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Relationship Tune-Up
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, February 2006

Get Back on Track
Have you ever wondered why so many couples are disappointed with their love life? Have you asked yourself, "Is that all there is?" or "Where has the romance gone?" If you have, it is quite possible that there may be nothing wrong with your significant other but it may be an indication that your relationship needs a "tune-up" in order to get back on track or to find a new track together.

Get Back to "We"
Relationships are vital and dynamic; they are not static. In order to thrive, they need attention, care and nurturing. When you cease to give what your relationship needs, it fails to flourish. It is during these times that people wonder "what’s wrong with him / her?" It is normal for healthy relationships and marriages to go through phases. We need to be aware that we have the power to infuse humor, tenderness, vitality, interest and joy into our relationships to make them more of what we want and need. When "life gets in the way"; time pressures and stress from work, family obligations, and finances get the better of us, couples can lose sight of the importance of "we" as they focus only on "I." Getting back to "we" is essential if you want to reclaim a committed bond you once felt for your partner.

Get Back to Intimacy and Romance
Changes in your relationship need not signal an end to romance and sexual intimacy. They can be a beginning of a new way to look at things. Most of us are deeply disturbed when romance dissipates. We know it happens to others but we never thought it could happen to us. If you find yourself in this situation, you do not have to stay there. It is important to realize your relationship may be in a readjustment stage and needs more attention.

Here are some Sanity Savers to renew the spark:

Reinforce Your Commitment - Frequent, sincere, verbal restatements of vows or promises keep the relationship at the forefront.

Design a "We" Relationship - Take what you like from your parents’, family and friends’ relationships and reject or revise what does not work for you. Just because your parents behaved a certain way is not enough of a reason for that behavior to be part of your relationship repertoire. Think creatively about new ways to relate to each other. Because your lives and your roles change, both as a couple and as individuals, revisit your "design" periodically.

Carve Out a Time Together Every Day - Turn off your cell phone, Blackberry or computer and spend time together so that if you want, you can have a conversation, dinner alone, a short walk, and the opportunity to touch without interruption.

Respect Your Mate - Use respectful language and actions and be willing to see his or her point of view. Demonstrate appreciation not only for what each of you does but for who you are.

Communicate Effectively - Listen and learn to be descriptive instead of evaluative. Realize that communication needs will change over time. Talk about things other than your children, parents or jobs.

Try New Things Together - Take a class, work together for a cause, do something you have never done before. Revisit something you both enjoyed that you participated in when you first met but that you have let slide.

Problem Solve Together - If one of you has a problem with the other it becomes a problem for both of you. Find ways to work it out. Listen to your partner’s approach.

Stay Connected - Be aware of what is going on beneath the surface. Touch base with each other during the day. Plan "alone" time as a couple. Put those dates on your calendar.

Let Go of Anger - Understand that unresolved anger and feelings of disappointment can get in the way of emotional or physical intimacy. Decide what you can let go of and address that which you have not been willing to examine.

Don't Keep Score - Your marriage is a team effort; not a team sport. Everyone needs encouragement. Scorekeepers do not belong in relationships.

Laugh and Have Fun - Having a sense of humor is an essential ingredient to all good relationships. Playful openness can stimulate desire. Be careful that you do not use humor at the expense of your mate.

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