Things to Think About
- Take stock of what is truly important in your life. How would you spend your time if you had six months to live? How would you think about you relationship differently?
- Accept compromise and tolerate the persistent differences. Most happy couples learn to live with significant differences about money, in-laws, vacations, household chores, etc. Acknowledging the differences between the two of you does not have to mean you agree with them.
- Identify and separate your frustrations. Frustrations come from many sources, work, children, school etc. Frustrations can come from the present and the past. Avoid dumping frustrations on your partner that belong somewhere else.
Things to Do
- Catch your partner doing something right. Look for partner behaviors that are pleasing, and compliment our partner when he or she does them.
- Surprise your partner with thoughtfulness. Use your knowledge of your partner to please him or her unexpectedly. Allow your partner to discover your thoughtfulness by her or himself. Curb your disappointment if your partner misses your effort. Try something else.
- Carve out “couple time” your partner will enjoy. Our busy lives often fill up with tasks. Take time to spend with your partner.
Manage Tense Moments
- Before reacting angrily, count to ten. This old adage actually works. Speak your point, but without the anger. Every expression of negative emotion requires five expressions of positive emotion to regain a position of neutral feeling.
- Negotiate an unconventional place to discuss contentious issues. Moving from your usual location of arguments to another room can shift your disagreements enough to reduce negative feelings and introduce new ideas.
- Take a time out. When issues get heated, politely announce a twenty-minute time out and then return with a calm tone and the intention to compromise.
- When you know you have made a mistake, apologize. Few of us live closely with a partner without making some mistakes. Admit your fault, say your sorry, and explore ways of avoid the mistake in the future.
Listen with Your Heart
- Provide support, solutions are secondary. Feeling attached is a strong binding force in a relationship. Many partners seek to relieve the frustrations of daily life by sharing them with a partner. Really listening fosters togetherness. Many of us impatient listeners try to shorten the process by offering solutions before our partner is ready to hear them. Listen first. If a solution occurs to you say, “When you are ready, dear, I have a solution that might be helpful to you.” When your partner is ready, she or he will be more open to your idea.
- Deeply listen to your partner. On an issue that is important to your partner, repeat your partner’s words so that he or she knows you are really listening. Keep this up and when your partner is finished, say the three most challenging words in a relationship, “Is there more?” Continue listening until your partner can answer “No” to this question. This is difficult to do but is can go a long way to strengthening your relationship.
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