5 Tips To Help You Improve Your Relationship

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Couples: What You Can Do To Improve Your Relationship

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

No relationship is picture perfect.  All relationships take work

No relationship is picture perfect. All relationships take work

It doesn’t matter how much you have in common or how well you get along, there are sticking points in every relationship. It’s ok because no relationship is perfect and a perfect relationship would be, well, kind of boring. But all too often we stop putting effort into our relationships. We make kids, work, family, and friends our priority and gradually, without even realising it, our relationship suffers as a result.

By the time people seek help for their relationship, things are usually quite strained, but if both parties are really committed to making it work, it’s always possible to turn it around. That said, it’s always easier to turn things around if you take action sooner rather than later. If you’re unhappy in your relationship, seek help. In the meantime, here are 5 tips to get you started.

Tip #1: Be Direct – What’s The Real Issue?

Arguments can have hidden meanings. Sure, you’re annoyed that your partner was late getting home from work because it meant you had to feed and bath the kids by yourself, but what you’re really upset about is that on his first night free from work in weeks he chose to meet friends for drinks over coming home and having dinner with you. When he gets home you snap at him for being home late…yet again. He gets defensive and yells that he can never do anything right – he called you to check in and to tell you he’d be late just like you asked him to, but he’s still in trouble. You feel hurt, unimportant, and unloved. He feels angry and confused and doesn’t understand what he did wrong.

Men and women think differently which limits our ability to anticipate what our partner is thinking. Help your partner get it right by being direct. Avoid arguing about the practical issue – look at why you’re really upset and talk about that instead.

Tip #2: Raise Issues as They Come Up

Biting your tongue might keep the peace in the short-term, but you’re human, not a robot, and at some point you will explode with weeks or months’ worth of pent up frustration. Exploding will help you to feel better at the time, but it won’t help you to resolve anything. The more issues you raise simultaneously, the more diluted your message will be and the less chance your partner has of understanding exactly what it is that you’re mad about.

Raise issues with your partner as they come up – don’t store them away for later. If there are multiple issues you want addressed, prioritise and work on one at a time.

Tip #3: Give Your Partner the Benefit Of The Doubt

When you’re going through a rough patch, everything your partner says and does is irritating – so irritating in fact that it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that they’re going out of their way to deliberately annoy you. It’s not a completely unrealistic possibility, but the more irritated you are the more likely you are to be biased towards interpreting your partner’s words and actions as a. annoying, and b. intentional.

Agree to a cease-fire and try to give your partner the benefit of the doubt – interpreting their actions as deliberate will only make things worse.

Tip #4: Fight, But Fight Effectively

Before you have it out with your partner, stop and think about what you want to achieve in your conversation. If you go in guns blazing your partner will tune out or go on the defensive and nothing you say will register. Worse, you run the risk of aggravating the situation further.

To make sure your partner hears you remain calm and choose your words carefully. When tensions are high, there’s plenty of room for miscommunication and what you say might not be what your partner hears. Think through what you want to say before you approach your partner and try to use language that’s not inflammatory.

Tip #5: Know What Your Partner Finds Helpful

Picture this, you’ve had an awful day at work and you’re waiting for you partner to walk through the door so you can unload. He listens for a short time and then offers you a solution for your problem. After the day you’ve had all you wanted was for him to listen and to offer you some emotional support. You can’t believe he’s being so insensitive and storm off in a huff. He can’t believe you’re mad – after all he’s just solved your problem for you, right?

We offer our partners the kind of help that we find helpful. Men offer solutions and women offer a listening ear. The problem with this is that what you find helpful and what your partner finds helpful differs because your brains are wired differently. Don’t assume your partner needs the same things you do, ask, and when it comes to your needs, don’t just tell your partner what not to do, help them to understand what you find helpful.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.


 

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