It is amazing how often we leave the person we claim to care the most about out in the cold emotionally. There are multiple opportunities throughout the day for us to turn our attention to our partner and offer a loving touch, a word of encouragement, or even a friendly smile. But when relationships get worn out or life gets busy, often these moments are some of the first to go. Being selfless in a relationship is hard work. Learning how to balance sharing yourself and taking care of yourself is a constant task. However, maintaining a loving, connected relationship requires partners to choose each other, intentionally.
According to research, Relationship Self-Regulation, meaning how much couples pay attention to and work on their relationship, is directly correlated with long-term satisfaction. Just like your individual ability to self-regulate by managing your inner emotional experience effectively enhances your relationship, so does your ability to maintain your focus on the relationship and take action toward making it better. I know, this doesn’t really seem like rocket science, but think of it this way: You probably also know that eating a balanced diet high in veggies and low in sugar can increase your health and decrease your weight. This is also proven through research. But do you do it consistently, on a daily basis?
Often we know what makes things better. It is moving the knowing into consistent action where we falter. There are typically two parts in us: One part is telling us what we “should do,” trying to protect us from our fears, and the other part is justifying why we don’t have to, in an attempt to comfort us. Actually, neither part is working in our relationship’s best interest. What you need to access is your higher self in the relationship—the part that understands the bigger picture and realizes that the good feelings of connection, kindness, and compassion come when you attend to your partner and the relationship.
Studies on Relationship Self-Regulation confirm that a partner’s satisfaction greatly increases when he or she feels their significant other’s effort toward the relationship. Just knowing that the other person is working for the greater good makes the other partner want to engage also. That is a little like saying, “It’s the thought that counts.” Basically, if your partner can see your intentions are for him or her, the actual actions are just icing on the cake.
Focusing your attention on your partner can be very simple. As a matter of fact, it is often the easy, daily, thoughtful acts that make the biggest impact. So, if you want to reengage your partner, do it in little ways: pour him or her a cup of coffee when you’re filling your own; offer a gentle touch on the back or a kiss on the cheek when you walk by them; look at your partner, and tell them that they are hot or beautiful; send them a text to let them know you are thinking of them, wish them luck in a big meeting, or hope that they make it through a stressful day; or do one of the simplest actions these days: when you are talking to each other or crawling into bed, put your phone away and give them 100 percent of you.
It is easy to pass these moments by, especially when we are busy in life or feeling discouraged in our relationship. But little moments really matter. These are the small big things that add up over time. After months and years of not offering intentional attention, we can create chasms of distance that are difficult to bridge. Build a “Small Big Things” list for your partner; what can you start doing today that will make a difference? Now, just do it.
Shifting your attention and taking small, deliberate actions toward your partner will increase your interest in the relationship. When couples start paying attention to each other, the natural by-product is a stronger connection that feels great. Remaining attentive to each other is like putting gas in the relationship tank: Keep it full, and you won’t find your relationship stranded on the side of the road.
Until we meet again — Love each other well,
Excerpted from Relationship Reset by Jen Elmquist, September 2017, RISK.
Relationship Reset reveals the secrets to becoming a better couple through exposing valuable information from current research and identifying critical insights that make relating easier.