Fight Autopilot to Save Your Forever Union

How to do the work that will lead to a happy, healthy, sustained relationship

Communication is key. Crew/Unsplash

Til death do us part. This is an overly romanticized notion. In reality, love is complicated. People grow and evolve, and the hope is that couples grow and evolve together. But in our busy society, couples tend to grow apart. Overwhelmed with careers, kids, schedules, domestic affairs and financial complications, couples often don’t prioritize time to connect. Date nights fall to the wayside, intimacy fades, and gestures of affection become a distant memory.

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“How did we get here?” couples ask.

It’s if they sign on the dotted line, go on autopilot, and don’t look up again until the relationship falls apart.

After the wedding, the couple jumps back into their stressful lives, and over the years new dimensions are added—children, homes, investments, schools, college funds, lay-offs, lack of sleep, stress and more. Conversations about finances and the drudgery of work replace affection and emotional connection. Sweet gestures and kind words become items on an already taxed to-do list—until someone wakes up and wonders where the connection went. The couple is no longer longer lovers; they’re roommates.

No one means to have an affair; it just happens.

When there is no longer conscious emotional connection between the couple, the spark dwindles. That doesn’t mean each partner no longer has emotional needs; it means that those needs are not being met. It opens a door for someone else to meet them.

You don’t get a happy, healthy relationship because you want one; you get one because you do the work.

The work never ends—no one gets a get-out-of-jail-free card. Everyone who enters into a relationship needs to do the work to sustain the it. This is non-negotiable, although I can’t tell you how often I hear from my clients that their partners are not interested in doing couples therapy. Really? You’re not interested in saving your marriage? You don’t get to be in the relationship if you can’t bring yourself to do your half of the work. If you aren’t contributing to the solution, you’re definitely part of the problem—whether you see it that way or not.

There are also couples who don’t communicate at all. Maybe they came from a home where they never talked about their feelings. Whatever your story is, that behavior is not serving you in a consciously committed relationship.

You do not get what you do not ask for.

Communication is key. People are not mind readers. Even if you think you’ve said what you needed to say, maybe it needs to be repeated. If there is something that you need or want in a relationship—something that would fulfill you and make you happy—then you have a responsibility to yourself to express that need to your partner, even if it’s awkward to ask for it. Don’t expect that they know what you need. 

You only get what you accept, so if what you’re accepting doesn’t work for you, send it back and ask for better.

If you don’t say something, you’re telling your partner everything is okay. How are they to know differently? If you’re accepting that behavior and then subsequently getting resentful for receiving it, you are creating your own drama. You are setting yourself up for disappointment, then getting upset with them for your decision to do so.

Relationships are button pushing contests.

It might help to know that relationships are not all meant to be rainbows and butterflies. Believe it or not, I tell my clients that the more difficult they are, the better they actually are for you. They are meant to bring up all your fears, anxieties and frustrations. They are a battleground for working through your personal life lessons.

Relationships are mirrors; they reflect back the issues we are working on in this life. But no one likes to see their inadequacies and insecurities mirrored back to them. It’s much easier to get upset with your partner for pressing your buttons then it is to look in the mirror and recognize that those buttons are yours to be pressed. The more conscious you are of your buttons, the less those buttons will get pressed, and the healthier your relationship will be.

Jumping out of the relationship without doing the work to heal it will just land you in the same relationship again.

Ironically enough, the relationship we leave behind is the one we go on to attract again. You can’t run from your patterns. All you do is pack up your issues, sling them over your shoulder, and bring them into the next relationship.

It’s all about consciousness.

Do you want to be in a healthy, happy relationship? How conscious are you of your patterns? How conscious and understanding are you of your partner’s patterns? Are you both working through those lessons or are you blaming each other? Where does consciousness start? How can you begin living a conscious relationship?

Here are three tips to help your relationship become more conscious:

  1. Own what’s yours and give the rest back. If you are conscious, you know what your issues are and work on them. Once you’re owning what’s yours, then you know exactly what you can “give back” to your partner. Don’t try and be the hero. You can’t do the work for both of you. Doing the work for someone else makes you a doormat. It ensures that they won’t learn their lesson, and therefore, you won’t get your needs met in the future. It’s a lose-lose situation.
  1. Call out the yellow flags before they become red. Communication is everything. If something isn’t working, don’t brush it under the carpet. Call attention to it. Many issues that arise are born purely of misunderstanding—then, they become habit. Address the small things so they don’t become bigger.
  1. Make time to connect each week and share your appreciation. It’s important to set aside at least one evening a week as date night. This is an opportunity to connect and be intimate. During the course of the week, observe your partner and offer one gesture of appreciation, something about them that you noticed that they did that you really love. Did they take the trash out for you? Did they stay in with the kids while you went out with your friends? This begins the development of a deeper bond. That positive reinforcement goes a long way to encourage future positive behavior.

Not every conscious relationship will be forever, but unconscious relationships will certainly never get to forever. If you’re doing your work on yourself and your partner is doing their work on themselves, then there is a level of consciousness. As long as you’re alive, you’re going to grow and evolve, and so will your relationship. You can either consciously grow together or unconsciously grow apart. Ask yourself which direction you would like to grow in, and then use consciousness to get there.

Based in New York City, Donnalynn is the Author of “Life Lessons, Everything You Ever Wished You Had Learned in Kindergarten.” She is also a Certified Intuitive Life Coach, Inspirational Blogger (etherealwellness.wordpress.com), Writer and Speaker. Her work has been featured in Glamour, the iHeart Radio Network and Princeton Television. Her website is ethereal-wellness.com. You can follower her on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn,  Facebook and Google+.

Fight Autopilot to Save Your Forever Union