Things That Make You Blush: Transfusing an Anemic Relationship

Anemia: a condition defined as a decrease in the amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood, making it difficult for the blood to carry oxygen.  

“Relationship Anemia”: an amorous relationship with a decreased amount of affection and romance, making it difficult for the partners to feel loved and wanted.

Medical anemia can be treated with a blood transfusion in most cases, which is the process of transferring the blood of one person into the veins of another. After a blood transfusion, the recipient feels more energetic, less fatigued, and has the missing red blood cells needed to improve oxygen and health. So how do we transfuse an anemic relationship? In the spirit of a good medical metaphor, an anemic relationship can get healthier if transfused with what’s missing. What might be missing are the once on-time anniversary cards, sexy text messages, unsolicited compliments, and romantic gestures like holding hands while crossing the street and daily kisses on the lips (not the forehead). Just like anemic blood misses oxygen, an anemic relationship misses the focus on romance that was so intense when the lovers first met. Romantic focus can be lost when stressful circumstances enter the relationship. Much like climbing a hill on a long hike, shortness of breath is more noticeable when the incline becomes steep. A stressful “hill” for lovers may be the discovery that one partner has a previously undiagnosed sexually transmitted disease, or a love child out of wedlock, or maybe something less dramatic such as the loss of a job or the onset of a chronic illness.

Anemic partners can’t go to a blood bank to get a relationship transfusion, but they can get help from other sources. The first step is recognizing the “anemia” before it becomes “life threatening.” Lovers should pay attention to the early feelings of being unwanted or undesirable or forgotten. In many relationships these signs are unintentional and a product of busy schedules, stressful jobs or school, or demanding family responsibilities. Many relationships that need “infusing” result in someone coming up short on attention, typically the partner, but not the boss, the children, or the little league team. At the first signs of “anemia,” the couple should address these feelings of poor relationship health and seek to infuse their partnership with some time alone, acts of kindness, and gestures of affection. The more anemic they get, the more “pints of blood” they need. Letting anemia progress to the chronic stage can also be “life threatening” and lead to the premature end of what was once a loving union.

Just like a medical transfusion, a relationship transfusion takes time. It is a slow, steady process that requires patience, and frequent checks of your “vital signs” throughout the process. Sometimes one transfusion is not enough. One pint of effort is not always the total remedy, and some relationships need multiple “pints of blood” or multiple efforts at fighting the trend of becoming anemic. And then there are always some folks who need to change their “blood types.”   According to Malita Shelton, a nurse with 39 years of experience in improving health through interventions such as blood transfusions, couples should, “Pay attention to what your relationship is telling you and don’t wait until the point of no return. Be proactive in identifying the cause of the relationship anemia. A proactive approach to relationship anemia involves early detection, effective transfusions, and the potential for a cure.”