Brian Clemmons, M.Ed., LPC
Whether it is family, work, school, community activities, our faith community, or any other connection that we have, we have learned to interact differently over the past year.
This may be an opportune time to evaluate and possibly modify how we relate to and think about our romantic connections.
To that end, the following is a list of 10 short tips for your consideration.
- Do the maintenance. We go to the doctor for annual check ups of our bodies, teeth and eyes. We eat healthy and exercise. We even change the oil in our cars. How often do we deliberately and intentionally put in work to keep our relationship strong? Seth J. Gillihan, PhD- Clinical Psychologist says: “…a relationship is like a garden: even when it is doing well, weeds can grow and overtake it.” Work to understand your partner’s world view. How do they feel and believe about different things? Who are their heroes? What can you do today to show them how you feel about them? What has them worried or stressed? What inspires them?
- Really see your partner. A popular morning radio show- The Bobby Bones Show- has a segment entitled “I See You”. It is a news section that acknowledges someone for a kind or significant act by telling their story and stating what impact this person had on others by what they did. Do this for the one you love. Do it when they come in with the groceries, sit down to watch tv, or just get home from work. Really LOOK at them and SEE them. See something cool they did recently. See something they do faithfully without being asked. See them with fresh eyes. Then instead of “I love you” say : “I SEE You!”. You and they could be surprised at the reaction.
- Hush up and Listen! You may have heard the words but did you comprehend or really get them? Everyone wants to be heard. After hearing your partner, state back to them what you understood them to say. Did you get it right? Keep talking until you have heard them accurately. You may not agree with what they said, but you can validate their feelings as legitimate. This is respect.
- Don’t “should” on each other. Should is a troublesome word indeed. It suggests that things are not correct in their current state and they ought to be different. It is always entirely opinion -based. Stating shoulds also builds resentments and hurt feelings. He should do this, she should have said that, etc. Try instead to say what you would like or wish would happen. “I would really appreciate it if you could be home for dinner by 6pm”.
This goes much farther than:”You get off at 5 and there is no earthly reason you should not be home by 6 to eat’.
- Always assume the best. It is far too easy to misinterpret or assume the worst. How we react to others has much to do with how we feel about ourselves. Choose an attitude of positivity. “ Today, I am going to imagine the best in every encounter, every conversation, and every person”. Create a space for the world to show up in a positive way. If something proves to be otherwise, so be it. But don’t you go making things negative automatically. This can place a hair trigger on your emotions and reactions.
- Don’t argue when you’re not in shape to do so. It has been said that we should not go to bed angry. In my personal and professional experience, few people are in any shape to work out a disagreement when they are exhausted. We cannot create a solution when we are in the same frame of mind in which the problem was created. Have an understanding with your partner that either of you can call a timeout and reschedule a better time to pick up working out the problem. This will give you each time and space to calm down and think better of what needs to happen to restore peace.
- Take care of you. You cannot give away that which you do not possess. If you’re empty, you can’t pour into another. Stay in touch with what is important to you and your sense of self. If saying yes to your partner means saying no to yourself, it would be wise to ask if this is a healthy decision.
- Get real and stay real. This happily ever after image that so many folks seek but cannot attain or maintain is pure fairy tale. A real and deep relationship is one in which you work together when things are tough, wonky or just boring. Happiness is what you get as a byproduct of putting in the work. It is not a place you arrive at and receive your mail.
- No Mindreading! Say what your preferences are. It is unrealistic to expect another to know what you want unless you communicate it to them. Likewise, do not assume you know how they think or feel unless they tell you or show you.
- Be kind and seek to find a kind person with which to be. This is a good guideline for romantic, business and friendship relationships also. If a person is kind, they are generally flexible, respectful, and good to have on your team.
Inspiration for this blog was taken from the following magazines:
The Cut, 20 People on the Best Relationship Advice They Ever Received by Alexia LaFata.
Womens Health, 10 Best Pieces of Relationship Advice from Couples Counselors by Marissa Gainsburg.