To be in a relationship is to be engaged with your partner. Marriages and intimate relationships require action (a doing for one another and with each other). In this regard, “love” is indeed a verb.
Love’s action doesn’t have to be what you think of as dramatic—it can simply involve talking to each other, offering support when needed, small expressions of appreciation, or engaging in some shared activity.
Engagement with your partner can be very subtle (for instance, a smile that communicates your fondness for him/her), or this mutual engagement can be more overt at times (a physical expression of love, as in intimate touch, or some planned event, like a romantic picnic under the stars).
But many of the couples who end up feeling stuck have lost the energy that feeds engagement. There is little movement in their marriage; action has given way to passivity; the energy that motivates action has given way to inertia.
When inertia blankets the relationship, you may feel at a loss to find things to do as a couple. And this sense of helplessness can further the inertia that is leading to a marital or relationship rut.
Things for Couples to Do (that Can Benefit Your Relationship)
During a couples communication workshop that I facilitated, I asked the participants to share some ideas about fun activities for couples that can help keep their relationship moving forward. The consensus of the group was that engaging in activities together gave the emotional connection between them a boost.
As one wife said, “Every time I get to the point where I’d just as soon spend the weekend in my pajamas bingeing on Rocky Road ice cream and Hallmark movies, I push myself to arrange some type of activity that Vince and I can do together. Afterward, I’m always glad we did it. It really does help put fresh energy back into the marriage. But I have to resist the urge to just coast.”
Here are ten highlights from the list the workshop group came up with:
⇒Go for a walk or hike or bike-ride in a novel location;
⇒Invite pillow talk (process the day; explore dreams or future plans);
⇒Start a book club of two and choose your first title;
⇒Find a new recipe for a dish you haven’t tried and prepare it together;
⇒Plan a house project (or a craft project, like a couple-scrapbook) and roll up your sleeves and get to work;
⇒Unplug from the 140-character world and write each other actual, hand-written letters (on paper!);
⇒Blast your favorite music and dance and get silly to it;
⇒Visit an art gallery or a museum and ‘debrief’ over coffee or ice cream after;
⇒Volunteer as a couple at an organization that means something to you (an animal shelter, perhaps, or a town beautification committee, or maybe a soup kitchen);
⇒Do something you haven’t done in years but you remembered having fun doing once (for instance, bowling, Karaoke, attending a costume party, berry-picking, visiting a water park or a carnival).
Difficulty Finding Things to Do as a Couple, or Feeling Stuck in Lethargy?
There was a volley of energy as the couples ping-ponged ideas around the room, often expanding on each other’s thoughts. The list grew to over fifty items (the above list of ten things for couples to do received the highest votes of all the items generated). Some couples took copious notes, clearly glad to have a new couples’ activity to try.
But then one of the husbands spoke up and shared the following:
“It’s always good to have ideas of fun things to do as a couple, but I don’t think a lack of ideas is our problem. It’s actually following through and doing them that’s the problem. I know my wife will make a list of these suggestions and hang the list on the refrigerator so we can be reminded of them. But will we take that next step? I hope so, but I’m not certain.”
There were nods of agreement from others at the workshop as this husband spoke. For these couples it’s not an absence of ideas that keeps them stuck. They’ve read the marriage books and online relationship advice blogs suggesting fun and romantic ideas for couples to try out. But despite being informed, some of them still fail to take the necessary steps to follow through on this information.
Is a failure to follow through keeping you and your partner stuck in a rut?
Finding balance between being and doing
It’s easy for any couple to relax themselves into a marital/relationship rut by the simple fact that inertia breeds inertia.
Couples need to find a balance between being and doing. To relax with your partner, to unwind and not feel pressured to do anything (to just be without the expectation for some kind of action-agenda) is an important component in marriages and intimate relationships. The freedom to be removes the burden and obligation of doing. When you and your spouse/partner lounge around the house together on your day off, you are in being-mode.
Couples relish the opportunity to relax into their shared lives. The peace that comes from not having to be “on” with each other is a real plus of marital life.
But we should all be mindful that the comfort of being-mode has the power to expand and take over — as already mentioned, inertia breeds inertia; passivity makes way for greater passivity; the thought of doing something becomes less appealing after extended periods of inactivity.
Doing (like its counter-part, being) has an important place in your marriage/relationship. Doing-mode requires a different energy than being-mode, an energy that is designed to get your body moving; to engage in some type of activity; it’s a movement that encourages you to be more intentional in how you interact with your partner.
The transition from being-mode to doing-mode requires agency — you must make the conscious decision to lift yourself up and out of the downward-dragging force of inertia.
And while this initial pull out of inertia may require greater initial energy on your part, the good news is that once you are in doing-mode, further action starts to flow more readily. Just as inertia breeds inertia, action breeds further action.
This transition from not doing (“Let’s just stay home again tonight”) to doing (“I made reservations at your favorite restaurant”) may sound easy but it isn’t always this way for the couples who feel stuck in the gridlock of lethargy. But once you achieve balance between these two modes of being (the being-mode and doing-mode), moving back and forth between them will become less daunting.
Here’s to being and doing!
Dr. Rich Nicastro
Featured image “Couple hugging each other” by David Castillo Dominici; Freedigitalphotos.net.