Christine Treski, Marriage and Family Therapist
Maintaining a happy and healthy relationship requires work and can be a challenge in even the most successful couples. Over time, playfulness, love notes, and cuddling might become replaced with button-pushing, sarcasm, and a lack of appreciation. While every couple is unique in their strengths and challenges, there are things any couple can to do breathe new life into your relationship. Try to:
Talk it out. It is easy to recognize when a relationship is having trouble, but sometimes it is difficult to figure out why. Sit down with your partner and try to talk candidly about your feelings and concerns. Make sure you schedule uninterrupted time to do this, without children, cell phones, or other distractions. Avoid dwelling on the past and instead identify what can be done to improve your relationship for the future. If voices get raised take a “time out” and reschedule when you will continue the talk, be it in 30 minutes or the next day.
Don’t play the blame game. When things are going badly, couples are apt to fall into the “he said, she said” trap, pointing out wrongs or faults of the other person. Conflict and relationship problems are often perpetuated by both people, and you will get to a solution faster if you are willing to recognize your own contributions. Are you open to your partner’s feelings and concerns, even if you don’t agree? Are you willing to make any changes or sacrifices yourself?
Accept the bad and acknowledge the good. While you can influence your partner and help to bring out the best in them, first you must accept your partner as she or he is. If you try to mold and change your mate into someone you want him or her to be, resentment will infect your relationship. Healthy partners need not always share the same views, enjoy the same hobbies, or maintain the same personal habits. Become a model of positivity and find the upside of the little things that annoy you. If your partner is obnoxiously passionate about sports, perhaps their passionate side also carries over to their children, or career drive.
Take it step by step. You can’t fix everything in one weekend. Repairing a relationship is hard work and it takes time. Try to tackle one specific concern or area of conflict at a time and celebrate small victories along the way. The more minor challenges you overcome, the closer you will be to major resolution.
Continue the courtship. Make an effort to keep dating each other. Compliments, daily talks, surprise gifts and expressing gratitude can warm both of your hearts. Search for the things you value about your relationship and vocalize your appreciations. Set aside one evening every week to do something together and make happy memories. Remember to have fun together!
Work with a professional. Be willing to seek the help of a coupes’ therapist when things get too tough to manage on your own. If conflict is arising too often, you need to make some immediate changes. A professional can help you identify and resolve the problems that are inhibiting your happiness. A neutral person can help lower the volume and intensity of squabbles and steer the two of you back to a better place. If you are having any doubts, this can help you figure out if you should stay and work on your partnership, or move on.
Complaints and disagreements are normal in any relationship, so having healthy conflict skills are worth your investment. Getting through relationship problems can actually help you build a stronger, better partnership based on mutual love, trust, and commitment.