I am no longer surprised when I ask this question to my new couples, and they look blank or subdued or say they don’t know. Yet they often are quite surprised to realize they have not been putting much into their marriage.
Is it possible that your focus on your marriage has become about you and not about the two of you?
Make a list of the things you did together when you were first dating. Some of those will be activities, and others will be the small, medium or large things you did to please your partner. Remember when you went out of your way to . . .
When you were dating you were “selling.” I don’t mean that literally or crassly. I mean that you were trying on your partner while showing off your best angles to catch him/her. Now that you have been together for a while, you might not be doing those things very often (or at all).
You’ve probably figured out by now that I am asking you to change, asking you to look at your own part and take responsibility for it. Responsibility means able to respond. Maybe you are able to respond at this point. This also does not mean that your partner is free and clear of his/her part. You are a system, and each 100% responsible for getting to this point; you do impact one another.
A tough truth is that you don’t have control over very much (despite many Silicon Valley dreams to change the world). Thing you can control include: your feelings, your thoughts, your body, your words, your actions. So work on your part, and please remember there is no such thing as perfect.
Now to your question: Talk with him/her, share your “What we used to do together” list and thoughts of how you plan to experiment with words and actions. You may ask him/her to come up with experiments for him/herself, too.
What I have observed with my couples is that this process decreases the tension at home within a few weeks. Then you will be able to actually work on your underlying issues that get lost amid the surface misunderstandings, bickering, and day-to-day logistics.
Once you have a calmer stasis, make a list of what you need from your partner using “I” statements. For example, the list might include a few of these:
I need to feel heard.
I need quality time with you.
I need to know you are interested in me.
I need appreciation and words of affirmation.
I need affection.
I need actions that show love and care.
Please notice that your list does not consist of “You” statements: You need to get your act together; you need to do more housework, etc. See the difference? Which list would you like to receive from your partner?
Remember to reach out to your friends for what you need, too. Your partner can not fulfill all of your needs.
It is okay to ask your partner for change that is in the best interest of your relationship. Just be sure you're willing to change, too.