When you’re in a relationship for the long haul, you know that there is no such thing as happily ever after. No relationship is completely perfect and both parties have to be committed to putting in the necessary work to sustain the partnership over time — especially when life happens.
The ebbs and flows of life paired with the regular ups and downs that all relationships will endure at some point can leave you feeling emotionally exhausted. And if not approached with intentionality, over time, you may find your relationship on life support. Coming to this realization about the state of your relationship can be alarming, but it’s also the first step in turning things around.
Mayo Clinic says of emotional exhaustion, “When stress begins to accumulate from negative or challenging events in life that just keep coming, you can find yourself in a state of feeling emotionally worn out and drained. This is called emotional exhaustion. For most people, emotional exhaustion tends to slowly build up over time.”
Relationship burnout can manifest itself in many ways. Oftentimes, it can look like arguing about the same issues over and over, investing little to no energy in the relationship, constant irritation, and a recurring desire to run from the problems that exist.
“Some find ways to symbolically escape while staying in the relationship,” explains clinical psychologist and marriage counselor Dr. Randi Gunther in an essay for Psychology Today. “The most common are to withdraw outwardly and/or inwardly, and to re-direct their energies into more pleasurable, productive, or less painful directions.”
If you feel as though your relationship has taken a beating in 2020 and you are ready to hit the restart button in 2021, keep reading.
Stay in the present
One of the hardest things to do in a long-term relationship is remaining in the present, especially when the going gets tough. There’s something about relationship obstacles that catapult us down memory lane and remind us of every time our partner has messed up in some way. Sometimes you’re left wondering if it’s really worth it to stick around. But if you’re committed to moving forward, it’s important to make a conscious effort to remain in the here and now. Let the bygones truly be bygones and focus on doing the work necessary now to make things work.
When the chips are down, it’s so easy to focus on what is wrong within your relationship that you forget to be appreciative of what’s right. Long-term relationships can sometimes make us blind to the wonderful attributes our partners possess as well as all of the things that they do for us. Stopping to reflect on the ways that they support you and help to keep the family afloat can help to renew your attitude and outlook on your relationship. Expressing this gratitude to your partner can strengthen the connection as well. At the end of the day, we all want to be appreciated.
Remove negative influences
While monogamous relationships should only be between two people, there are times when we may let our guard down and allow friends and relatives to have a bit too much input in our romantic affairs. When there are too many opinions being passed around, your judgment and way of looking at things concerning your relationship can be affected. Generally speaking, loved ones have good intentions and only want the best for us, which is nice. However, they are often biased by nature and the advice that they give may not always be conducive to a healthy, happy relationship.
Take a trip
Sometimes a quick getaway is all that you need to breathe new life into a relationship. The change of scenery can help you and your partner to forget about the stressors and responsibilities that are burdening you at home. With the current state of things, consider a light road trip or maybe just get out of your home and enjoy each other’s company in a completely different setting. Of course, your problems will still be there when you return, but you will be able to tackle them with a renewed sense of partnership and a rekindled appreciation for one another.
Seek spiritual guidance
Studies have shown that couples who share spiritual beliefs and practice religion together tend to be happier and have stronger marriages. Per the Pew Research Center, about three in 10 people who don’t share the same religion with their partner end up fighting over faith, adding to their issues. If you share the same faith, embrace that. When times are tough, lean on your faith, and seek spiritual guidance together. Make time to connect by praying together before you go to bed, or by reading verses in whatever your religious text of choice is that pertain to love and overcoming obstacles.
Designate date night
Prioritize your relationship by making time to have the fun you had early in your relationship. With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, date night feels even more unattainable than it did pre-coronavirus. However, date night does not always have to be equated with dinner in a restaurant. It can mean staying up after the kids go to sleep to spend meaningful time together or allowing the kids to sleep over at a trusted loved one’s home so that you can spend time alone. Take advantage of whatever opportunities you can get to enjoy each other’s company.
No one is perfect so we will all inevitably make mistakes in our relationships that are sure to make our partners feel a certain way. Commit to forgiveness and if you catch yourself secretly harboring grudges and resentment, do the work that is needed — including connecting with a therapist or marriage counselor — to let that hurt go. Talk about what is bothering you and try to come to an understanding, and then move on. In the same vein as staying in the present, make the necessary effort to communicate and then let it go. It’s for the best for your relationship.
It is also important to realize that you are not perfect either. If you’ve done something that you know hurt your partner, apologize. Many people struggle to put their pride aside and own up to actions that impact others, including people they love. Grow up and get over that hump. When someone calls us out on our actions, it’s easy to jump to the defensive and minimize their feelings. However, in relationships, accountability, compassion, and the humility to say “I’m sorry” are important. The more you say you’re sorry, the easier it becomes and the more likely it is that your partner will also own up to their own regretful behavior more often.
When we’re uncomfortable or hurting, it’s natural to focus only on how we are feeling while forgetting that our partners are suffering as well. Wherever possible, be sure to practice empathy and consider how they may also be affected by present circumstances. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes, because just as we don’t like to feel like we’re not understood or heard, it’s likely true that our significant other feels the same way. So empathy is a must. Don’t be afraid to show it. In fact, make sure you show it and you’ll find that your partner will be grateful for it.