If you have done any therapy or self-help, you have likely learned that many of us are taught patterns of behavior during our young years that stop being helpful in our adulthoods. This becomes most clear when we are in relationships- whether romantic or non.
Relationships are were we come face-to-face with our bad habits and patterns, and when this happens, many people reach out to find solutions for better connections and communications with those they love. Here are 7 guidelines I use with my clients in couple’s therapy to help them experience better relationships.
Accept your partner as they are.
There may be things that you accepted early in the relationship that now make you angry. You have a choice, as you did then, to accept it or not. It may mean that you have to make the tough choice to leave the relationship if you can’t accept it any more or if there is a behavior that puts you and/or your children in danger. It is not your job to “fix” your partner.
Express appreciation frequently.
We often learn criticism from our family of origin, and it is a huge relationship killer. Acknowledge your partner for anything you can as it takes 5-6 honest affirmations to counteract every criticism. Simple appreciation can include thanking them for making dinner, or working hard to create a good life for your family. This positivity can hugely change dynamics.
Communicate from integrity.
Do you want honesty from your partner? Many of us say we do, but then we penalize each other for it by becoming hurt or angry, even at minor things like them saying a dinner wasn’t their favorite. Allow each other to be honest, and be kind and direct when you communicate. When your partner is right, admit it.
Share and explore differences.
Taking time to really look at both sides allows you to open the door for real sharing and working towards a win-win situation. Don’t pretend to agree when you don’t, instead look for areas where a compromise meets the needs of both of you.
Support your partner’s goals.
It’s important to remember that we are still individual people when we are in a relationship and we must pursue our own goals while supporting your partner’s goals. When was the last time you sat down with your partner and asked where the two of you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
Give your partner the right to be wrong.
Admit when you are wrong and understand both of you are human and make mistakes. “Mistakes” are just learning, and maybe even laughter, experiences. The biggest relationship killers include contempt (feeling better than), defensiveness, and stonewalling (shutting down communication) - all common issues that come up when you need to be right.
Reconsider your wants as goals that you may achieve later.
Changing your “wants” into “goals” creates a significant change in attitude. We can often feel stuck, depresses and disappointed when our wants are not immediately gratified. It also puts a lot of pressure on ourselves and our partner.
Choose to practice the 7 Guidelines as your own commitment, regardless of whether your partner does or not. Remember, your relationship dynamic is a dance; if your change your steps of this dance, your partner must change some of theirs as well, and even subtle changes can make a big difference over time. With over 17 years of marriage and 25 years in counseling and therapy work with a relationship focus, Dr. Rhoda Lipscomb, PhD is passionate about helping couples succeed. Contact her today if she can be of support.
My blog will be addressing the wide expanse of sex and sexuality and the many variety of topics that come up in connection with it. If you have questions, I invite you to ask. I look forward to exploring healthy sexuality together! If you are needing more direct or specific support, I invite you call for a free consultation.