Despite counseling intervention, some couples do not survive conflict. But some do. If you’re reading this, you’re likely looking for a way to improve your relationship. Of course, you may consider counseling, but please also consider the following thoughtfully.
I’m the first to remind you…..you cannot change anyone but yourself. Every interaction is the result of the contribution of two or more individuals. You can only be responsible for your own interaction. Often, we believe that problems are created by someone other than us. Therefore, to recognize that you have responsibility, and therefore, power over part of every interaction is an exciting prospect!
There is a large body of research on relationship satisfaction. Some basic beliefs and characteristics have been linked to happiness in relationships. These include:
Respect is defined as a feeling of deep admiration for someone elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
Is this how you feel about your partner? If you cannot honestly answer in the affirmative, did you ever feel this for your partner? Sometimes, your partner doesn’t meet your expectations in some way and your respect for them grows dull. Sometimes, your partner behaves in a way that reduces your level of respect for them.
If you are going to improve respect and your relationship, you will have to get back in touch with that feeling of respect. Most likely, at some point, you chose this person as a partner. Hopefully, you had some positive feelings when you did this! What were the things that drew you to your partner?
As we grow and change, our views of respectable qualities may change as well. Finding respectable qualities in your partner may present a challenge, but, in truth, everyone has some respectable qualities. Spend some time identifying abilities, qualities or achievements that you respect in your partner.
Acceptance is defined as positive welcome, favor and endorsement; consent to receive something offered.
Have you been meeting the definition of acceptance with your partner? Many times, receiving is conditional rather than having gratitude for what is offered.
Perhaps here again, your partner has not met your expectations. Expectations may hinder the spirit of acceptance. Find one way in which you have not met your partner with acceptance, but have insisted your expectations be met. Can you release this expectation? If not, find one that you can release. Practice releasing the expectation. This one will likely take some work!
3. Attributions to the positive:
This can also be stated as assuming the positive.
Do you attribute your partner’s positive behavior to their positive intent? For instance, he helped me because he’s being nice, NOT he helped me because he wants something.
Attributing behaviors to negative intent can poison your relationships, create defensiveness and undermine efforts by your partner. The next time you notice yourself doing this; make a decision to attribute the positive.
Often, we decide we know WHY someone did something or WHAT they were thinking. How many times have you argued over what your partner told you they meant by something they said or did? Be honest. I know I’ve done this. Guess what. I don’t really know how to read minds, but sometimes I pretend I do!
At some point, we have to give our partner the benefit of the doubt and assume they have our best intentions in mind if that’s what they say.
4. Positive Interactions:
When was the last time you had a positive interaction with your partner? Good things are built on strong foundations. Each positive interaction you have is a brick in your foundation.
There is actually a research based quota for positive vs. negative interactions. Happy couples have 5 positive interactions for every negative interaction. Theoretically, you can change the tide of your relationship by creating 5 positive interactions for every negative interaction! Isn’t that exciting?
What fun can you have with your partner? Can you agree to stay away from topics that knowingly create conflict for a certain timeframe? You can always argue later! You have to prioritize creating positive interactions with your partner.
5. Specific Conflict:
When you argue, do you bring in other issues of conflict or stick to the topic at hand? Happy couples tend to focus on the subject at hand rather than globally criticizing each other.
Do you fight fairly? Do you remain focused on the specific issue of conflict or do you bring up old and stale issues from 3 years ago? Do you take the opportunity of conflict to pick on your partner for any little thing you can?
The next conflict that arises, practice remaining focused on the specific issue instead of being diverted to other issues.
6. Rapid Repair:
Happy couples repair any ruptures in their relationships quickly.
Do you hold a grudge? Do you go for long periods giving your partner the silent treatment?
The next time a conflict arises, be the first one to QUICKLY move to repair. (This can also demonstrate respect and acceptance.)
7. Balance of Intimacy and Power:
Intimacy and power consists of both emotional and physical aspects.
Everyone has different levels of needs related to intimacy and power. Many times, one partner wants more emotional or physical intimacy than their partner is willing to provide. Sometimes, you may be afraid of being emotionally open with your partner. Sometimes, you might want to be more physically connected with your partner.
In relationships, power is demonstrated in the ability to negotiate for needs to be met. The more secure and balanced the power, the easier it is to negotiate. At times, sacrifices are made by both partners in healthy relationships.
Have you created a situation where your partner feels equal rights to ask for their needs for intimacy to be met? Is there an imbalance in power? Does your partner have as much right to make decisions as you? Does your partner’s opinion carry as much import as yours?
Hopefully this article begins connecting you to an improved relationship with your partner. Seriously consider the questions raised and focus on the changes that YOU can make to have a positive impact.
The majority of the couples I work with complain that communication is their problem. And I usually agree! In truth, we communicate all the time. The problem is usually EFFECTIVE communication!
Although we cannot help but communicate, thru words, body language, facial expressions or energy, we can always improve.
Coaching sessions can bring up emotions that cause us to act instinctively vs. productively. I developed these “rules” about communicating so we can agree on the safe guidelines.
At any time, these rules can be referred back to so effective communication can proceed.
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Children naturally and unashamedly want what they want. And they usually want it when they want it! Most of us got the message along the way, wanting is not good. We should be satisfied with what we have. We shouldn't be selfish. Good girls and boys don't ask for things.
As adults, we have difficulty tapping back into that wanting. So many conflicting messages.
As adults, we know, a rubber toy isn't going to do it. Material things might give us a fleeting moment. We can milk experiences a bit more because they give us memories. But as adults, we want more intangible things.
We want to feel free of pain, physical and emotional. We want to feel close to our partner. We want to time travel backwards and change that last bad decision we made. We want to be free from those panic attacks.
Yes, we still want things. I wish i could drive to Mobile and get these things for these lovely souls I work with. They all deserve it, they've been so good.
Wanting it all,
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A-God, I hope so! Have your parents ever annoyed you? Have you ever annoyed them? Yet you most probably love each other.
Loving someone doesn't mean you never feel other emotions towards them. In fact, loving someone often makes those emotions much more intense.
Try a few things.
Focus on yourself. How can you be more happy and fulfilled within yourself? Do that.
Focus on the things you love and appreciate about your girlfriend. You can never count on another person changing, so see the positives much larger than the negatives.
Evaluate whether you're spending too much time together. We all need a balance of together, others and personal time. Sometimes a relationship can feel exciting and obsessive at first, you set up these patterns of spending all your time together and it isn't sustainable.
Think of the adage, Man cannot live by bread alone. Too much of only one thing, or person, isn't good for us.
Embrace the paradox, Be separately together!
We celebrated together which doesn’t always happen. If you don’t know, my husband works away and sometimes we miss spending important days together.
We talked a bit about the choices we’ve made in our shared past and how it’s impacted us. We discussed some future plans too. We talked about how every decision has a cost and you have to decide if you’re willing to pay it.
One of the decisions for us has been the lifestyle we’ve chosen. There’s been a big cost to us like not spending certain times together, not sharing in certain things, but the benefit has been a great payoff too. We’ve been able to travel with our children. For the past 10 years, we’ve travelled somewhere new every year. It’s made us more diverse as people, a couple and a family. We feel it’s been worth the cost.
Many families spend the day to day with each other, never connecting, never really enjoying each other, taking each other for granted. I joke with my husband that we have 3 honeymoons a year.
No doubt things would be very different if we’d made different choices along the way. Would they have been better? Maybe they would have been worse. I believe it taught us an appreciation of our time together. Maybe we’d have found our way to that without being apart. There’s no way to know.
Now we anticipate seeing each other, and we’re sad to part, but we immediately start to plan and look forward to the next time we’re together.
It hasn’t always been that way. There’s many times we’ve felt isolated and taken for granted, so it’s a constant readjustment, renegotiation, and reassurance situation.
So my question for you: How connected are you and your partner right now? Are you in a cycle of non appreciation for each other? Do you look forward to spending time together? Can you talk to your partner about how you’re feeling? If not, can you move in that direction?
Practice Time: If you feel disconnected from your partner, think back to the last time you felt connected. What were the BEHAVIORS that YOU were doing at that time? Were you listening attentively to your partner? Were you smiling at them? Were you holding hands and going somewhere fun together? Recreate the scenario as closely as you can. You might not feel like it, but you don’t have to. Just DO it.
Even from a distance,
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People who start to use alcohol or other substances don’t start out with the plan of becoming addicted. Most people feel that they can handle their level of planned use. Many times, maintaining this level of use is possible.
About 10% of all people who use will become addicted. No one can tell why or when this will occur. Addiction is considered using a disease model most of the time. Once someone crosses the line to addiction, this is a point of no return. Usually treatment is the most useful course of action at this time.
As reviewed in the first part of this article, substance use generally starts as experimentation due to curiosity and usually in a social situation. Tobacco and alcohol are considered “gateway drugs” and if use continues, is usually followed by marijuana use. When substance use first starts, it may be inconsistent, based on social situations usually. If drug use continues, usually with other inhaled or ingested drugs, but can run the spectrum to intravenous drug use among other methods.
The physiological effects of substances are based in the body chemistry. Substances will act on receptors in the brain which control basic functions of the body. These substances create a pleasurable feeling or even a euphoria. This results in an attraction to use of the substance again in search of that same satisfying feeling. This attraction and euphoria pattern repeats itself again and again as the cycle of addiction proceeds.
The next stage of the addiction process is problematic use. This stage is characterized by increased amount and frequency of use. Intoxication is actively sought. The waves of euphoria are followed by intensifying periods of discomfort. During this stage of the addiction process, the individual may begin to experience problems which are related to use. Problems may be in work, school, family, or financial areas of one’s life.
If the consequences of use are not enough to interrupt the cycle of use, it may continue to the dependency stage. When someone has a physical or psychological dependence, they will experience distress when they are unable to use or attempt to discontinue use. Symptoms of dependence include compulsive use, impaired control over the amount or frequency of use, a preoccupation with the rituals of use and/or continued use in spite of adverse consequences.
Early addiction stages may be referenced as a period of “romance” with the substance. Like a special romantic interest, the person may find themselves daydreaming of upcoming planned use of the substance.
Physical dependence usually results as this stage progresses. At this point, euphoria is no longer experienced and use is required for the person to feel normal.
Repercussions of use will continue in the social areas of the user’s life. Within the addictions process, individuals may move from problematic use to abstinence and back over time. Once someone has reached the dependence stage, it is commonly believed that they can never be cured and must maintain abstinence or return to problematic use.
Most professionals feel that once the dependence state is reached, the person will not be able to return to unproblematic use. While many theories of the etiology of addiction exist, we do not know why or how people will become addicted. Most likely, there are multiple factors that contribute to this outcome. These factors include psychological stressors, environmental status, or physiological states.
Again, if you or someone you love is struggling with problematic substance use, reach out for help. Find a local resource or check the SAMHSA website at: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-treatment
here are several criteria to successful behavior changes. First, there has to be a desire to change. Second, there has to be a substitute for the problem activity. Third, a system of accountability ensures lasting change. While it is fairly easy to find an accountability system, it’s even easier to find a substitute activity. The really difficult part of this equation is to develop the desire to change.
How can you develop the desire for change to occur? There are two types of motivation. One is a “towards” motivation. Examples of a toward goal is regaining health or reconnecting in lost relationships. The second type of motivation is “away from” motivation. Examples of away from goals are losing employment or losing my residence. The best type of goal builds in both towards and away from motivators.
Another method of building motivation is to increase the discomfort with the present situation. This is often what occurs when an Intervention occurs. Loved ones raise the awareness of the negative aspects of the situation and outline clearly what the boundaries are for the future. Often this involves a withdrawal of support or a suspension of relationship which creates a new level of discomfort and urgency for change to occur.
While I am speaking to work with addictions, these techniques can be very useful for any type of behavioral change. If you have struggled with a particular behavior, identify the towards and away from motivations. You can create a motivator to “turn up the volume” in one direction or another. You can do this with yourself, but embedding a system of accountability into it is helpful. For instance, a friend and I are training to run a 5k race. We agreed that every day we are supposed to train and we don’t, we will pay the other person $1. I don’t want to pay her $1, but I really don’t want to have to tell her I didn’t follow through.
You can see that even if we aren’t very good at our routine, we won’t likely go broke! You can be sure though, that we eagerly report to each other when we do our workout (and even when we don’t). There is a towards motivation: being prepared to run a 5k. There is an away from motivation: paying the $1. There is a system of accountability: we report our success to each other. The replacement activity in this case is the running which takes the place of other activities in our lives such as watching TV or sleeping in.
What ideas can you come up with for establishing your own behavior change?
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Concerned about porn use by you or your partner? This video discusses why porn might be detrimental to your relationship.
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Emotions are always trying to tell us something. Is there a source of unhappiness in your relationship? Boredom? Believe me, every relationship has issues. I bet you felt the same excitement about your current boyfriend when you first met.
Unfortunately, when we feel attracted to another person, we begin to compare them to our partner. Of course, we know all our partners warts, so we are comparing apples and oranges.
Consider it fully before you end a real relationship for something you don't really know. If the relationship is important to you, consider counseling. It may help you recognize whether you really want to be committed or not.
Hope that helps,
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When working to make change, it can be helpful to explore the intention in as many different sensory capacities as possible. Writing is one of those activities that requires thought process and then physical action tied to that process. This makes writing an effective method of expanding and reinforcing learning.
Writing is a reminder of the goal. Often there is a situation which has created a significant amount of pain for you. For instance, perhaps you have been arrested for driving under the influence. This is usually a source of pain and shame. As time heals all wounds, over time, the memory of this pain dulls. Therefore, there is value in recording this pain. At some point in the future, you’ll start to feel that “it wasn’t that bad”. The written account will serve as a reminder. This can apply for many types of behavior we want to change.
Writing can clarify the goal. At times, our thoughts can be “foggy”. Writing and review can help us become more focused on specific goals regarding that change. Written thoughts can give you clues on where to focus attention. I like to use a game of “whys”. So, an example might be: Why do you overeat? Because I’m bored. Why are you bored? Because I have nothing to do. Why do you have nothing to do? Because I can’t afford to do anything. Why can’t you afford to do anything? Because I’m disabled. This example leads to multiple potential interventions that can be addressed. A person may be disabled, but they can find inexpensive or free things to do. Or perhaps they need to deal with the grief surrounding being disabled and the limitations that brings.
Writing can provide insight. Insight means gaining an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of self. Often, writing illuminates things about our ourselves that we hadn’t realized. When you commit to journaling even briefly every day, it can lead to insight that has not been realized until this time. This can cultivate further focus for growth or even for more writing.
Often, people have had an unsuccessful attempt in the past to journal consistently and this creates a resistance. If this is you, try a prompt that only requires one or two words. People can usually make the commitment to do this as a minimum. My own journaling practice focuses on 5 areas of my life: Relationships, Health, Career, Abundance, and Gratitudes. I do a quick summary of each of these, a few sentences. If things are great, GREAT! If things are a bit “jangly”, I go into how I might improve that area.
Since personal writing is a direct reflection of yourself, you’re bound to learn something. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
And remember, you are lovely!