Focus On These Small Steps To Make Your Relationship Work Well

Focus On These Small Steps To Make Your Relationship Work Well

Like most people in a relationship, from time to time you will try different things to make your relationship work well. You may make changes on a grand scale hoping to see quick results. You may find yourself feeling disappointed when your efforts don’t seem to bring the results you hoped for. If you want the best out of your love relationship, focus on these small steps. 

Make Your Relationship Work By Improving Communication 

Improving how you communicate is helpful to make your relationship work well. Without realizing it, you and your partner may have developed habitual and unhealthy communication patterns. Despite your desire and efforts to communicate more effectively, you find yourself falling back into all too familiar arguments that leave you thinking, “This is useless, things will never change.”

 The first step to changing how you communicate involves ensuring that the atmosphere is right. Specifically, it is important that both you and your partner feel safe and comfortable as you listen to and share with each other. You can accomplish this if you maintain emotional calm and you handle the conversation in a rational manner. 

Here are the steps to help you with this: 

Step 1:

Maintain your calm by paying close attention to your emotional reactions.

Step 2:
The moment you notice yourself entertaining any negative thoughts or emotions, acknowledge it to yourself. In your mind you may say, “I notice I am thinking or feeling                                      .”¹

Step 3:
Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply

Step 4:
Check your emotions again. Are you at a place that you can listen to and speak to your partner in an open, non-judgmental manner? If so proceed with the conversation making an effort to listen so that you can understand your partner’s perspective on the issue.

If you are not emotionally ready to have an open non-judgmental conversation, then it would be better to take a timeout so that you can calm down. After you are calm, you may try speaking with your partner at a later time.

Make Your Relationship Work By Keeping Your Love Alive 

Keeping your love alive is critical to making your relationship work well. By taking small steps to nurture your relationship. It is almost a guarantee that the feeling of love will become stale over time if you do not make the effort to keep it vibrant.

Schedule regular date nights with your partner. Keep it interesting by planning novel activities: take a cooking class together, go mountain biking, or go kayaking.  Keep a list of fun activities you may want to try and when it’s time to plan a date, pick an item on your list.

One of the most important ways of nurturing your relationship is to find opportunities to show and express your appreciation to your partner. When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, it’s very easy to become complacent and to take your partner for granted. A small step for showing your appreciation is to pay attention throughout your day and identify at least one thing about your partner that you appreciate. Let your partner know – say it directly, send a text, share an image, write a note or express it in some other creative way.

By focusing on these small steps, you can make great strides in maintaining the love in your relationship. The steps can also help to reignite the spark in a relationship that has grown cold. As Prince Ea stated in his video “Before You Get Married”, it’s the “small moments of our lives that take up the biggest part of our hearts”.

¹Harris, R. (2011). The Confidence Gap. Boston, MA: Trumpeter

Is Defensiveness Hurting Your Relationship?

Is Defensiveness Hurting Your Relationship?

It is natural to try to defend yourself if you feel that you are being attacked. In your intimate relationship even though you may trust your spouse, there are times when you may feel that you are under attack. This can happen when you feel that you are being criticized or judged negatively.

Some relationships can get to such a place of mistrust and tension that both people may find that they are in a perpetual state of being on guard. Of course this is extremely stressful and emotionally damaging for both people involved.

How Defensiveness Creeps Into Your Relationship

How do couples get to such a painful place in their relationship? Most couples who are newly in love experience an incredible emotional high. Think back to when you were first in love, quite likely you were convinced that you had found an angel who was fun, charming, considerate and the lists goes on. If you or your spouse experienced a disagreement, it is likely that you were highly motivated to make things right and get your relationship back on track. At that time, the desire to work to resolve issues was not only fueled by the positive feelings of love but also by the instinctual need to win the prize of your spouse’s affection.

However as time passes and the challenges of life unfold, couples may respond to each other with a protective caution that can sometimes turn into an unyielding barrier. This blocks emotional intimacy in the relationship.

If either you or your spouse have been hurt in past relationships, it can adversely affect how you function in your current relationship. Generally you learn from your past experiences how to handle similar experiences in the present. For example if in the past you were in a relationship with a possessive partner, you are likely to be sensitive to any indication that your current partner is trying to keep track of your activities. If your spouse asks, “Who are you meeting for lunch today?” You may find yourself reacting defensively; you may not even realize that your tone is defensive. Your spouse may sincerely be asking just to be cordial.

Building on this example, suppose your spouse experienced infidelity in a previous relationship, your defensiveness is now being viewed with suspicion. Your spouse then reacts in an accusatory tone, very soon both of you are angry. You can see how a simple comment may escalate into a situation where both people have very different interpretations of what happened. If this and similar scenarios play out again and again, you both learn to keep your defensive barriers at the ready.

How To Overcome Defensiveness

In order to reduce the rush to defensiveness it helps to be aware of your triggers. You can begin to understand your triggers by reflecting on past experiences and relationships that you have had. Sometimes the relationship may be as early as relationships in childhood, such as relationships with your parents or other significant caregivers. Think especially of any difficult, or traumatic situations that you had. Those experiences or relationships have taught you how to instinctively react to similar situations.

Identifying the situations that may trigger you gives you an opportunity to be proactive. It is helpful to share your awareness of these triggers with your spouse and vice versa so both of you understand what is upsetting to each of you.

When you are faced with those triggering situations, make a conscious effort to pause before responding to your spouse. During the pause, count to five as you breathe in and out then choose your response.

It takes practice to bring about changes, especially when your automatic reaction is to defend yourself. It is therefore inevitable that there will be some mistakes made. Accept responsibility when you have fallen back into the pattern of defensiveness, apologize and try again.

The inclination to react defensively when you are hurt is natural. With awareness and with conscious effort to change your response, you can prevent defensiveness from becoming a permanent barrier in your relationship.

Communication Gone Wrong: When Partners Misunderstand Each Other

Communication Gone Wrong: When Partners Misunderstand Each Other

Couple communication gone wrong

I’ve been married for 28 years and it never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to for my husband and I to misunderstand each other. There have been times when I’ve heard a particular tone in his voice that I thought sounded like criticism when he was really expressing concern. There have also been times when he interpreted my words as dismissing his input when I was only seeking clarification. This particular communication problem occurs more frequently when life is hectic and there is limited time to slow down and listen without distractions.

Why Couples Misunderstand Each Other

Couples misunderstand each other because each person looks at life through a unique set of lenses. Your view of the world is colored by your childhood experiences, your personality, your experiences from previous relationships, your preferences, your mood etc. The same is true for your partner. Communication would be easier if your partner saw the world the same way you did, but of course life and relationships are not that simple.

Misunderstandings also occur because each partner tends to assume that the other person feels and thinks the same way they do about a given event or situation. You may be very annoyed about a remark your friend made, while your mate doesn’t think it’s a big deal. You may react to your mate’s “blah” response, with “You don’t really care that I’m upset!” Then before you know it you’re in a heated argument.

How To Stop The Downward Spiral Into Misunderstanding

Misunderstandings happen frequently in a relationship. It is more likely to happen if you or your partner are busy, stressed, distracted or in a negative mood. So what can you do to minimize this communication problem?

First check yourself. Are you feeling stressed, distracted or busy? What’s your mood like? Are you irritable, upset or angry? If so it would be wise to take a breather. Press the pause button and make a choice not to accept the worse case scenario thought that is currently dominating your mind. Accept the fact that it is normal for your partner to have a different perspective. It’s helpful to realize that if your partner’s perspective differs from yours, it doesn’t automatically mean that you are not loved, supported or validated. Also, ask yourself, am I really listening to my partner? Or am I allowing stress or distracted thoughts to get in the way of my giving full attention to the conversation?  My husband often reminds we have two ears and one mouth for the purpose of listening twice as much as we talk.

Next step, observe your partner. Do you notice that he or she seems distracted or busy? If so perhaps it would be best to shelve the conversation until a later time. You may not know your partner’s inner thoughts and feelings, but you are likely to have some idea of their mood. Try to be sensitive to what you perceive as you share with and listen to your partner.

Following these guidelines won’t prevent inevitable misunderstandings. However doing so can improve your communication and minimize the frequency of misunderstandings. Your love relationship is worth the effort.

Have you found any other strategies that have helped you to deal with misunderstandings in your relationship? Please share in the comments below.