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.