Relationships are the most complex and the most wonderful phenomenon to exist between individuals, however, it’s easy to forget about the pleasure when we experience relationship failures or are suffering relationship distress. Yet, relationships are not designed to be trouble free, there is no ‘perfect relationship’ because they are designed to test us, stretch us, and make us grow. However, alongside the challenges there must also be joy in order to sustain a satisfying relationship over the long term. Here are some thoughts to ponder on how you can strengthen your relationship.
Maintain that connection
Humans are made to connect; it’s embedded in our genetic code. Our emotional, physiological and intellectual systems are all hard-wired for connection. What makes life so beautiful is that when you do experience a sense of connection with another, and the relationship is fully nurtured then the connection becomes stronger and more stable over time. This sense of connection can be felt in relationships with friends, family, and partners. We find acceptance with others which makes us feel safe and secure. The converse also applies; if the connection is neglected then the relationship suffers. When this important link is broken problems emerge, and if left unattended, the issues grow bigger and more threatening day by day. It can be useful to think of your relationship like a child who needs ongoing nurturing. Pay attention to the other, be curious and interested in their day-to-day lives, value and encourage their actions and support their choices all within the context of established and clear boundaries. Set your intention to be kind and sincere and cultivate an attitude of paying attention. These small shifts in attitude will assist to maintain connection with your significant other.
Communication is key. This means being clear about what you want and being mindful of the other person. Communication is the way we let others into our world, to see who we are and get to know us on a deeper level. Without good communication between partners we live in the world of guesswork, assumptions and ignorance. Communication is a double-sided coin; the way you communicate and the way you receive communication both hold the same value. This means that a less argumentative and more empathetic attitude can open up a host of opportunities for more meaningful conversations which always results in better outcomes. And, most importantly learn to be a great listener as it’s in the listening that you really get to see and hear what your partner is seeking.
Cultivating awareness about the way you communicate is important too. Are you communicating openly and without judgement, or are you telling your partner what to do, what you want, coupled with criticism and anger? This type of communication only creates hurt and resentment. Communication is the key ingredient to keeping your connection alive. Set some ground rules such as no yelling, stick to the topic, no blaming or shaming and remain respectful, honest and commit to working towards a mutually satisfying outcome. Let your communication style invite closeness instead of creating distance. Remember, the inability to communicate well underpins the failure of many relationships.
Cultivate Courage And Forgiveness
When two people agree to work things out during the lowest point in their relationship there emerges great hope for their future. It takes courage to step forward when you are feeling hurt and unhappy. Find the courage to be vulnerable, and the bravery to be truly honest as this will prove to be your greatest strength in moving from darkness to light in your relationship. Forgiveness sits alongside courage as an absolute necessity for any relationship to survive. We are human and we falter – a lot, and often it’s those closest to us who experience our darkest sides. We lash out at those we love. The act of forgiving has proven time and again to be enormously healing. It provides a sense of relief, reaffirms our humanity and is a true act of love. Forgiveness is essential for building the strong, sturdy bridge of relationship.
Understand Your Expectations
Unmet expectations can be the cause of deep frustrations within a relationship. Expectations often sit in our unconscious and when they are hidden then it’s hard to work with them. Learn to understand your own expectations, and then be brave enough to communicate them even if you are fearful of the outcome. The only way forward is honesty with yourself and your partner. There is nothing wrong in having expectations and setting relationship goals – this is intrinsic to the health of your relationship, but keep them realistic and attainable. Be clear about what you need and learn how to ask for what you want – all within the context of respect and understanding. When each party is attuned to the needs of the other relationship problems become much less acute.
And finally, look inwards. Take the time to reflect and evaluate what you bring to the relationship dynamic. What can you change to improve the relationship? Where can you soften, allow more forgiveness, lower expectations or communicate more clearly? What aspects of yourself do you commit to work on? When two people understand that their relationship is the space between them, and it’s the relationship that requires attention then it will certainly flourish.
If you are experiencing relationship difficulties then talking to a counsellor can help. At the Melbourne Counselling Centre we are experienced in helping couples resolve their relationship problems. Click here to book a session.