Relationships can be very challenging at times. Although we may care deeply for our partner, we sometimes struggle with communicating our needs in a healthy and assertive way. Because our intimate relationships affect us on the deepest emotional level, we can also be easily triggered from time to time. This problem can be compounded if our partner has learned to deal with problems in a different way than we have.
Anytime we allow ourselves to get close to another person and to be vulnerable, we open ourselves to potential wounding. Most often, the hurt we experience is due to misunderstandings or differences in communication styles.
Some people tend to openly express all of their feelings, whereas others tend to keep their emotions bottled up inside. These differences are frequently caused by our upbringing, as well as our social conditioning. For example, men are often taught in our society that expressing their emotions is a sign of weakness, so they may be less prone to overt emotional manifestations than women. This lack of outer expression can sometimes be frustrating to their partners, who may feel unappreciated or unloved.
The following are steps that you can follow in order to bring more harmony to your relationships:
- Communicate clearly. In any relationship, communication is key. Whenever you feel upset about a situation in your life, make sure that you talk about whatever is bothering you with your partner. Keeping your feelings bottled up inside will only lead to further problems down the line.
- Schedule regular date times. Take the time to reconnect with one another by doing activities that you enjoy together. Either go out to your favorite restaurant or take a romantic walk along the beach or in the woods, but whatever you choose, allow this time to be dedicated to just the two of you.
- Turn off cell phones and electronics when having an important conversation or when out on a date (except for emergencies). Too often nowadays, when couples spend time together they are actually engaged in another conversation with a third party on the phone or via text. This only leads to further feelings of isolation, rather than feelings of closeness.
- Do separate activities, as well as activities together. Too much togetherness can be difficult for any relationship. Set aside some time on a regular basis to do activities that you each enjoy doing separately. This could be anything from taking a yoga class to catching up with your friends over a cup of coffee or tea.
- Set healthy boundaries in your relationship and life. If you are feeling overworked and underappreciated, learn to say no to any additional commitments. Review your responsibilities and try to distribute them more equitably. Have everyone in the household participate in the daily chores. Turn down yet another invitation in favor of spending some quality time at home with your partner or family.
- Review your finances together. Couples tend to argue more about their cash flow and where their money gets spent than about any other issue. Sit down together and look over your financial situation. If you are struggling with serious financial problems, you may need to consult a financial planner to get back on track. Otherwise, try to come up with a realistic budget that you can both agree on.
- Be assertive about your needs. If you feel as though your needs are not being met in your relationship, have an honest conversation with your loved one, rather than allowing the situation to fester. We sometimes expect our partners to know what our needs are without openly expressing them, which can lead to hurt feelings and misunderstandings.
- Be willing to compromise. There will always be issues that trigger us in our relationships, and we need to be willing to be flexible and to make compromises when needed. Try putting yourself in your partner’s shoes in order to look at the situation more objectively and to understand their point of view.
- Take time out to cool down during an argument, rather than saying things you might regret later. Anytime you feel as though your anger is getting the best of you, tell your partner that you need a little time to get your temper under control before continuing with the conversation. Then go for a walk and try to see the situation from a different perspective before addressing the issue again.
- Get out of an abusive relationship. If you are in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship, get the help you need to leave the relationship. If possible, take refuge with family members or close friends. Otherwise, seek out a shelter in your area that specializes in helping individuals who’ve been battered or abused. Understand that the cycle of power and control that exists in abusive relationships will not change unless one or both partners seek professional help.
If you have tried some or all of the suggestions listed above and you are still experiencing problems with your relationship, individual or couples therapy is another effective alternative for getting your relationship on track. An empathic psychotherapist can often help you to resolve the communication problems you’ve been dealing with and to reconnect with your partner in a more fulfilling and intimate way.
© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California
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