Do You Need a Relationship Tune Up?

“For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the greatest work, the last and final work for which all other is but preparation”. ~R.M. Rilke


February is the month that many couples turn their attention to their relationship. Some ramp up the romance and go big with gifts and celebrations; others remain low-key.  Whatever you do this Valentine’s Day, it’s a great time of year to get honest with your partner and take a “temperature read” on how you feel about your relationship.

Signs You May Need A Relationship Tune-up

  • you feel you are drifting away
  • you don’t feel “seen”, loved and appreciated by your partner
  • you keep having the same arguments over and over
  • there’s little or no physical intimacy
  • you’re bitter and resentful about past hurts
  • you no longer kiss good-bye or hello
  • you crave “something more” in your relationship
  • your anger towards your partner is spilling into other areas of your life

What You Can Do:

1. Get Professional Help:

Where did we get the idea that we’re supposed to be experts on everything? If something is not working with our car, we take it to a mechanic. If our tooth hurts, we go to a Dentist. Why then do we not seek help until often times, it’s too late? Your relationship is like a garden. You must notice if the plants are wilting or fading. It’s not greener on the other side or with someone else, it’s greener where you water it.  If you’re impatient for results like me and want something less traditional and more effective, then join me at one of my  upcoming Couples Retreats!  They are intense but extremely effective!

2. Find time to hug every day.

Not touching in our culture has become a sick habit. We are mammals and we need affection. Give your partner a good morning and good night hug.  Go to the door and greet your partner with a welcome home embrace.  Get the kids to do the same. Rule: Whoever is home should go to the door.  Dogs do it. Why don’t we?  We need touch to survive and after a stressful day, a hug can be magical. In my workshops, I teach people how to hug heart- to- heart. I recommend you choose a favourite song, play it and then just hold each other in an embrace. The song has to be a special song for the two of you…maybe the song you first danced to. If you don’t have a song, choose one you both like and make it your “hug song”.

3. Share your Feelings:

Practice talking about your feelings with your significant other. If you can’t talk about them, then write them out. Feelings connect you to what’s sacred within you and when you share them with your mate they build the bridge of true intimacy, and real love.  If all you’re doing is going through the motions, you may be suffering from a “flat-lined marriage” or a “transactional” relationship.  Acknowledging and discussing how you feel without blame or shame is often the first step in improving your emotional connection.

4. Pay Attention to the Little Things

All that we do, all that we strive for, and all that we want is to love and be loved.  Don’t blame your partner for the love you may lack. Instead whatever you want, give it away first. Give a kind word at the end of a busy day. Make a fuss over her, prepare him a special meal. Hug. Read poetry in bed. Leave a warm fuzzy in a lunchbox, or on voice mail, e-mail, or in their car. Pay attention to the little things. Plan something special just for the two of you. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s day. Talk. Please talk. Don’t let the stressors of your day-to-day life rob you of life’s greatest joys.

Learning to Accept Your Failures

After twenty-something years of marriage she had ended it. Now, the house was up for sale and the kids at university. After years of indifference, “flat-lining’, I call it, it had come to this. She had moved out. She was, after all, the one who had been working on herself. Workshops. Retreats. Therapy, lots of therapy. She was the conscious one who could no longer take the status quo. But now she was feeling like a failure, berating herself for ever marrying him.

“I don’t think I ever loved him,” she continued. “Why would I ever have married him? God I was stupid!”

“All is good,” I heard myself say. “He was the necessary stepping stone to the wise woman you are now. All experiences, even the unpleasant ones, have something to teach us.”

But I never loved him, Grace!

At 20 we call it love and maybe it is, but as we grow and mature and live life, the heart stretches so that the love we feel and give is deeper, richer, more textured.

“Well, I’m sure you loved him with your 18 year-old heart,’ I said. “It was the best you could do.”

My friend grew up with a psychotic alcoholic mother and an absent father. “Dysfunctional” doesn’t even come close to describing her childhood. There was cruelty and constant fear. She was the oldest, so she took the brunt of the abuse. Finding Tom, who was a gentle heart, and seemed stable at the time, felt like finding an oasis in the desert.

Maybe it’s a different feeling at 18 or 20—it’s not the love that we can feel at 40 or 50 when life’s wisdom has taught us the difference between infatuation and true love. And whatever this euphoric feeling is at the beginning, what we know is that if we have not done any of our personal work, healed our wounds from childhood and figured out who we are, we end up asleep for most of our waking lives. We become blind to the beauty in our beloved because we don’t see it in ourselves. We don’t know how to love each other because our heart is burdened with emotional pollution. And digging it up at midlife seems much too painful. It’s easier to go on anti-depressants. Marriages flat-line because we flat-line. It happens to many modern couples and it happened to Tom and Sara.

I take a sip of my latte and look out over the lake.

“Maybe you’ll meet the love of your life now,” I tell Sara, trying to be encouraging. “You have healed the past and prepared your heart. You’re ready to attract a different man now.’

If it is true as research suggests, that women grow more confident and self-accepting with age, then it’s also true that a woman of 50 loves and accepts herself more than a woman of 20. The self-doubt demons seem to heal by menopause.

“Maybe,” she says, “but I still wish I hadn’t married him.”

How about you? Do you have regrets? Do you criticize yourself for a failed marriage or relationship?

“The world, Govinda, is not imperfect or slowly evolving along a long path to perfection,” Siddhartha tells his friend. “No, it is perfect at every moment … therefore everything that exists is good—death as well as life, sin as well as holiness, wisdom as well as folly. Everything is necessary, everything needs only my agreement, my assent, my loving understanding; then all is well with me and nothing can harm me.”

I have always loved that passage in Herman Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha. I think it’s very wise. The point is that nothing in life is a waste, no experience was put there at random. Everything you experience, the pain, the joy, the peaks and the valleys, are perfect because they make up the you that is reading this right now. Imagine if you could delete some events, a few relationships, a marriage, a job here, a bad decision there … if you could take any of it back, then the mix would be all wrong and you would be all wrong. You are a perfect recipe, and your life is unfolding perfectly—just the way it should. Take it all. Accept it all and most importantly, love it all. That is the way to internal peace. That is the way of the spiritual warrior.


Are You Passionate About Your Work?

I am passionate about Italy. I wanted to have an excuse to visit Italy more often so I designed Couples Retreats to Italy and invited my clients to join me there. I brought one of my passions to life by creating work that I loved.  Here I am in the … [Continue reading]

Hope & Humanity During a Pandemic

"Joy cannot be felt without sorrow, pleasure without pain, love without emptiness. To have once had one's heart touched is to carry the scar of love." -Rumi Last December, I was leaving a meeting downtown when I passed a young woman decorating a big … [Continue reading]

Emotionally Intelligent Marriages

Once upon a time when love was new and fresh, we would regularly share our intimate feelings and vulnerabilities with one another. We felt close and connected. But then the pressures and stressors of modern life set in. We are asked to juggle our … [Continue reading]

Who Are You?

  You have a body. But you are not your body. You have thoughts. But you are not your thoughts. You have emotions. But you are not your emotions. You have a family. But you are not your family. You have friends. But you are not your … [Continue reading]

Why Men Need Therapy

I run men's Intensive therapy weekends because I have met far too many men at my Couples Retreats who are brilliant but who just don't have the necessary emotional intelligence to succeed at relationships.  Men's brains are hard wired for action, not … [Continue reading]

Best Advice for Couples: Elle Magazine Interview

ELLE MAGAZINE:  What are your top three pieces of love and dating advice based on your research and experience with couples?     GRACE:  1. Listen with Your Heart—Good communicators listen for feelings as well as facts. They naturally make people … [Continue reading]

Benefits of a Women’s Retreat

Women's Inner Faultline A lot of women at first glance seem to cope well with the demands of life. They’ve learned to juggle their many roles and responsibilities but what people don’t see is the fault line on the inside that puts pressure on … [Continue reading]

Why a Couple’s Retreat vs. Traditional Counselling

Traditional Therapy Only Goes So Far: There are many reasons why people choose a Couple's Retreat or marriage intensive over traditional talk therapy for marital issues. First of all, traditional therapy  (CBT cognitive behaviour therapy) is … [Continue reading]

Grace Cirocco
179 King Street
St. Catharines, ON
L2R 3J5 Canada
Telephone: (905) 688-0868
Fax: (905) 688-2788