Finding a Deeper Connection for a Lasting Relationship

by Sara
(Milwaukee, WI)

QUESTION:
         My boyfriend and I have been together for over five years (he is 29, I am 27). We have had our ups and downs, taken a break or two, but we always end up back together.

         Yet something is missing, and we both realize this - it's that deeper connection -- one that will make the relationship worth staying together forever for. Which is something that I want, but not if we cannot break this cycle we seem to be in. (We've lived together for four years, and we've gotten into a routine, which isn't good, but so hard to break.)

         Is it too late to try and achieve that deeper connection? If not, how do we go about getting that? Is it something that should come naturally in a healthy relationship, or can it be learned?

         I am worried that we've come this far, and stayed in it because it was easy and comfortable. But we have both come to a point where we can't go any further unless something changes. We each see ourselves together, we see a picture of us in this wonderful relationship that we both want, but have no idea how to get there.

Any relationship advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

RESPONSE:
         Great question Sara, and one that plagues many couples in their relationships. I will say first of all that it is never too late to create a healthy relationship as long as each of you has a willingness and desire to enliven and deepen the relationship. On the other hand, people come together in a relationship for a wide variety of motivating reasons. It could be that your reasons for being together are no longer relevant to either of you. I can't answer that for you but I can give you some suggestions for ways you can gain more clarity about it. Then, if you choose to, you can create new reasons for being together and explore new ways of relating to each other.

         I believe one of the most common subconscious wishes people have about their intimate relationships is that they will always remain the same. Because of this, people want their relationships to behave in the same way that they always have. Of course this is never true, so it is important to focus instead on the things that can sustain and strengthen your connection. Think of it like a third entity in your household - you, your boyfriend and your relationship. You mention that "something" must change in your relationship… could it be yourselves who can create that something?

         Relationships are often a reflection of what is going on in your inner selves. When you love, nurture and grow within yourself, there is an opportunity to share it within a relationship - that is the "deepness" that so many people long for. When you discover the common ground between you and your partner's inner lives, that is the ground where you jointly build intimacy and endearment in the relationship. But you can only build up that which you have already begun to develop within yourself first.

         Here are some questions to get you started. What were your reasons for starting your relationship? What needs, wants and desires did it fulfill in each of you? Are any of these still alive for you? What do you currently appreciate about each other? Do you each take personal time and thought to discover and practice activities or ways of "becoming" what you intend to be as individuals? Can you safely and honestly communicate these to your partner? Do any of them have any common overlap with your partner's intentions? Can you envision a "journey" together rather than some picture of a "perfectly completed and fulfilling relationship"? How would it feel to walk together on that journey?

         One book I highly recommend for relationship help is by John Gottman and is entitled The Relationship Cure. Gottman's suggestions are backed by direct observation of the lives of hundreds of couples conducted by his organization. You can find our short review of that relationship book at that link.

         I also wrote about 2 of the most common obstacles to change and included 6 Steps to an Authentic and Fulfilling Life in our latest Inspired Action newsletter that went out earlier today. I don't normally post them on our facebook page, but that one made it on there and might also be helpful to your situation. If you haven't already subscribed to our updates, you can do so here. You may also want to consider some relationship coaching.

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