Newly romantic partners want to care for each other in every way they can. Ever watchful for any overt or covert expression of desire, they are attuned to their lover’s needs without resentment or obligation.
As they become committed to a long-term relationship, many of those same partners tend to give each other less of the exquisite attentiveness they had experienced when their love was new. The priorities that they put aside to make one another center stage gradually emerge.
Initially, devoted relationship partners don’t intend to lose the focused caring they once so easily gave to each other. They anticipated that their initial levels of passion and romantic connection would understandably somewhat diminish as the relationship matured, but they welcomed the comfort and security that came with creating mutual experiences and significant memories.
Sadly, as most people feel more secure in a future together, many intimate partners forget that level of treasuring must be maintained. Those sacred and intimate moments that were central to their new love require recognition and regeneration to stay available. But, too often, as intimate partners relax into the comfort of a committed relationship, they can too easily forget how they once were the most important center of each other’s lives.
That process is further complicated when each partner doesn’t experience the lessened availability in the same way. What is important to one may not be as much so for the other. There are countless examples. Many men, for example, feel that their long-term partners are not as sexually interested as they continue to be and many women equally miss the emotional connection they once could count upon. Or, if both partners have careers, they may need to resurrect work obligations they’ve put aside when the relationship was new. Family obligations kept submerged while the partners were focused on each other, now raise demands to pay tribute.
Whatever the causes, one or both partners have actually become less automatically available to one another. They were once each other’s first priority, easily entitled to ask for whatever was desired. Now, they may have to ask for what once was offered freely. Time, affection, attention, support, interest, energy, and priority, once bountiful, now often must be negotiated.
These changes can happen very slowly and may go unnoticed by even the most devoted of partners. They still love to cherish their relationship and are readily available during a crisis. That assumption can lure a couple into believing that they can still count on those sweet spots of automatic and complete availability whenever they might need to resurrect it.
Sadly, that is not true. Unless that depth of devotion and caring is continually regenerated, it can quietly diminish, leaving one or both partners and bereft at a time of need.
What do Couples Need to do to Keep Their Sweet Spots Alive?
1) Stay Current
Many people who leave relationships regret their decision later, wishing they had tried harder before quitting. In the heat of battles that seemed unavoidable and unending or unable to regenerate discovery, they could not stop the disintegration in time.
Life’s requirements intervene in all relationships. Legitimate unexpected challenges, chosen obligations, unresolved differences, and postponement of important interpersonal issues, can easily combine to keep a couple too busy to focus on each other’s needs.
As a couple moves from intertwined to parallel, many intimate partners begin to do the relationship in their own heads and forget to check out whether or not their other partners still think and feel the same way. They have forgotten who they were when every detail of their lives was mutually experienced and all their resources were combined and mutually allocated. It doesn’t take long before their initial deep connection can become a past memory, replaced by a pretense of intimacy that they believe is more alive and available than it is.
2) Balancing Resources With Demands
All long-term relationships are subject to changing requirements and the subsequent need to redistribute resources. Some of those resources are subjective and others are objective, but both are important. Subjective resources include time, energy, compassion, availability, or emotional support. Objective resources might be an allocation of finances, shifting of responsibilities, new means to increase resources, more efficiency in resolving problems or sacrificing personal needs.
In spontaneously generous relationships, couples decide which partner’s needs should claim the relationship’s resources at any one time, and how that decision best benefits the relationship, both in the short and long run.
What is essential is that both partners feel hear, see, appreciated, and cared for because those decisions are made together. They have a clear sense of what their mutual values and ethics are and they talk openly about what each needs to make things work. They also understand that desires and needs will not always feel justified to either in the moment, but that both completely trust the fairness of the other to compensate when time allows.
3) Agreement on Priorities – In Everyday Life and During Crises
When lovers are new to each other, they diligently search for the ways to agree on the major aspects of life. That includes how they behave with each other and also how they see the world the same way.