As I started working as a counsellor with more and more couples, I began to see an emerging and natural pattern, or four-step process, to help people work on their relationship issues, whether they were dealing with infidelity or communication issues, and anything in between. The first three steps must happen sequentially, and the fourth happens throughout the duration of the process.
Let’s take a look at the first two steps in the process and how they can help you start to improve your relationship.
STEP 1: Resolve resentment
Resentment is usually the most difficult and lengthy part of the process. Nevertheless, it is important for couples to first identify and resolve any lingering feelings of resentment from something that was said, some particular habit, behaviour, or choice that was made two days, two weeks, two months, or even two years ago. It is important to discuss the things that you seem to really be holding on to and that upset you, in an open, trusting way with your partner. Let him/her know why it bothers you and how you might like to see it rectified.
We tend to brush things under the carpet, which only means that every time we try and cleanup, we trip over things. Consider this: when you are fighting about cleaning the dishes, are you really fighting about dishes? Or are you already primed for a fight because you are sick and tired of irresponsibility or disrespect? Resolving resentment is about dealing with root issues. Until this is accomplished, you will be unable to effectively move on to the next steps.
Here are two tips to help you communicate and work through resentment:
STEP 2: Bringing warmth back into the relationship
Step 2 is about discussing what is good and telling your partner what you appreciate about them. Bringing warmth back into the relationship refers to making sure that there is romance in the relationship; that there is intimacy; and that you want to spend time with your partner rather than just tolerate them. Again, communication is important here: tell your partner what you want and enjoy from them in terms of intimacy; re-explore your common interests and make sure you have time as a couple to actually do those activities. Perhaps institute a date night each week or every other week and just make it about the two of you. Make sure to complement each other.
If you and your partner are able to begin to employ these 2 steps and skills in your day-to-day relationship, then I am confident any issue can be overcome. When you are ready, we can take a look at the next two steps in the process to reach relationship bliss.
By Anthony Campigotto M.Ed., C.C.C.