Is Your Partner Really A Priority To You?

Some couples I see are in a place of profound anger and despair. This post is not for you. If you are in that place, I wouldn't expect you to be making time together and enjoying date night. Likely, you can barely be in the room together, and are feeling incredibly hurt and wounded by each other. This post is more for couples who are neutral or feeling minor friction with each other. 

So, back to the point of this post  - is your partner really a priority to you? I hear clients all the time talk about the concern of if they are really a priority to their partner. And I think "priority" is a challenging word and idea, anyway. The reality is that your kids, partner, parents, work, personal health, friends all have to be priorities. And often times one of those things cycle into the spotlight for a while. A huge presentation at work, a parent going into the hospital, a kid that is struggling at school, all of those things will at time take more of your attention and energy. Sometimes, though, we forget to check back in and cycle the relationship into the spotlight again.

I think of the connection between partners like a rubber band. It needs to stretch and give bandwidth for each to, at times, not be as focused on the other. In a healthy relationship, it stretches out and then comes back in, where the couple restores and reconnects, strengthening their bond. Issues can come when the rubber band stays stretched too far out, and starts to strain and fray. 

Things can go off course subtly and quickly. As you start to feel depleted, and like you aren't getting the help you need, some resentment can start to build. Now, when your partner expresses what he/she needs, you start to feel like, "Hey, if you helped with the dishes, I would have more energy to want to go on a date night with you." Or, "If you had sex with me, I would feel loved and have more in the gas tank to go to your parents house for dinner again."

With a slightly distressed couple, I would try having a conversation about the way your partner feels the most prioritized. Be curious. What helps your partner feel the most loved? Why? What is it about that thing that makes them feel so good and so special? Try to be open to what's real for them. Instead of interpreting something like, "You like sex because you're a typical guy and you just want to get off," try to really understand what physical touch from you feels like and means to them. Or instead of hearing, "You want me to do the dishes because you're a nagging perfectionist with unrealistic cleanliness standards," understand what it means to them to feel like to have help from you, what it means that you care about what concerns them, that they don't have to do it all alone.