Wednesday 28 January 2015

The nest is empty - time to rekindle the passion

Many couples find that their relationship has faded away after years focusing on the home and family. Ailin Quinlan talks to the experts who help couples reconnect.

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones starred in Hope Springs - a film about a couple who attempt to reconnect through counselling.
Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones starred in Hope Springs - a film about a couple who attempt to reconnect through counselling.
It's important to keep the flame alive in a relationship.

The years have rollercoaster-ed past; suddenly the kids are gone and there's a stranger sitting across the table. Here's a thought: Do you experience discomfort at the mere thought of eating dinner with your partner of 20 or 30 years without the kids, the TV, or your smart-phone to hand?

You've suddenly realised that, preoccupied by the job of rearing healthy, happy well-educated kids, and keeping a roof over their heads, you've neglected your relationship and drifted apart.

Maybe you thought your relationship would just putter along itself while you were occupied with more pressing matters.

Maybe you didn't think about it at all.

In fact, you haven't put any real energy into your marriage or partnership for years.

You don't laugh or joke together, there's no longer any flirtatious aspect to your relationship – maybe you haven't even gone out on a proper 'date' together for over a decade – and, worse, you find you have little to say to each other beyond the functional comments of day-to-day living.

You feel, in fact, that you hardly know each other anymore.

Every relationship needs attention, says Eithne Bacuzzi, relationships counsellor and psychosexual therapist with Relationships Ireland.

Many mature couples can find that their relationship has almost faded away after decades of focusing on the home and family instead of each other.

Says Bacuzzi: "They've forgotten how to relate to each other.

"They'll find it uncomfortable to sit down at dinner and talk without the TV on or their phones on the table, or someone popping in.

"That can be strange and difficult and they're out of their comfort zone."

Trying to do something like this can result in disturbing insights into how far things have gone, she says.

"They can be shocked at the sheer level of discomfort they experience at having to be alone and intimate across the table."

One question psychotherapist Anne Colgan poses to couples in this position is what they do 'for fun' – and she says, they're often taken aback by the inquiry.

"They're often surprised because they've quite literally forgotten how to have fun.

"That's because life is so serious and we get really serious. But it's all about balance and you cannot have balance in your life unless you play.

Irish Independent

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