How do you feel about your relationship? Is there perhaps a sense of uncertainty or doubt always swimming in your head? Does it give you comfort, joy, happiness and courage? Does the future look bright? Does it dissipate a lot of your energies through arguments, confrontations and tip-toeing over mine fields? Do you tend to spend a lot of time in justifying and explaining instead of building on what is obvious?
Why do relationships matter so much anyway? Is it because they can be a source of joy and happiness but also endless frustration and suffering? Perhaps.
I think they matter because they ultimately define us and shape our our wider relationship with life and ourselves. Perhaps this is a tad too philosophical but I’m sure it can easily be grasped as basic truth.
Furthermore, health, balance and a successful relationship can become a wealthy source of positive creativity because it secures your mental well being and prevents your creative resources and energies from being dissipated by it.
But what are the ingredients for a successfull relationship? Many people have their own I’m sure.
Here is a teaspoon of wisdom from my own epxerience in a few short points:
1. Be aware of that compulsive need to react: There are days we are jumpy more than others but in general we tend to react to a comment, criticism or a behaviour we didn’t fancy so much. Firing a reaction often leads to worsen or complicate things into a snowball effect. Be aware of this and consciously and intentionally refrain from that automatic urge to react.
2. Take a few seconds before countering a proposal or argument: Defensiveness is a very bad ally in relationships. You know how it is, your partner comes up with a proposal or argument that challenges your plan or idea and immediately you are in defense or counter-attack mode – deploying those verbal torpedos to crackdown on the dissenting party. As in the point before, be conscious and take a few seconds to consider the other’s point of view before rushing into an emotional response.
3. List your common objectives more often than your differences: All people in a relationship have differences between them – it’s what relationships are. There might be differences in opinion, attitude, emotional dispositions and in the general way of doing things. Not all differences are bad. On the other hand we don’t need to constantly fixate or elenchate those differences that are challenging. Stop summoning them up which is different from not dealing with them. You need to focus more on the common objectives more often. This will give you enough space to accommodate certain differences and deal with them in a more positive way.
4. Keep in check your body language: This is something I learnt only recently…but never too late right? Sometimes we are discussing, arguing or confronting someone and while our tone, language and volume is OK our bodies are saying something very different. Notice it next time you are in this situation. How does your body talk? Is it agitated? Are you pointing fingers or extending your arms too much? Are you taking a position of dominance or defence? Are you aggressively defining your space with your movements? Sounds funny but it’s actually a very serious business if you learn to notice it and control it.
5. Find time to reconciliate matters: Time is never on our hands let’s face it. It slips, slides and rushes away from our hands like a wet bar of soap. We don’t have enough time to do half the things on our to-do lists let alone carry out ‘extra-curricular’ tasks such as finding time to reconciliate differences of ideas or opinions. Yet we often do have time for argument and confrontation so how is it we do not have time for reconcilliation? Just a thought. The clock will always tick the same amount of minutes and hours but our priorities might need to change from time to time according to the situation at hand.
6. Don’t avoid discussion: Sometimes it’s not a question of time either. It’s a matter of having the right amount of will or desire to discuss an issue. We are all busy hard-working people these days. Sometimes even coming home from a long day at work we still face a long list of things to attend to – kids, chores, maintenance, bills, etc. It gets late and the only thing we need is to unwind and relax – the heart asks for play and pleasure. This is how a certain need for discussion gets on the backburner. Left there for too long it might backfire. It is thus worth it to sacrifice a few minutes of that relaxation time to catch up with pending relationship matters.
7. Feel free to express your ideas without expectations: Sometimes the problem in a relationship is not that we express our ideas and opinions too freely but because we attach a lot of expectations to those ideas. We might expect our partner to react in a certain way – to consent, approve, understand, comply or just take note. We then get very irrate when those expectations are not met and our partner’s response does not match the intended or desired effect. So before expressing an opinion or idea keep in mind that expectations are always prone to trouble in a relationship. Let go of them and you will see how things tend to move on much smoother and trouble-free.
8. Be calmer when the other is panicky: A typical hot dispute between two people in a relationship happens because of the so-called positive feedback. This means as one of them starts getting ‘edgy’ or over-emotional, more emotional stress builds up in the other who after reacting causes the other to react even more emotionally and so on in a vicious loop. What is needed in this situation is to break or dampen that loop – a negative feedback cycle. This means that as one gets more frustrated or panicky the other should consciously make the effort to keep even more calm and grounded thus lessening the effect until it’s killed off. Most ‘fights’ in fact are just a combustion chamber of each other’s reaction until it builds up into one explosive effect.
9. Sweet words cost nothing – say it from the heart: I know of sweet talkers who metaphorically got away with murder most of their lives. Why? Because sweet words count quite a deal and not just for the softer sex. I am not saying that one should do as he or she pleases then make up for it with some nice compliments. What I am saying is that compliments or encouraging words are very helpful in sparking off more postive vibes between people in a relationship. This can tend to end up in a virtous loop – this time for positive vibes instead of bad emotions as in the previous point.
10. Share the happiness before sharing the burden: Many quite rightly think that our loved ones should be there for support in difficult moments or moments of crisis. This is a justified expectation to have. We should expect our partner to lend us a helping hand and share our burden but this is not the true pillar of successfull relationships. The strongest pillar is when we share our joys and happiness more readily then we do with burdens. This helps us nourish and fortify the relationship with positive energy before relying on it for burden-sharing.
11. Mind your language: If sweet words are to be articulated more often then negative ones should also be constrained more strictly. This is the vocabular rule of healthy relationships. Again be more conscious of certain negative keywords such as “Wrong, fault, blame,selfish, childish, worse, incapable, foolish” and a long list of others.
12. Don’t think about the future before the present: It’s important to have a direction in a relationship and understand clearly where one is heading to. Yet sometimes uncertainty about the future can cause some cracks in a relationship that often leads to breakdown. No one really knows what the future holds on a personal level let alone where two people in a relationship are involved. It’s useless letting this uncertainty override your present options. What is certain is that there is a lot of things you can do in the present to positively drive your relationship forward. So that is what you should be focusing on more often.
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