1. As we grow and evolve as individuals, our likes, dislikes and opinions too change all the time- can this affect the relationship?
Oh yes, most definitely. I see quite a number of people who want things back to “the way they were” when they just started their relationship; and I get very surprised reactions when I tell them that this is impossible. You are not the people you married anymore. Things happen- life changes a person; your relationship changes you. The key here is to grow together; to keep that connection between the two of you. If a couple fails to do this, they might end up as two individuals; simply co-existing under one roof.
2. Usually when the relationship starts, both partners go all out to make the other feel special- how do we reach a point when we “take each other for granted” as lovers?
I almost want to say that this is a given stage in a relationship. The” being in love phase”, the honey moon phase; both are extremely easy, non-confrontational stages in a relationship. But as time passes our focus starts moving from each other to life in general – challenges we’re facing, work, family, friends, running a household…And our priorities start shifting. We as human beings are need driven; everything revolves around needs. And the moment that it feels like my needs are not important to you anymore, I start feeling neglected or taken for granted.
3. When children come, things always seem to change. What causes this and how can we prevent it from interfering with the relationship?
In my mind and my experience there is absolutely no way under the sun that children will not affect your relationship – impossible. Children bring with them, a complete transformation of roles, expectations, responsibilities none of which were present before their arrival. And this in and of its own adds a huge challenge to any couple. Add to that a little bundle of never-ending needs and the stage is set for a disaster just waiting to happen.
But you can manage this quite effectively if you:
- Never ever stop communicating with your partner. Involve one another in decision making processes, in hands-on tasks. Support one another in the new roles that you guys now have to fulfill; realize and keep in mind that this is a new challenge for both parties involved.
- Stay connected; this is not going to happen by itself – you have to work at it. Create time for just the two of you to sit and chat about your day – confide in each other, not in other people; communicate your needs and frustrations with each other. In so doing you will be more likely to stay a united front through all of this.
4. When it comes to affection and sexual attraction – how do we keep the spark, especially with children around?
This can be quite tricky! Timing is crucial now – before children, there is no chance of being interrupted or being walked in on; so spontaneity is possible. When kids enter into the picture, this becomes a big problem.
Sleep can have a huge influence here – especially if your kids are still young, a lack of sleep has a huge effect on mood, on emotions, on reactions, so if one or both parents get too little sleep; this could influence the romance factor immensely.
Another possible problem here is that a lot of mommies; after having children struggle to lose the weight that they have gained, or they still have stretch marks, or they feel very self-conscious about the C-section scar…bottom line is; they might feel very unattractive.
The general experience of the new roles as Mother and Father might also have a big influence here. Remember that we are need driven people, as mentioned before; as women, when we feel loved, cherished and emotionally secure, sex is more easily seen as a natural part of the relationship. If I am not emotionally satisfied with the relationship, physical attraction is almost non-existent. For men, sex leads to feelings of being emotionally secure and safe and this; as you can well imagine, leaves us with quite a predicament.
My advice would be to be very conscious and aware of the small things. Help each other, support each other, if your emotional connection is nice and secure, the physical side of things will settle. Just be realistic with regards to your expectations of one another – being a parent changes everything and becoming one is a huge adjustment, so give yourselves time to get used to it all.
But even without kids, there often comes a stage in a relationship where sex is not a priority for one of the partners. Again, I want to stress the emotional connection between partners here. If we really have a great emotional connection, if both our needs are met sufficiently and if we are happy and content, but for the sexual side of things, figuring out this problem together will be easier than if we were generally unhappy.
If the physical side of your relationship stays a problem; make an appointment with your gynecologist to have your hormone levels checked, this might be a big cause of a lack of libido. Also have a decent general medical check-up, eliminating any physiological contributors to the problem. If this doesn't help, make an appointment with a sexologist and or a counselor.
5. When one partner forgets special occasions, does this mean they are losing interest?
There could be quite a few reasons for not remembering occasions that we used to really value, so assuming immediately that your partner is losing interest in you is a very dangerous thing to do. Rather check with him or her – have an open and honest discussion about it. Do not accuse your partner of anything, rather double check whether everything is still okay.
This could however be a tell-tale sign that things are slipping a little and it is when something like this happens, that we really have to buckle down and make the decision to invest a little more in each other and our relationship. Notice that I said “when this happens” and not “if this happens”. Relationships do go through different stages and it’s important to pay attention to them and to react pro-actively to them.
6. Any other tips on how to keep the fire burning?
I honestly believe it’s the small things in life that make us happy, that make us feel loved and cared for. It’s the SMS that says “I love you”, it’s the flower on your pillow, It’s the surprise coffee that I take you on; it’s taking the time to make each other feel special. It’s listening intently for needs that I might be able to meet better. It’s taking you into consideration when making decisions, it’s losing the “me, myself and I” attitude that we seem to pick up along the way and really treating our spouses as kings and queens.
And given our hectic schedules and all the responsibilities, this can prove to be quite a challenge, but so worth it to keep that connection between two people nice and strong.