we lived in the moment. It was a chance to savor one of life’s little adventures — and each other. Aside from an inexpensive dinner, it didn’t cost a penny.
I don’t think either of us has thought seriously about breaking up ever since, but whenever difficulties and frustrations arise, then we make sure to find time for a spontaneous adventure in some corner of the world that we’ve not yet explored.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions that I believe can help make a carpe diem adventure day helpful:
Tips for cultivating quality time with your partner
- Pick an activity that allows for spontaneity.
- Choose a new and unfamiliar setting.
- Live in the moment; don’t dwell on the past or the future.
- Let go of your ego and be prepared to compromise.
- Let the day unfold.
- Set expectations aside in order to make room for enjoyment.
Think outside of the box
I don’t believe there’s any one approach that will work for every couple. However, the carpe diem method has worked it’s magic many times as far as I’m concerned.
Even the strongest couples can get in a rut. When you do, try to think outside of the box. Be open to the unexpected. Suggest an idea your partner will not anticipate. Plan an adventure that will take you into uncharted territory. With a fresh attitude and receptivity, you might just rediscover the enchantment that drew you together in the first place.
If you have any ideas, suggestions or stories about approaches that can help couples save their relationships, I would love to hear about them. Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.
— Scott O’Reilly