Written By Philippa Walsh
Are you in the right relationship?
If you're reading this article, chances are that your current relationship could do with some TLC to get it back on track. If this is the case, it can be really helpful to pause for a few minutes and think about the following things:
How much you still want to be with your current partner, whether or not you are willing to take the time to make your relationship work, whether or not you still love each other and whether or not you and your partner are together for the right reasons.
What I mean by the right reasons, is wanting to be rather than needing to be in your relationship. There are many external influences that can make a couple feel that they should stay together. These can be feeling the need to meet family expectations, feeling obliged to stay for financial/domestic reasons, not wanting to cause heartache by breaking up, or needing to stay in the relationship as a form of self-validation.
Taking the time to identify your reasons for being together, can help you decide whether or not the costs of staying together outweigh the benefits. Only then will you know what course of action to take.
Resolve common relationship issues
Lack of communication
Being in a new relationship is intoxicating - it increases our dopamine levels and makes us feel on top of the world. In the first few months, we can't stop communicating to our new partner! It seems that there's always something 'important' to say, even if you've just spent the entire day with them. This is where our instant messaging apps go into overdrive and we silently thank our phone networks for gifting us with unlimited calls! We can't wait to share our news, our dreams... or our joy at becoming a couple!
So how can we go from this to perhaps barely communicating at all? Unfortunately (and this is a common problem), we can caught up in the whirlwind of a new romance so quickly, that our other obligations may get temporarily sidelined. Once we start re-prioritising them and have to scale back the late night calls and sneaky work day messages, it becomes too easy to take our relationship for granted. Very quickly, one partner may begin to feel neglected.
A complaint I hear quite frequently from clients is: "My partner never texts me anymore...he's always saying he's too busy at work, but it never stopped him when we first met..."
This is where it is important to get some perspective. New relationships level out. As time goes by, we are less inclined to report to our partners the minutiae of our daily lives with regular bulletins. We lead busy lives - it is not realistic to expect 50 messages a day from your partner while they are trying to do that thing we sometimes have to; otherwise known as WORK!
But (and here's the thing): we also need to remember that if we don't make some time to nurture our relationship, we cannot be surprised if it deteriorates.
Communication really is key. Talk more. And I don't mean about who's going to wash the dishes or what to watch on Netflix - I mean talk about each other! When was the last time you actually sat down with your partner and had a genuine conversation without any distractions?
Yes we're busy, we get tired; but when you're with your partner, put down your phone, turn off the TV and focus on them. You got together for a reason, try and remind yourself of what that was. The honeymoon days might have passed where you were constantly messaging each other or couldn't sleep for talking all night, but what about creating a sense of balance rather than it having to be all or nothing?
Do you even know what your partners dreams are anymore? or how they are feeling right now in this moment? How can you if you don't ask? It's all too easy to assume that your partner is okay and become preoccupied in your own thoughts and needs.
Lack of respect
Often when we start taking our partner for granted, we forget to show respect for their needs. A lack of respect can be shown in the way we speak or behave towards our partner. If you find that you have a tendency to criticise or bark orders at your partner like ""can't you even make toast without burning it?" or "make me another cup of tea" think about how this would make you feel. Would you want to be made to feel small or treated like a PA?
When you lose respect for each other, your relationship can rapidly go downhill without remedial action. Be more aware of how you both behave towards each other. Do you or your partner dismiss each others needs? Try to show each other the respect that you did when you first met.
The blame game
When things aren't going so well, it is common to try and apportion blame.This strategy is not helpful. A relationship is a two-way exchange. It is far more positive to share joint responsibility for your relationship and agree to work at correcting things together. If you feel unable to get past something your partner has said or done, are you prepared to work at it until you feel able to forgive them?
If not, remaining in a relationship in which you bear a grudge is not only damaging to you, but damaging to your partner. Resentment is toxic and unless you are prepared to work through it, your relationship may continue suffering.
The 10 Minute Rule
It is common for one person in the relationship to feel that their partner won't talk through their issues, while their partner would disagree. Both people can't be right. If you and your partner are struggling to talk about something that needs to be addressed, give the 10 minute rule a try.
Before you begin, agree to some ground rules like no shouting, no talking over each other and no derogatory language.
- You will have your say for 10 minutes. During this time your partner will listen and not interrupt.
- After 10 minutes, your partner gets their 10 minutes to be heard.
- After you have both spoken for 10 minutes each, you have a further 10 minutes between you.
- The whole discussion should be over in 30 minutes.
- If you both agree to carry on with your discussion, that's okay - but it should not continue for more than an hour. If you both know that you have limited time, you will be more concise, and more likely to focus on resolution rather than blame.
- Communicate often.
- Demonstrate that you respect each other.
- Accept joint responsibility for the relationship rather than apportioning blame.
- Address unresolved issues by giving each other time to talk without interruption.
You can also...
Try and schedule a 'date night' once a week. If this is tricky due to financial constraints or having children at home, agree to make the effort to make a special meal at home. Recreate that restaurant feel together and dress for the occasion to differentiate it from your usual evening meals.
Try and socialise more as a couple. It's healthy having your own friends and interests, but when was the last time you did something outside of the home together?
Try taking up a joint hobby or interest. Joint pursuits often put the spark back into a relationship and can create a sense of fun. Enjoyable activities are a break away from work, domestic matters and can relieve stress.
Food for thought...
If you are still struggling after trying these suggestions, maybe it's time to seek some support. Individual or couples counselling can give you space to talk in confidence and clarity to help you determine the best way forward.
"You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity” Epicurus