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How do you build connection in your marriage?

You want to agree about finances. You want to enjoy a dinner out. You want more hot sex. But sometimes you’re just not in sync with your spouse. Why? And how can you fix it?

There are three relationships inside your singular marriage: partner, friend and lover. When you’re both in friend-mode, it’s easy to talk for hours. Both in partner-mode? You can get sh*t done. When you’re both in lover-mode, the chemistry between you is electrifying.

But when you’re in friend-mode and your spouse is in lover-mode you might feel annoyed. Stop with the advances! I’m hurting and I need your comfort right now. Or when you’re in partner-mode, you can feel slowed down by your friend-spouse who wants to understand every move you make when all you want to do is get things finished.

This article will:

  • Help you recognize the three relationships inside your marriage
  • Give you marriage tips for how to ask for what you want
  • Offer you a magic phrase to help smooth out the difficult moments when you’re not in sync

 

Three Roles: Partner, Friend, & Lover

Friends want to relax together. Partners want to achieve together. Lovers want to explore together. A friend feels intimacy when you talk to or listen to them. A partner feels intimacy when they help you or when you help them. A lover feels intimacy when you share something new or exciting.

When you’re both playing the same role— friend, partner, or lover—life feels easy and you connect. But lots of times, the reason you’re not in sync with your spouse is simply because you’re each playing a different role in your marriage. The different roles create different expectations, and these differing expectations cause you to struggle.

partner lover friend three relationships of your marriage

There are three relationships inside your singular marriage. When you and your spouse are aligned, you’re in sync with each other.

Take a look at this graphic. Notice how when you’re both in friend-mode, life is easy and you connect heart-to-heart with your spouse. But when one of you is in partner-mode while the other is in lover-mode, you’re at cross purposes: wanting different things from your marriage.

Let’s take a look at the 9 ways of being in relationship and examine the underlying expectations. You can’t expect to be on the same page all the time, but understanding your differences will help you ride the bumps with more ease.

If you want to take a deep dive into the three relationships click here: friend, partner, lover.

 

How you sync up in the partner-relationship of your marriage

 

When you’re both in partner mode:

  • You both want to achieve.
  • Partners enjoy cleaning together, planning a future, or building a project.
  • You’re both focused on the task at hand and your communication and effort are aligned.
  • You set a goal and it’s easy to accomplish the task together.
  • When you’re both in the partner-relationship of your marriage it’s a great time to do something like plan your 401K investment strategy.

When you’re in partner-mode and your spouse is in friend-mode

  • You want to achieve. Your spouse wants to be included.
  • You feel slowed down by your friend’s questions. It feels like they’re meddling in your process.
  • Accomplishment, though possible, might feel slow and arduous.
  • You set a goal and you’re eager to get going. Your friend will want you to talk about it or make sure you’re doing it together when you know you’d be more expedient on your own.
  • Your spouse will respond better if you either slow down and include them in your process or use a magic phrase from below.

Try this:

Use a magic phrase to let your spouse-friend know you love them even though you’re not in sync right now:

  • I’ve got a vision and can get this done more quickly on my own. Can I tell you about what I’m doing after I’m done? I can give you better attention after I’ve wrapped this up.

Why this works:

  • The friend just wants to be included. When your friend knows you’ll include them later by telling them about what you did, your spouse is satisfied and happy to give you time alone.

When you’re in partner-mode and your spouse is in lover-mode

  • You want to achieve. Your spouse wants to be important.
  • You might feel side-lined by your lover’s attempts at diversion or interruption.
  • Accomplishment will be difficult.
  • You set a goal and you’re eager to get going. Your lover wants to innovate your idea and might distract you or offend you.
  • Your spouse will respond better if you listen completely to their idea for improvement. Then either choose to be swept away by their great alternative or set a firm boundary using the magic phrase below.

Try this:

Use a magic phrase to let your spouse-lover know you think they’re important, but that you’re not in sync right now:

  • I’ve got a vision and it’s important to me that I follow through on my own. If, when I finish, we both decide your way is better we can adjust.
  • Wow! That’s a great idea. Will you help me get that over the finish line?

Why this works:

  • The lover wants to be important. Your lover is confident, so when you set a firm boundary, a respectful lover will give you space without feeling threatened. Additionally, because a lover isn’t as task oriented as a partner, your magic phrase invites them to back out if they aren’t interested in helping.

How you sync up in the friend-relationship of your marriage

 

When you’re both in friend mode:

  • You both want to hang out and connect.
  • Friends enjoy watching movies, talking, or sharing just about anything.
  • You both lack an agenda and it’s easy to go with the flow.
  • You feel cozy when you spend time together because you are understood so completely.
  • When you’re both in the friend-relationship of your marriage it’s a great time to rest and relax.

When you’re in friend-mode and your spouse is in partner-mode

  • You want a companion. Your spouse wants to achieve.
  • You feel lonely because it feels like your spouse is always working and there’s never time to relax and nourish your relationship.
  • You feel like your spouse always has an agenda and you get tired of the constant work load.
  • You just want to linger over a relaxing breakfast and your partner is making lists and plans for the day ahead.
  • Your spouse will respond better if you either make an effort to understand the goal they want to accomplish and send them on their way or use a magic phrase from below.

Try this:

Use a magic phrase to let your spouse-partner know you love them even though you’re not in sync right now:

  • I’d like to just relax for a bit. Can we postpone your project until I’m feeling more energetic?
  • I’d like to relax. Do you want to wait until I can join you for this project or would it be better for me to hang out on my own until you’re done?

Why this works:

  • To the partner accomplishing a project together is play. They invite you to join the project because that’s a way they feel connected to you. When you offer to join the project later, you’re telling your partner they matter to you and that you’re happy to make their project a priority when you’re more in the mood. This magic phrase also lets your partner choose if the project itself or your involvement in the project is more important to them.

When you’re in friend-mode and your spouse is in lover-mode

  • You want to hang out and relax. Your spouse wants to explore.
  • You might feel out of your comfort zone because your lover-spouse is always wanting to do something new and exciting.
  • You might struggle to catch your breath and feel grounded.
  • After tons of exploration, you just get comfortable and your lover is bored and wants to try something new.
  • Your spouse will respond better if you appreciate their desire for novelty and cut them loose to explore on their own if you’d rather be lowkey. Or, if it’s important to you to be together, decide to join their exploration. Try one of these magic phrases below.

Try this:

Use a magic phrase to let your spouse-lover know you think they are important, but that you’re not in sync right now:

  • I’ll be more comfortable taking the day easy. If you want to go have an adventure, I’ll be here with popcorn and a movie ready to hear how great your day was.
  • I’d love to join you, but I’m a little timid/worn out. If I come along, do you have energy to make sure I feel included rather than left out or left behind?

Why this works:

  • The lover wants novelty and excitement. Because you’re a good friend and you regularly tag along, your lover can be ignorant of the effort that joining the adventure takes on your part. It’s important to give your lover the freedom to explore on their own if the adventure is their priority. It’s equally important to articulate what you need if you do decide to join their escapade.

How you sync up in the lover-relationship of your marriage

 

When you’re both in lover mode:

  • You both want to explore and embrace the adventure of life.
  • Lovers enjoy exciting vacations, trying new food, or experiencing something for the first time.
  • You eagerly say YES to invitations and explorations.
  • You feel excited because you are welcoming life full throttle.
  • When you’re both in the lover-relationship of your marriage it’s a great time take a dream vacation.

When you’re in lover-mode and your spouse is in partner-mode

  • You want to explore. Your spouse wants to achieve.
  • You feel bored or frustrated by your partner-spouse’s constant practicality. You want to say to them, “Just live a little!”
  • You feel like your spouse is always pouring cold water on your fiery attempts to make life exciting and worth living.
  • You just want to get the adventure going and you’re slowed down by your partner who has yet another checklist to make certain you’ll both be safe and secure.
  • Your spouse will respond better if you’re able to thank them for the way they care for you then use the magic phrase below to seduce them into joining you.

Try this:

Use a magic phrase to let your spouse-partner know you love them even though you’re not in sync right now:

  • You keep us so safe. It’s because of your prudence that we have so much. I’m grateful for you. I, on the other hand, keep our life exciting, which keeps our marriage vital.  Today, I’d like to you to trust me and join my adventure.

Why this works:

  • The partner desperately needs to feel like they make a contribution to your life. When you start your invitation by awarding them a gold start for all they offer, your partner-spouse can hear you better. The partner-spouse is frightened by all your freedom and spunk. So, when you are confident and say, “You can trust me” you’re reassuring that part of them that worries things will fall apart.

When you’re in lover-mode and your spouse is in friend-mode

  • You want to explore. Your spouse wants to hang out and relax.
  • You might not be electrified by your spouse, but you enjoy their company and willingness to join you.
  • You might have to slow down a bit to include your spouse and this might feel boring at times.
  • You get surprised by how easily your friend gets overwhelmed or frightened.
  • Your spouse will respond better if you regularly check-in to see how your spouse is doing. Try one of these magic phrases below.

Try this:

Use a magic phrase to let your spouse-friend know you understand them, but that you’re not in sync right now:

  • I know I’m pushing you outside your comfort zone, but it means so much to have you here beside me. Thanks for coming along. What can I do to make you more comfortable?
  • How ya doing?

Why this works:

  • The friend wants to be included. You go at a pace that’s comfortable for you, but to your spouse-friend, it’s a LOT and they might be way out of their comfort zone. Each time you include them by checking in to see how they’re doing or let them know you enjoy their company; you’re anchoring them back in the comfort that they belong with you.

While it might be more fun in the moment when you and your spouse are in sync in the same relationship inside your marriage—partners, lovers, or friends—your marriage will grow the most when you’re in different relationships simultaneously.

Adopt a growth-mindset about your marriage, and treat each other with respect and kindness. This sets you up to burnish away all the bumpy places and bring you together like two smooth stones at the beach.

What’s your favorite combo of relationships inside your singular marriage? What’s the relationship combo that brings you most stress?

If you’d like to read a story about a time in my marriage that I messed up when it comes to being a good partner, friend and lover, click here.

If you’d like to learn more about what’s sabotaging your marriage communication, check out my class: 6-Steps to Better Marriage Communication.

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