How to Perk-up a Wilting Relationship

Everyone who has been fortunate to fall in love remembers well the feelings of excitement, enthusiasm, invigoration and elation he/she felt at the time and how thrilling every aspect of the new connection felt. The intoxicating emotions of reciprocal love may have been viewed as gifts that will keep on giving joy, validation, excitement and satisfaction for years to come. When time, familiarity, conflicting needs and life demands tarnish some of the initial elation, partners may become discouraged about re-igniting the flame of their union. Those who do not elect to part may become resigned to a stagnant, unfulfilling union. This is an unwise and self-defeating option.

Since relationships are fluid and evolving it is anticipated that the emotional highs and lows will continue to ebb and flow. It is important that couples accept that the original intense emotional highs are unsustainable over time, though they can get reactivated by new experiences, kindness and regular affirmations of each other.

When one or both mates are dissatisfied with a relationship issue they are advised to understand each other and be accommodating despite their differences. In “Coping as a Communal Process” researchers R.F. Lyons, K.D. Mickelson and M.J. Sullivan suggest that communal coping is the more efficient method of dealing with relationship changes. They state, “Communal coping occurs when each individual perceives a stressor as ‘Our problem’ versus ‘my’ or ‘your’ problem.” Maintaining the unit connection even at times of disagreement or stress seems to preserve the couple’s unity and strengthens their bond.

A metaphor I often use with couples is ‘the sinking boat imagery’. If they were to imagine being in their boat in the ocean while incurring a life threatening emergency, it would not matter who, if anyone, was responsible for contributing to the imminent threat. What would matter is how they can utilize their joint wisdom and resources to survive and safely reach the shore. When either mate sees any issue as the other’s problem, or holds the partner solely responsible for causing the distress, they are both at a high risk of ‘sinking’.

Conversely, it is empowering to perceive one’s relationship as a precious union in which they can uniquely and collaboratively increase or decrease their pleasure or pain through joint decision-making efforts and emotional support. This view can support them in forging ahead in life feeling braced by each other.

When partners resort to accusations, fault-finding, blaming, or belittling each other for ANY displeasing outcome, they lose their team and are all alone in a hard and unfriendly world. Believing that faulting their mate will make them become the wiser, healthier, or stronger person is an erroneous perception that only leads to mutual accusations, attacks and may cause the destruction of their mutual love connection.

Empower your union:

  • View your mate as the precious person you initially fell in love with.
  • Recall and recite his/her attributes that initially endeared him/her to you.
  • Feel fortunate to enjoy your mutual love connection.


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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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