By Katarzyna Oskarbska
As a therapist in NYC I work with monogamous couples that are facing issues in their long-term relationship. Whether married or not, after a while they observe that there are some changes in their behaviors towards each other, and unfortunately in many cases this change is for the worse. They are often not sure what is going on, but know that they still love each other.
It’s true that at the beginning of a relationship most people tend to show their “better” side of themselves; dating, special surprises, affection, and sexual exploration are all increased. After a while (time varies for couples) when both individuals decide to commit to the relationship, usually by getting married, things tend to change. All of a sudden, partners stop saying “I love you” or doing things that would indicate their love toward the partner, they claim that they are too busy to go out for a dates. Often they claim it’s obvious that I love him/her, yet sex… well it’s not as frequent and as exciting as before.
I often hear - Why is this happening and why did we stop trying? I think partners develop a certain sense of ownership over each other, a feeling similar to what we feel when owning material things.
This sense of ownership creates feeling like “I don’t have to try hard anymore because s/he is mine, s/he belongs to me…” I have heard this phrase from couples many times. However, it’s not exactly true. It’s also unhealthy to apply a sense of possession to a person we love. Having this attitude makes us forget that our partner is a human being and also makes us lose sight of all the excitement that was present at the beginning of the relationship. Bringing routine into a relationship can also lead to feelings of loneliness in a marriage. This sense of possession may lead to a point where we are unable to perceive our partner’s needs. The minute we feel that we possess our partner we stop caring for him/her. It may be risky, as the partner may feel forgotten, unnoticed, and unattractive. It may lead to lessen their sexual desire, lower their self-esteem, and even lead to an affair as s/he is looking for someone that will show some interest and respect.
What can we do to prevent that? We need to remember to be present in the relationship and respect our partner by acknowledging his/her otherness. Partners should be open to spontaneity to break the routine and boredom, which also will help them to applaud and express their love. Being able to discover new interest or hobbies together. Have an open conversation how to break monotonous habits in your relationship. What’s most important don’t treat you partner as your property! Don’t assume that marriage is a way to keep your partner by your side forever; you still need to put an effort so your relationship can flourish and grow. It doesn’t take much to show that you love your partner and don’t just limit yourself to special occasions such as: Valentine day, birthdays, and anniversaries.