Problems are a common occurrence in most relationships. They can be due to any number of things, including personality issues, communication problems, and differing expectations. While there’s no single cause of relationship challenges, it’s important to look for potential red flags and take steps to address them as soon as possible. Doing so can help prevent issues from developing into full-blown arguments or worse. One of the most important things that you can do is, to be honest with yourself and your partner about how you feel. This helps you both work towards recognizing and addressing the underlying issues that are causing the problem. For example, if one of you pulls away or goes silent, it may be a sign that your communication pattern is discouraging understanding instead of improving it. When the source of the problem is identified, it’s important to communicate openly and honestly about it. Doing so will help both of you make meaningful changes that will have long-lasting effects on your relationship. There are times too when a couple needs a hand to help overcome a challenge, the Montgomery Counseling Group offers highly individualized couples counseling, marriage counseling, and family psychotherapy. Contact Us.
The seven tips below are likely to improve any relationship:
Conflict and “Winning” arguments: One of the major hurdles in managing anger and the conflicts that follow them is that neither partner does much to avoid them. Motivated by the need to “win” or be “right” about the conflict-arousing issue, one or the other person in the couple gets hooked into an argument that could have been avoided if one of them kept the conversation conversational until calm was restored. This is especially damaging in a relationship if it becomes a pattern for resolving disagreements since it usually leads to “keeping score” rather than strengthening the relationship. One secret to improving your relationship is to see even an argument as a chance to understand your partner’s point of view and, if necessary, respectfully disagree.
Listening to each other: Couples in conflict are often so busy preparing their grievance or their response that they simply do not listen to what is being said. Their responses are often not responses at all, but their next step in pressing for an advantage. These patterned arguments amount not to communication but repeating the same thing in the same way over and over again–”This is our argument #3.” Couples often need help to learn to listen to each other so that the dynamic between them changes in a productive, mutually inclusive direction. At times if a couple gets stuck, it helps to have a professional marriage and family therapist to help sort through the issues. A primary ingredient of effective listening is the one you would expect–listen twice as much as you speak. This does not mean allowing a partner to simply filibuster during a disagreement but, slow down the process and ask yourself the question, “Do I really understand what my partner is saying and what s/he means right now?” If you can say yes, the chances of a productive conversation skyrocket, and the likelihood of damaging your relationship based on misunderstandings is minimized. In our experience, couples frequently damage their relationship based on what they believed their partner said or meant instead of what they actually said.
Saying “I’m sorry”: Of equal importance to not “always fighting to win” is “love means never saying you’re sorry.” Sometimes couples just suspend an argument–only to pick it up again at the slightest infraction when a genuine, “I’m sorry for what I said or did” would end the argument for good.
Expressing Gratitude: When couples express gratitude and appreciation for each other, each of them is more likely to feel seen and valued, and the cost in time and effort is minimal. relationship benefits. Too often, busy couples miss opportunities to strengthen the relationship by expressing appreciation in common acts of kindness-running an errand without being asked, picking up a prescription or bringing a cup of coffee, etc.
Respectful Intimacy: Healthy romantic relationships allow space and mutual respect for intimacy and connection. Partners are able to establish healthy boundaries and talk openly about emotional and physical desires and what that looks like in their relationship. This includes the ongoing discussion of physical intimacy, such as what you like and don’t like and what feels good (or doesn’t) sexually. A mutually satisfying sexual relationship almost always begins with effective, respectful communication. Particularly early in a relationship, one or both partners may feel awkward or embarrassed or even unwilling to say how they feel because they’re worried their partner may not understand. If one partner’s needs and wants are ignored or if they feel pushed into situations that are upsetting or unwanted, the relationship will suffer.
Quality Time Together: You know those couples who seem to be together constantly? They’re probably making time for each other. Finding quality time in a relationship isn’t easy. Between work, friends, family and everything in between, it can feel like there isn’t enough time in the day. But finding quality time doesn’t have to be complicated or take up lots of your time. It requires your intention and planning. There’s no way around it — relationships require work from both parties if you want them to last. Bear in mind that these are just suggestions and a starting place for you and your partner to decide what works for your relationship and unique circumstances. Read on for some ideas on how to make that happen.
- Set aside time to talk every day: Keeping the lines of communication open is an important part of any relationship. It can be tough to work a regular conversation into your day and make time for each other. You can set a timer, keep an eye on the clock and set aside a set amount of time each day to talk, or find a time that works best for both of you each day (i.e. over breakfast, before bed, during your commute to work). Talk about anything you’d like during this time, but consider “big picture” conversations about your hopes and dreams for the future. Too often busy couples realize the time they spend communicating is dominated by day-to-day concerns. This time is dedicated to feeling more connected to your partner and helping each other stay motivated.
- Go on a date, just the two of you: There’s nothing quite like being with your partner in a meaningful, intimate place. Going on a date is a great way to find some quality time together. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant — a walk in the park, playing a board game at home, or grabbing a coffee are all great ideas. Remember that this date is just for the two of you (if possible), and do your best to avoid bringing your phones. If you can, leave your phones at home. If you’re feeling ambitious, make it a No-Phone Date by putting your phones in a box or a separate room while you’re together. This will help you avoid the temptation to look at your phone and give you more uninterrupted time together.
- Take up a hobby together: Find a new hobby together. Taking up a new hobby as a couple can be a great way to bring you both closer together and give you ample opportunity to spend time together. It doesn’t have to be something you do together all the time, but it can serve as a nice reminder that you’re in this together. You can use the internet to find some ideas for hobbies couples can take up together. Remember to be thoughtful when selecting a new hobby. It’s not good to choose a hobby that only one of you enjoys. You want to make sure you’re both able to enjoy it and extract some enjoyment from it.
- Commit to helping each other grow as individuals: Part of being in a relationship means helping your partner grow as an individual. This may mean encouraging your partner to pursue their passions, interests and dreams. It may also mean helping them work through tough times and find ways to cope with their struggles. Through this process, you may find that you’re growing and changing as an individual yourself. Committing to helping each other grow as individuals can be a great way to find time in your relationship and help your relationship grow stronger.
- Give each other space to breathe: It may seem odd in a list of suggestions for quality time together to suggest spending some quality time apart but, doing everything together all the time may make your relationship seem suffocating, or leave little time for personal interests. Part of finding time in your relationship is also giving each other space to breathe.
When it comes to relationships, there’s no such thing as too much quality time together but one trick is not to confuse quantity with quality. This means setting aside time to talk and connect with each other while also giving each other space to breathe and be individuals. Finding quality time in your relationship isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort, especially when you consider the alternative.
Realistic Expectations for Yourself and Your Partner: You don’t have to be a perfect partner to have a successful relationship. In fact, perfection can be a major source of stress that can erode the enjoyment of your connection. Instead of setting the bar impossibly high and falling short of your own expectations, aim for healthy goals that can realistically be achieved. Healthy expectations in a relationship include:
- Being supportive – not critical: Your relationship should be a source of support, not stress. Aim to make your partner feel loved and appreciated, not criticized.
- Respecting each other’s needs: You don’t have to agree on everything, but you do need to respect each other’s needs and priorities.
- Communicating clearly: You don’t need to assume that communication is unsuccessful because one person misunderstands the other. Instead, actively work on improving communication between you by making an effort to be open and honest with each other.
- Setting realistic goals: Instead of setting goals that are completely unachievable or too challenging, set realistic goals that you can actually achieve.
- Being patient with each other: No one is perfect, and you are both likely to make mistakes. Instead of criticizing or shaming your partner, be patient with each other and realize that we all fall short from time to time.
Despite all the best efforts, couples still need some assistance from time to time. If you feel like your relationship is facing some challenges and you would like skilled professional support and guidance, Montgomery Group is here to help. Please Contact us today. It Gets Better