“In probably the most reliable survey ever done on divorce, by Lynn Gigy, Ph.D., and Joan Kelly, Ph.D., from the Divorce Meditation Project in Corte Madera, California, 80% of divorced men and women said their marriage broke up because they gradually grew apart and lost a sense of closeness, or because they did not feel loved and appreciated.” – Dr. John Gottman 
In the early stages of a romantic relationship, there’s an undeniable excitement in spending time together. We eagerly make plans, ask each other questions, and embark on adventures. The curiosity about our partner and the flutter of butterflies in our stomachs are all driven by the release of dopamine, a hormone that floods our brains when something new and novel captures our attention. This surge of dopamine creates attraction and keeps us hooked—it’s addictive in nature.
However, as time goes on, the initial buzz fades away, and our hormone levels return to normal. We settle into routines and become intertwined in each other’s daily lives. Unfortunately, this familiarity often leads us to take the relationship for granted and unintentionally neglect it.
On a practical level, this shift in focus is understandable. Life happens, and our priorities start to shift towards more pressing matters such as parenting, careers, and finances. For instance, studies have shown that 67% of new parents experience a decline in relational satisfaction within the first three years of their child’s life. As our attention becomes consumed by other aspects of life, the gap between partners widens, and the emotional disconnect grows.
The good news is that if we actively choose to nurture our relationship by dedicating time, energy, and effort to it, our brains can produce more oxytocin—the “love hormone.” Oxytocin plays a crucial role in bonding and fostering affection between partners. When we engage in behaviors that promote connection and intimacy, such as physical touch and emotional support, our brains release more oxytocin.
However, a significant challenge in creating this oxytocin-driven connection lies in how we perceive the relationship itself. Often, we view a monogamous relationship as a dyadic entity—just “you” and “me.”
In reality, there is a third entity that demands attention: “we.”
Recognizing the importance of the “we” in the relationship allows us to understand that it’s not solely one partner’s fault or a sudden change in character that causes tension. It is the connection between the two individuals.
By shifting our perspective and acknowledging the “we” as a distinct entity existing between us, we can work together to mend and revitalize the energy within the relationship. Instead of blaming our partner for not caring enough or feeling perpetually inadequate, we can approach the challenges as a united front, focusing on transforming the energy between us.
In many cases, feelings of distance and disconnection arise from a lack of nurturing connection, rather than the actions of an inherently “bad” partner. Recognizing that the relationship itself requires nourishment and collaborating to achieve that goal makes the process of strengthening the connection easier for both partners.
This shift in mindset transforms the challenges we face into shared obstacles that we can overcome together. By viewing the relationship as a third entity with its own set of needs, we foster a sense of partnership, rather than animosity.
Consider this: If you and your partner were able to see the relationship as a distinct entity with its own needs, what aspect of your relationship could potentially change? Embracing this perspective opens up opportunities for growth and collaboration, allowing both partners to actively contribute to the well-being of the relationship.
References: Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. Harmony Books, 18.
 Gottman, J., & Gottman, J. (2017). The Natural Principles of Love. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 9(1), 7–26. https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12182