As we ring in a new decade, most of us will make resolutions based on what we want to improve about ourselves. For example, we may decide this is the year we’ll finally get in shape, stop smoking or save more money for retirement.
But what if we focused instead on the quality of our relationships?
Consider how important your life mate is to you. The happier you are with one another, the better your daily life will be – not just now, but in the years ahead as well. This is why it’s wise to invest time and energy in making your relationship the best it can possibly be.
Whether you’re married, engaged or simply committed to a shared life, there are many ways you can strengthen the bond between you. Here are 6 suggestions that marriage and family therapists recommend for all couples.
LISTEN WITH YOUR HEART
All too often, we listen to others with the intent to reply. We think about what we will say when it’s our turn to talk. This sounds reasonable, but in truth, it means we aren’t practicing the kind of deep listening that leads to greater understanding of our loved ones.
When your partner speaks, open yourself to his or her point of view. Listen for details and nuances that reflect how s/he really feels about the subject. This is especially crucial if you find yourself arguing over a particular issue. If you do not try to understand where your partner is coming from, you are very likely to face the same arguments over and over again because neither of you has any idea where the other is coming from.
You don’t have to agree with everything your partner says. But you must make an effort to create the understanding that opens the door to fair negotiation.
TELL YOUR PARTNER HOW MUCH S/HE MEANS TO YOU
“I love you” is one of the most powerful phrases in the English language. It means you are sharing the strongest and most enduring emotion in the world with someone who means everything to you.
Couples say those words to each other often, as they should. But if saying “I love you” becomes a reflexive habit rather than a sincere statement, something precious is lost. Instead, take time to tell your partner exactly why you cherish him or her. Explain how coming home to her smiling face makes a tough day easier to bear. Or how his integrity in caring for family members makes you feel proud. Giving examples of your love ensures that it will be fully felt by your partner.
LAUGH ABOUT IT
Laughter really is the best medicine. Having more funny moments together is a great way to improve your relationship with your significant other. Couples who have been interviewed about their long and successful marriages often say that laughter kept them together. Enjoying a light moment with your partner relieves stress and turns big challenges into positive memories. Having a sense of humor relieves everyday tension, making decisions easier and preventing unnecessary conflicts.
SOLVE PROBLEMS BY REMEMBERING PAST SUCCESSES
Sometimes the best solutions are easy to find because we’ve actually been here before. Let’s say you are facing a difficult choice that must be made soon, and you’re both feeling overwhelmed. Can you think back to a time when you stumbled upon the answers you needed? Or you fought your way through doubt and figured out the next steps? Feel free to go all the way back to childhood if you want. Whether you brainstorm together or work separately, then share ideas later, the simple act of remembering times you’ve overcome adversity will create optimistic outlook you both need to face the future together.
DON’T LET DIGITAL DEVICES COME BETWEEN YOU
Electronics are everywhere in the modern world. They can be very helpful, but they also have the potential to derail our lives.
Therapists are noticing that smartphones, tablets and other digital devices are interfering with our sleep patterns and grabbing our attention when we should be focusing on our loved ones. Marriage experts say they are seeing more and more issues caused by these.
To keep digital communication from haunting your relationship, set some basic guidelines. For example, you might ban cell phone usage at the table or decide that social media is off limits on date night. You might also agree to ignore phone calls, emails and texts that come in after a certain hour. Most importantly, turn off your phones at night to avoid keeping each other awake all night.
WHEN YOU’RE STRUGGLING, GET THE HELP YOU NEED
Every relationship needs care and attention in order to thrive. There are times when an experienced therapist can make all the difference – helping you rebuild the trust and closeness that may have eroded bit by bit, simply due to the stresses of everyday life.
I am ready to help you and your partner begin the New Year in a loving and positive way. Give me a call today to schedule a convenient time to meet.