Fall In Love Again: How to Have a Better Partnership/Marriage

Human beings are maladaptively adaptive. We get comfortable in both unhealthy and unsatisfying relationships. We favor familiarity because we fear change, being alone, and “starting over.” It’s easy to justify staying stuck, but it inevitably leads to a day when you wake up and realize you settled long ago.

Settling sucks. Have the guts to not only want more but to go out and get it. If you’re not going to get up the guts then go adopt some cats, take up stupid hobbies, and buy a better vibrator/better hand lotion.

I’m not saying give up on your partnership. I’m saying love is like poker – at some point you either go all in or inevitably you get blinded out (constantly drained by the little bit it costs just to sit at the table and not take any risks). Love is risky. Vulnerability and intimacy and all the good stuff we want and somehow we’re all wandering whining about our fears of getting hurt AGAIN. (There’s a limit apparently…)

C.S. Lewis said it best, “Love anyone and you give them the power to hurt you.”
It takes courage to love fully. It takes trust, respect, awareness and a lot of effort. These days everyone has “trust issues.” Somehow we overlook that our ability to be open with others hinges on our ability to honest with ourselves. We’ve been seduced into believing that the perfect love is two people taking care of each other and not themselves. Hollywood sold us the very definition of codependency.

The goal of any healthy partnership should be interdependence – a word seldom used. It means two independent people choose to depend on each other in healthy ways.

There’s a reason why shows like “Marriage Boot Camp” (seriously???) are popular. We like seeing people worse off than we are but more importantly – we’re looking for ideas on how to live and love better. (Television offers that?). Get off your f@cking couch and find a decent couples counselor. Don’t wait! Usually by the time couples call me I’m the winner of, “Heads we call a therapist and tails we call an attorney.”

Couples that used to like each other come see me to talk about their “communication skills”, “differing priorities” and to resolve things that have been unforgiven and unaddressed for years.

I can tell a lot about where they’re at – just by where they sit in my office. The distance between the chairs and the couch is a symbolic cavern. They don’t talk to each other – they talk to me about each other and not themselves. I ask them what they want and need. They don’t know. They only know they’re immeasurably hurt that their partner hasn’t given it to them.

People take love for granted and overlook that it requires nurturance. Love does not endure unless it is cultivated. Life may have taught us that vulnerability gets us hurt but the simple truth is that love can’t last without it.

Some I send to the attorney and most I send home with this assignment:
Every day say things to each other that start with:
- I need…
- I want…
- I feel…
- I wish…
- I noticed…
- I appreciate…
- I would love…
- What I want for you is…

I ask them to have fun together, laugh together, go on dates, and for crying out loud have sex.

It’s awkward – all of it. At some point either the ice breaks and we rediscover each other or we move toward acceptance that it just can’t be.

It’s more comfortable not to change. Just be roommates. Just tolerate each other and live separate lives. But remember – you used to like and love each other. Life’s too hard alone. Ask for what you want.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in assisting people in recovery (whether from drugs, alcohol, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.