There is no doubt that committed relationships take a lot of hard work. You need patience and tolerance when you discover your perfect mate isn’t so perfect. You need the flexibility to bend to each other’s needs and wishes. And you need ample creativity to explore new plans when old patterns no longer work.
Yet at some point you might find yourself in a relationship that is stuck in a cycle of conflict that you just can’t break, despite both of your best efforts. This is normal and natural, and is something that most couples go through, often numerous times, in the life of their relationship. So how can you help the relationship get back on solid footing?
Nobody’s a mind reader
Most of us fall victim at one time or another to this way of thinking: If my partner really loved me, s/he would just know what I want! This position nurtures anger and resentment, and creates distance. Talking is the only way to effectively communicate your needs to each other.
Be clear and focus on the positive
When we are upset or discouraged, we tend to use negative, definitive vocabulary:
You never do any housework or You always leave your dishes in the sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher!
Instead, focus on the positive and thank your partner when they do something that makes you happy:
Thank you for doing the laundry and cleaning up the kitchen last week. It makes me feel really supported when you help out. It would be a great help if I could count on you to do that every weekend, while I take care of the groceries and general tidying. Can we discuss this?
Appreciate the little things
Sometimes we want our partners to do something we asked with a song in their hearts, as if it were a measure of their love for us. Should they grumble or complain, even though they are fulfilling the request, we react emotionally and discount their actions. Instead, give them the credit they deserve and say, Thank you!
Look inward as well as outward
When our relationships are suffering, human nature, being what it is, tends to blame the other person and expect them to be the solution:
If only my partner would just listen to me and do what I want, then everything would be fixed!
This common refrain is seldom helpful. Instead, look inward and consider what you might do differently.
When you don’t know what to do, just do something different
Couple arguments and conflicts usually take on familiar patterns that repeat themselves over and over again. Have you ever caught yourself thinking, Oh no, here we go again! The key here is to break out of the rut so that new possibilities can emerge. You don’t and likely never will know the perfect next step, so just take a leap of faith and try something new. If nothing else, try doing the exact opposite of what you usually do and see what happens!
Take responsibility for your own happiness
Solo ownership of another’s happiness is too much for any single person, and one person cannot possibly meet another’s every need. Be sure to take time to pursue personal interests and maintain friendships and connections that you enjoy, and take back some of the ownership for your own happiness.
Savour the small steps of improvement
The best and most long-lasting type of change is an incremental one that happens gradually. Taking one step at a time allows you to monitor your relationship for small improvements. Be sure to recognize these incremental improvements and celebrate together the progress you’re making in strengthening your relationship and keeping it fresh.
To speak to a couple counsellor, call 1 866 833-7690 or visit workhealthlife.com.
Suggested further reading: Divorce Busting by Michele Weiner-Davis