Is it just me, or does time begin to move at an accelerated rate as soon as you hit 18? Summers used to feel like they lasted ages, and birthdays once took forever to come around. Time is a tricky beast — it truly has a way of getting away from us. But when life gets in the way, if you're not spending enough time with your partner already, the moments you do share start to feel fleeting. It's perfectly normal to struggle with misaligned schedules and conflicting engagements. It's all part of growing up. The key is to acknowledge the state of your relationship, and take joint action towards fixing it.
I, too, have fallen victim to poor planning and trudging through life full speed ahead. My partner and I began dating our senior year of college, and both found the transition to adulthood to be anything but seamless. At the very beginning, we were both working full-time jobs with absurd hours. As a result, the surmounting stress led us to lash out when we actually did get to see each other. We picked fights over trivial matters. Through patience, understanding, and mutual respect, we ultimately learned how to carve out a little slice of the week for each other, even if that meant just sleeping together in the same bed. We now cherish every lazy Sunday — thanks to the simple yet effective art of honest communication.
If your relationship is showing one of the following signs, don't hesitate to speak with your significant other about how you're both feeling. If it turns out your connection is, in fact, suffering from time spent apart, don't worry: Your love isn't doom to fail just because it falters.
OK, so maybe your partner prefers to spend Saturdays getting lost in a museum, while you would rather be sunbathing in the park. Having different interests and preferred activities isn't a relationship problem — in fact, it's healthy. The issue arises when compromise is no longer on the table. "You can’t agree on things to do together," Dr. Brown says. "Or worse, you won’t." When two people can't mutually make a decision, their connection can suffer.
Sit down with your partner, and create a list of "neutral" activities that you both enjoy partaking in. Then, pick one weekend a month where you meet each other halfway, by doing a little of what they want to do, and a little what you want to do.
Sometimes, if you point something off for long enough, you begin to build it up in your mind until you're overthrown by fear. It's like knowing that you're going to have to get a shot at your annual check-up, so you keep rescheduling the appointment. But putting off the doctor's office, much like avoiding your partner, is unhealthy — and will only make the your anxiety worse.
If you find yourself going a week or two without seeing your partner, and begin feeling anxious about it, do not let that feeling fester. "You'll spend too much time fearing being together," Dr. Brown says. The anticipation will become much worse than the actual issue: not spending time together.
Instead, choose to bite the bullet. Take the initiative to find a time that works for both of you — cook them dinner, take them out for an unconventional date night, or if they're tired, order take-out to eat in bed. Dive right into catching up, and you'll remember how much fun the two of you have together. And if that's not the case, it may be time to re-evaluate the state of your relationship.
Life doesn't always go according to plan: You can't schedule every small surprise, meeting that runs long, or awful train delay. But if you find yourself using circumstances going awry as a constant excuse to cancel on your partner, this could be an indication of a larger issue at play. "You might consistently find yourself promising your partner that you will spend time with your partner," Dr. Brown says. "And your partner complains that you don’t follow through."
If this habit is, indeed, unintentional, it may be time to err on the side of caution and stop acting with such spontaneity. Leave the office 15 minutes earlier on nights that you're grabbing dinner, or get a good night's sleep if you want to catch them for breakfast. Words won't make the difference here; tangible action will. Prove to your partner that they're still a priority.
No, your relationship does not need to be the focal point of your life. Despite what every rom-com will try to tell you, the world does not revolve around couples, and it's perfectly normal and healthy to have a life outside of your relationship. But, on the other side of the coin, your partner still needs to feel valued. Your relationship should still be among your top priorities, even if it's not number one. The second you stop taking their feelings and time into consideration, it's time to re-evaluate.
"You may spend way too much time at work — either to promote your career, or even to spend time with your friends," Dr. Brown says. "But really, you're using this as an excuse to avoid your partner."
First off, asking yourself why you're behaving this way — is something that's happened in your relationship triggered this response? If the answer is yes, talk to your partner about. If the answer is a resounding no, then make a commitment to yourself to start tracking how often you're canceling — and why you're canceling. This is a good way to gain insight into where your priorities may lie. And if you're running late, try to give your partner some advance notice. Consideration is key.
When you first started dating, you had it down pat: Sleepovers on Mondays and Wednesdays, date night on Fridays and Saturdays. But now, it's been months since the two of you have seen a menu from anywhere other than the Chinese takeout place around the corner, or seen a movie on a screen larger than your laptop. Where did date night go? "If you used to have date night, but no longer do, it could be a sign that you're spending too much time apart." Even if you two are physically together, it's easy to be in the same room without communicating. Sometimes, all a couple needs to do in order to get back in sync is sit across from each other at a table and just talk.
This has a simple fix — bring the problem to your partner's attention, and make a pact resolving to reinstate an official date night. Bonus points for varying the places you go and the activities you do. Dinner and a movie is nice, but when's the last time you explored a new neighborhood?
Listen — don't live your life for anyone else. Make decisions based on your own feelings and motivations, and treat your partner with compassion and consideration. But when it comes to gossip and rumor, pay the haters no mind. My one qualm is to question whether or not hearsay has begun to spread because of the extent to which you haven't seen your partner. Perhaps it's been longer than you realized.
"If one or more people close to you mention that they never seem to see you and your partner together, ask yourself why that is," Dr. Brown says.
Mentally review the past few weeks and mental take note of when you spent time with your partner. If you're surprised by how low your number of hang-outs actually is, do something to change it. Remember, we can't control of our past actions, but it's our present decisions that impact our future!
Growing up is hard: You're suddenly overloaded with a million responsibilities and answering to too many people — but your partner shouldn't feel like one of them! If things aren't working, acknowledge that through conversation. But if you're still in love, and feeling overwhelmed by other aspects of your life, work together to make time for each other. When life feels chaotic, allow your partner to be a source of clarity.
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