Fact: Great relationships don’t just happen. They require a lot of effort by both partners to make them great. I’ve heard many clients state that, “If I have to work at it, then it’s not the right relationship for me.” This is a wrong statement altogether. Think about it: to maintain a good health, for instance, you have to work at keeping fit, eating healthily and taking plenty of exercise. Just as maintaining a good health and keeping fit requires an effort, so does a good relationship. So take a long, hard look at your relationship and ask yourself: have I been putting in enough effort to make this great? Or am I just blaming my partner/ my work/ my family set-up for its current not-so-great state?
Here are my 7 tips on how you can not only improve your relationship and make it great, but also potentially turn a failing relationship around:
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF
This is possibly the most important step you should take right now to improve your relationship. Yes, you need to learn how to take responsibility for your own feelings and needs. Instead of relying on your partner to make you feel happy and secure, you need to learn how to do this for yourself. That means looking carefully and objectively at your current thoughts and actions. Do you treat yourself with self-criticism mainly? Do you treat others far better than yourself? Are you your own biggest enemy? If the answer is yes, things need to change right now.
As cliché as it sounds, self-love and self-respect starts within you. When you learn how to take 100% responsibility for yourself and treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated, you will stop blaming your partner for your upsets. Many people blame their partner for their own unhappiness and feelings of resentment, so start learning how to love and put yourself first today. When you do that, your self-respect will increase and your partner will notice the change- trust me.
EMPLOY KINDNESS AND ACCEPTANCE
Treat others the way you want to be treated. We all want to be treated well – with kindness, compassion, understanding and acceptance. We also need to treat ourselves this way. Relationships flourish when both people treat each other with respect and kindness. It can of course be hard to be loving towards your partner if he or she is consistently angry, judgmental and uncaring. In situations like this, you need to focus on how to bring more love and respect into your life rather than reacting with anger, blame, judgment and withdrawal. Kindness to others does not mean sacrificing yourself- you do not want to be a martyr in a relationship. Put yourself and your needs first without hurting others- this is what I like to call ‘Positive Selfishness’. Always remember that taking responsibility for yourself rather than blaming others is the most important thing you can do. If you are consistently kind to yourself and your partner, and your partner is consistently angry, withdrawn and unavailable, then there are some tough choices to be made. You either have to accept a distant, unhappy relationship, or you need to leave that relationship. Remember, you cannot make your partner change – you can only change yourself.
LEARN ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP INSTEAD OF CONTROLLING IT
When conflict occurs- and there will always be conflicts in normal relationships- you always have two choices on how to handle the conflict: you can learn about yourself and your partner and discover and work on deeper issues in your relationship, which of course requires an open, honest communication. Or you aim to create a win-lose situation through some form of controlling behaviour. This is NOT how you should communicate with your partner or, indeed, anyone. Most of us are guilty of employing some form of controlling behaviour in relationships, including anger, blame, judgment, too much love and attention, resistance, withdrawal of love, defending, lying, denying and so on. Using these methods to score points off each other and ‘winning’ over your partner will only serve to cause more conflict. Choose to learn about each other, listen to each other and employ empathy when talking to your partner rather than control.
When we first fall in love, we make time for each other. We date; we put lots of effort into initial stages of a relationship. Then, especially after we get married, life gets in a way and we feel we simply don’t have time to date anymore, or that ‘we don’t need to anymore’. Relationships need attention and care to grow and flourish. It is extremely important to arrange specific times to be together – to talk, to do things together, to make love. Intimacy cannot be maintained without quality time together. So get your diary out and pencil in a special date with your partner.
DON’T COMPLAIN, BE GRATEFUL
Perhaps another ‘cliché’ that had been mentioned previously in the movie ‘Secret’, but relationships do thrive on “attitude of gratitude.” If you constantly complain about your partner, your life, your children and your household, this creates a heavy, negative energy which is not fun to be around for anyone. Focus on what you’re grateful for rather than focusing on what you don’t have or what you wish to change. Write it down and read it at least once a day. Constant complaining creates stress, whilst gratitude brings inner peace.
We all know the saying “work without play makes Jack a dull boy.” Work without play makes for boring, unfulfilled relationships as well. Relationships grow stronger when people laugh together, play together and when humour is a part of everyday life. Stop taking everything so seriously and learn to see the funny side of life. Intimacy also flourishes when there is laughter and fun, not when things feel heavy, strained and stressful.
DO THINGS FOR EACH OTHER
A wonderful way of creating intimacy is doing things for your partner. Giving fills the heart with love and happiness. You don’t need to do big things for your partner: little gestures go a long way. A surprise text message to let your partner know you are thinking of him or her; a little love note by the bedside table in the morning or a cup of tea in bed- these are all reminders you love and care for your partner.
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