The Love Desert

You don’t need me to tell you that life happens. People get sick, kids act out, jobs get lost, parents die. It is surprisingly common to have more than one bad thing happen at once or in quick succession. It can feel like a tidal wave about to overtake you.

Sometimes when this happens, it takes all we have to just stay on the board and ride the wave.

Most of the time, when a bad thing happens, it only happens to one of partner in a relationship at a time. Since the other person’s life continues on normally, they can give us extra support, take on extra chores, or just be a listening ear. In other words, they can be there for us when we need them. At other times, they are the ones facing a difficult life event, and we provide the support.

But sometimes, life hits everyone at the same moment. Both of you struggle to take care of yourself and the kids (if kids are part of the equation). At the end of the day, there isn’t anything left for anyone else. When this happens, the support stops flowing and enter a love desert.

I’ve seen many couples freak-out when this happens, especially the first time it happens. We get into relationships for mutual support and when it disappears, no matter how much our brains understand what’s going on, our hearts can get pretty bruised up. We forget that it’s only temporary.

Acknowledging that you are both in a desert, that you don’t have anything to give each other, is an important step in getting through a love desert. By acknowledgingthe reality of the situation, you can adjust your expectations of each other and get on with coping.

When we don’t acknowledge it and pretend it isn’t happening or require that our partner meet our needs regardless of their own reality, we can damage and even kill the relationship.

These deserts are a normal part of long-term relationships. They don’t mean anything, they just happen. So, when they do, focus on taking care of yourself (and your kids) and trust your partner to do the same. Once life returns to normal, so will your relationship.

If it doesn’t, that’s the time to give me a call.

Photo credit Chance Agrella @

It’s All in the Definition…

One of the little things that easily turns into a big thing for couples is the definition of a word. Each person uses the same word, but means something very different.

For example, “time together” is a pretty loaded concept that frequently gets couples into trouble with each other. One person may define “time together” to mean, “We live together. We see each other every day. We have time together every week.” This statement is objectively 100% true. However, the other person defines “time together” as meaning, “Time we have set-aside from daily life during which we put down our phones, make eye contact, and connect. We had no time together last week.” This statement is also 100% true.

You can see how tempers may flare and feelings are hurt when both members of the couple say (and believe) their statement about the same week.

When your partner says to you, “We haven’t spent any time together in weeks!” and you know you saw that person every day for the last three weeks, things can get really confusing. However, if you can find some curiosity about the discrepancy, rather than giving into your feelings of being attacked, you can ask the question, “What do you mean by that?” This gives your partner a chance to say, “it’s been ages since we had dinner together or did something fun.”

Ah! Now it all makes sense. Different definitions of “time together” are clashing and causing confusion.

Next time you hear your partner say something that sounds blatantly untrue, unfair, or critical, find your curiosity and see if you can figure out what they actually mean.