I read something on Twitter recently that must have stuck in my mind. (Unfortunately I lost the reference, so if it’s you who said it, please let me know and I’ll link to your twitter account).
The post said something like “There are three types of marriage: Connecting, Coasting or Crisis”.
I think that’s a good way of describing the various states of a long-term relationship. If you’re currently in a relationship, do you know what state yours is in?
You will know about it, for sure, if you are in crisis, with all the accompanying conflict and unhappiness that entails. Perhaps there’s some trauma to deal with such as addiction or infidelity, or perhaps you’ve grown apart to such an extent that you feel your relationship can’t go on as it is.
At least if you have a crisis, you know you have something that you have to deal with, and chances are, you can think of little else. You might go and see a therapist for help or try to battle it out at home until things are resolved one way or another.
But crisis is not the most dangerous state for your relationship to be in, especially if you are getting help for your problems, you are aware of what is happening, and you’re taking steps to do something about it.
The most dangerous state for any long-term relationship is actually coasting, because that is where the whole foundation of your life can crumble away to nothing without you even knowing anything is wrong.
And any relationship where you are not in crisis and are not truly connecting is coasting. There’s a lot of that about.
Connecting means getting on like a house on fire, actively enjoying being with someone, and thanking your lucky stars that you are in the relationship. It means talking about everything under the sun, being open and able to be fully yourself with someone. It means being together on all kinds of levels (mind, body and spirit) and taking obvious pleasure in that.
You may be perfectly content coasting. But coasting is the same as taking your relationship for granted. You’re happy you’re together but you don’t really appreciate what you have. You don’t give your partner or your relationship enough attention or enough love and so it grows stale. It means you’re not truly intimate or close enough. Sex is routine rather than exciting, or you hardly get together at all.
Bad things happen in that coasting space. Couples fall out of love. Or one of them does, while the other doesn’t know what hit them when their partner of many years standing (or even just two or three) declares that they met someone else – someone who appreciates them, values them, is close to them and has all the attraction of someone exciting and new.
The antidote is being actively loving and appreciative, being open and honest and vulnerable. It means making an effort to work on your relationship and not just being in it by default. There are many articles here on the blog to help. Take a look at How To Bring The Spark Back Into A Relationship series to start with but there are many others if you surf around the site.
Note from Ana: We have never had a big crisis, but we have definitely had periods of coasting in our long marriage – those years weighed down by full-time work and childcare and not enough sleep. It was more luck than good judgment that things worked out from that relationship danger. I think we were both so exhausted, we were content to coast! But I’m much happier these days and I’m sure hubby is too. I hope this stage of connecting lasts forever!
Over to you: Do you recognize one of those states in your current relationship or relationships you have had? Please share in the comments below.