by Kerry Hart, LLMFT
Keeping your long-term relationship successful is easier with the proper tools. The trick to finding happiness within a relationship can be as simple as putting in time and effort. Often, communication is where most couples fall short. It is important to remember that communication is not an innate skill. Too often couples talk at each other as opposed to talking to each other. This frustrating habit is not broken easily, and having the right tools to help you along the way can make all the difference. If communication between you and your partner can use improvement, perhaps it’s time to enhance your relationship with a tune-up.
Try building the following aspects of your communication. Should you find yourself stuck, contact an experienced couples therapist. This person can both act as a referee (if needed) and provide you with fantastic tools and guidance as your relationship moves forward.
Check In Often
How often do you check in with your partner? Asking your other half how things are going for them and expressing interest in the answer can make your partner feel heard, and more importantly, validated. Coming home from a long day at work might naturally beg the question, “How was your day?” This is different from asking if your partner is happy within your relationship. Try asking them if their needs are being met, or if there is anything you can do to improve the relationship. These type of questions, if respected, can and will improve your relationship. Even if your partner does not have any complaints or answers to these questions, the mere act of asking will make them feel important and appreciated.
Prioritize Your Relationship
Couple relationships can fall into a repetitive trap, and without the proper skills, you may not be able to pull yourself out of the cycle. Individual partners may begin showing egotism, which entails each partner feeling as though their opinion is the right one. If this is the case, consider which is more important: your relationship, or your desire to be correct. Not feeling heard within your relationship tends to be a two way street, and each partner needs to be sensitive to the other’s needs. Prioritizing the relationship over individual ego and active listing can often combat this particular pitfall; however, if this is not your strong suite, allow a professional to highlight these types of communication blocks so you may successfully overcome them.
Figure out how to agree to disagree, or you will run the risk of continually arguing over the same topic. Accept that your partner may not always share the same opinion. Challenging each other in respectful ways may change the face of your relationship in a positive way. Perhaps you find yourself frustrated with the same issue or reoccurring argument; keep in mind if you try to solve it the same way that has proven to be unsuccessful, you will continue to remain stagnant. Changing your method will change your relationship as long as you are open to the change and willing to take in your partner’s opinion. If you open your mind and you still disagree, you will need to learn to quiet your fears and accept that this is simply not a topic you will agree on.
Know When It’s Unproductive
Learn to walk away from unproductive arguments. This can be one of the toughest changes a couple can make; however, you might see the most success from this simple change. If you find you and your partner stuck in a verbal battle of epic proportions and realize you may never see the end of it, you may need to walk away. I would recommend letting your partner know that you feel the conversation has become unproductive and both of you could use some cooling off. When words become more hurtful than productive, it is time to take this step. Let your partner know you love and respect them and therefore do not want to continue down this destructive path. Go to your separate corners for the night after making an appointment to follow up the very next day.
In conclusion, do what feels right for the betterment of your relationship. Tune-up your relationship by learning and practicing tools to nurture one another, highlight strengths, and work through the weak spots by engaging in positive therapeutic conversation.