As a psychologist and relationship counselor for over 25 years, I speak from experience when I say that love is an ocean of infinite depths: people are complex, riddled with flaws and hidden desires, seeking to be accepted and understood. Different partners draw different emotions out of us—some we didn’t even know we had—and keeping up a happy relationship can become tedious. Yet human beings also possess an unyielding need to love and be loved. Some people need help releasing this love they hoard within. Our first goal in a relationship should be to help our partner become his best and most authentic self. When this happens, love is exchanged without limits.
Being in a committed relationship is a daily choice: every day, you and your partner choose to act in ways that either help or hinder your mutual progress. What I see happening very often is that people continue to take the same actions in their relationship, making the same mistakes yet expecting different results. The most effective step you can take towards conquering the challenges in your relationship is to change your mindset: choosing to see things in a different perspective can shift the energy of a situation entirely. This is not to say that you’ll have to let your partner be right all the time or give up what’s fair to you, but that you’ll have to try newapproaches to dealing with old problems. Here are 11 golden rules aimed at resolving conflict and improving the quality of your relationship:
Evolution, not change. You should ask yourself this question regularly: Is my relationship evolving or only changing? People are constantly changing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re evolving. A relationship should not only shift but shift positivelyover time as both partners work to resolve outstanding issues. Understand how you and your loved are transforming both in personal and mutual ways. In the case of physical change, make it known to your partner that you notice his new look; always compliment a different hairstyle, weight loss, a fresh wardrobe, etc. Remain well ahead of changes by anticipating the next phase of your relationship and strategizing how you’ll pass through it, side by side. If this is not happening, it’s time to evaluate at what point progress became stagnant.
Adventure, not routine. The daily grind becomes boring, to say the least. Doing the same things over and over again can quickly kill the spirit of any relationship. Break out of routine as often as you can. Travel with your partner, even if it’s a road trip or weekend getaway. Try new restaurants and take up new hobbies. Even if it’s something that’s out of your comfort zone, find joy in the fact that you’re engaging in a fun activity with your other half.
This principle holds true in the bedroom, too. Many men and women find that their sex drive dwindles after years of being with the same person. Adrenaline and dopamine levels drop with time, and with them fades the “rush” that accompanies intercourse. While this is common, it’s not a good indication. Sex is an integral part of any solid relationship; the moment it dries up is the moment a key component is lost. Maintain your sex appeal for your loved one. This will boost your self-esteem in turn. Remind yourself that you’re doing it for yourself before anyone else. Take a bit of extra time to get ready, eat well, and exercise regularly. Such simple actions will not only help you look good for him, they’ll make you feel great about yourself! Sex can certainly become better with time if the couple gets creative and invents new ways of pleasing each other. Get a little daring and try intercourse in different locations and positions to keep the sexual spark lit.
Communication, not interrogation. You don’t need a million talks to heal your relationship; you need one transformative conversation. The quality of communication, therefore, is key. There are right and wrong ways to communicate. The wrong way is bombarding your partner with all of your problems as soon as he walks through the door after a long day. The right way is waiting until he unwinds and then gently bringing up one subject of genuine concern. You may have a tendency to bring up everything at once, but try to stick to one area. Don’t jump from subject to subject or concentrate on irrelevant matters that don’t pose serious problems. You’ll get to cover all the crucial elements in time, so start with the most important.
Before you begin, ask about his day. Find out what’s important to him, what are his plans, how can you help, etc. Listen intently when he opens up to you before responding. It’s important to get your partner to let his emotional guard down before diving into a subject you’re keen to discuss. If you begin communication too aggressively, your partner will respond with equal force. He’s more likely to be receptive if you’re already engaged in a comfortable conversation.
Listen to your partner’s statements without forming a response; it’s one thing is to hear and another to listen. When words threaten to cause irreparable harm, silence is golden. Understanding the intention behind your partner’s words can take time; as you mull over what he said, the real meaning will emerge.
Simplify, don’t complicate. We forget that in love, simplicity is key. We want to build an empire with our partner but in doing so, we can quickly lose sight of the simple values that first fostered love. Return to simplicity. Nothing is more valuable at the end of the day than tender moments shared in silence, with no mention of what was, could have been, or might be. De-clutter your relationship. Cleanse your bond of toxicity: people who interfere, harmful emotions, hurtful memories, and compromising habits. Maintain a love as pure as water.
We, not me. The most destructive force in relationships is the ego; it tears down the human bond because it favors the meand neglects the we. For the sake of your relationship, let your proud guard down. Take nothing personally. Even if your partner makes a huge mistake, understand that he may have personal issues you know nothing about that have nothing to do with you. Realize that, yes, in a perfect world everything would be fair play, but that in relationships, everything is compromise, sacrifice, and endurance. Hold your partner closer to your heart than you hold your ego, and you’ll succeed in holding a relationship for the long run.
Strengths, not weaknesses. Each day, you have the choice to reiterate your partner’s weaknesses or to renew his strengths—to build him up or tear him down to nothing. In truth, you hold more power than you can imagine! A person’s weaknesses are generally more noticeable than his strengths, but if you constantly complain about what he’s doing wrong, he’ll never feel motivated to do anything right. There are gentle ways to get your partner to admit what he has to do differently. As a rule of thumb, refrain from speaking negatively about your significant other in public. You may have become so used to your partner’s flaws that you think those around you are used to them, too. You might joke to friends about your loved one’s imperfections and think this is no big deal. But you don’t know how deeply his emotional wounds run. Instead of starting the day by reminding your partner of something he did wrong, begin your day by thanking him: “Thank you for being next to me. Thank you for being you,” you can say. Nurture the person who has stood by you; he’s more sensitive than you can imagine. A simple “I’m proud of you” can uplift your partner’s entire day.
Meditation, not desperation. Doing things out of desperation only produces more desperation. Let your feelings settle down and apply logic before you speak. Organize your thoughts and intentions. If you’re desperate to get your partner to change, don’t threaten to break up with him; he might not knowhowto change.
Meditate on your decisions before you act. Imagine what would happen if you approached the situation one way versus if you approached it another way. Consider the best possible outcome in your mind. Close your eyes and see yourself having a heartfelt conversation with your partner in which you both reach an agreement. Prepare the points you will make. What can you say to make progress and inspire a resolution?
Acting in the right time is just as crucial. At any given moment, time is either for or against your efforts. The wisdom is to recognize when you should act versus when you should wait.Don’t obligate your partner to do things in a certain amount of time, like pushing him to get married within a year. This is your notion of time, not his. If you listen to your inner voice, you’ll be able to identify the ideal moment.
Future, not past. Planning a future with your partner motivates you to take the right steps towards manifesting your goals together. Talk about the years ahead and form a strategy to achieve the things you both want: a home, family, investments, etc.
Start each day with a clean slate. Even if your partner messed up yesterday, there’s no reason he can’t mend his mistakes today. Focus not on what he might’ve done wrong, but on the opportunity he has to do right, right now. People can change, but you must first give them the chance.
Intimacy, not influence. Many couples live together physically but live apart emotionally. Keep your relationship private and your affairs between you. External influences are the weeds of a healthy relationship and can devastate a perfectly good dynamic. Don’t hang up on your significant other only to call your friend and tell her everything you don’t like about him. It’s you and your partner who are in a relationship, not your friend, sibling, parent, or any other party. No one needs to intervene. Filter your environment of negative influences and watch the energy transform for the better.
Reality, not perfection. The love we want to receive may not match the love we receive. Why is that? Because peoplewon’t always give us what we want, they’ll give us what they can. Not everyone is capable of extending unconditional love, patience, and tolerance. Some people can barely tolerate themselves, let alone another person! While you should never settle for less than what you deserve, you should acknowledge your partner’s limitations and recognize his unique capacity. A healthy relationship means seeing beyond your expectations down to the reality of your partner’s defects, then working together to improve these defects.
Solutions, not conclusions. It’s easy to jump to conclusions. When our partner does something wrong, we start analyzing every part of his actions and assume the worst. Our fears and insecurities cause us to amplify the severity of the situation. This kind of compulsive behavior only drives dispute into the relationship. Before you react, sit and reflect: Is it really as bad as I think it is? The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. Speak to your partner openly about what’s bothering you instead of blowing up on him. When your significant other tells you something, believe it. Take his words to be the truth according to him, eliminating the ifs, ands, or buts. Even if his excuse isn’t satisfactory, respect that this is his explanation. Skip the assumptions and ask instead, “How do we fix this?” Offer your possible solutions then invite your partner to provide his.
These simple principles will create a less stressful and more durable dynamic between you and your partner. Elevate your mindset and reshape your relationship!
To golden relationships,
Dr. Carmen Harra