Notice the infatuation with the sixties theme? From clothing fads, TV shows and movies, to iTunes re-mastered works of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and other artists of the counter-cultural revolution it appears people seek a “nostalgia fix” these days. It makes me want to say “groovy man”. Some of what we see is simply a marketing ploy to the baby-boomer generation who are now entering retirement years and have money to spend. However, for many of us who grew up in or around that era, a part of us longs to shed ourselves of the burden of our responsibilities and embrace the “peace, love, and harmony” of our free-spirit past.
I detect a similar longing in couples who feel overwhelmed by the pressure of the responsibilities they shoulder on a daily basis. Couples juggling the tasks of managing a home, raising children, and the demands of their careers, find little time left for each other. Consequently, most of their interactions focus on the “tasks” of family life which can make their marriage function more like a business partnership than soul mates. It leaves many wondering if they can get the feeling back they had when they were young, fun-loving, and free.
Often, In my work with couples, finding “retro-love” is one of the goals we address. I define “retro-love” as the experience of adventure, pleasure, friendship, and romance couples shared when they fell in love. We are not trying to recreate the “first high” of love, for this is a myth. However, it is possible for couples to create new experiences of fun, freedom, and intimacy in their relationship while still juggling the responsibilities of adult life. So, how does this happen? Here are three simple ideas to consider.
STEP 1: re-prioritize your relationship
Instead of being last on the list (which means never), couples move up as near to the top as possible. Included in this mental shift is viewing time and money spent on the relationship as an “investment” not an “expense” with dividends that benefit everyone in the family including the kids. Happy parents fight less!
STEP 2: Find “pockets of time” and “planned time” to spend together
Pockets of time can happen any time during the day from five minutes to an hour where the couple can connect without interruption of kids, tasks, or media devices. Sitting on the deck with a cup of java, a walk around the block, or whatever– I think you get the meaning. Planned time is a date night or other activity couples schedule to go out for mutual enjoyment. I find that couples who add new adventures rather than old routines, capture the essence of what it was like when they first dated. Planned time can include weekenders without kids. I know of a couple who annually book a couple of nights downtown Chicago. Here they enjoy great restaurants, shows, and the many attractions the city offers.
STEP 3: remove the “role hats” and wear the “freedom hats”
Of course I am speaking metaphorically, but the point is in order to get the most of the time together, couples have to be clear on what they want to experience. This is not a time to talk about your roles and tasks. Instead, the time can be spent playing, relaxing, bicycling, or taking dance lessons. Talking can be dreaming about your future, things you want to accomplish, places you want to visit, or what you value as a couple. In short, it is about connecting, knowing each other, and sharing life together.
Retro-love is really not that complicated when you think about it. People make time to do things they enjoy. Yet, a laid out plan does not guarantee execution. Some couples still resist spending time together because they have pent up resentment toward each other. Tired of fighting, they avoid couple time for fear it will turn into another argument. Deep down they may still love each other but they struggle showing it because of the unresolved hurt.
If your relationship is suffering due to the time and energy you devote to the roles and responsibilities you manage then take some action. Try the three-step approach to retro-love. For those who are stuck due to a stockpile of unresolved conflicts and resentment I recommend couples counseling. A few sessions can help you learn how repair hurt and manage conflict so that it doesn’t remain a barrier to companionship and intimacy.
As a relational communication specialist, I assist couples in shifting negative patterns to positive connections. Having the tools and rules of engagement can help you fight less and connect more. Feel free to email me or call our office for an appointment.