Relationship First Aid
October 16, 2017 | Craig Maguire, IMPRESSIONS FCS Inc.
Over the past 30+ years of therapeutic counselling interventions provided to couples and families, many of the presenting issues and concerns expressed by couples today remain unchanged from years gone by. Issues of poor communications or miscommunications amongst couples is certainly a predominant concern expressed; along with, financial management tasks and shared spending responsibilities. For the majority of these couples experiencing relationship unrest, the issue is not of love, compassion and concern for one another. Rather, there is an ever persistent gap in the “connectedness” between them that prevents a clear and concise understanding of each other’s goals and aspirations. As is often the case, when communications fail to produce the results we are seeking, unrest and conflict can present and further hinder couples from achieving the harmony they genuinely wish to secure in their relationship. Naturally, there is no one way to build a “connected” relationship however, there are certainly some commonalities in relationships which have achieved the harmony and understanding that most, if not all, couples wish to achieve.
Although couples of any age can experience relationship issues, it remains consistent in my practice that the majority of couples experiencing relationship discord are in the 20 to 35 age range. For many, they have spent years in developing their careers and are now enjoying the rewards of their dedicated efforts. In general, they express few other issues of concern other than their continual relationship issues which prevent them from feeling safe, secure and confident in their relationship.
For couples who struggle with finding a balance in their relationship that promotes and ensures continuous understanding and commitment to mutual goals and objectives, here are some guidelines which may support you in developing your relationship skills and enhancing your relationship to new heights and many more successes:
Become a better listener: It goes without saying that most of us consider ourselves good listeners. The difficulty here though is that when you are personally involved in a difficult moment or discussion, our ability to often “hear” the messages conveyed to us become construed with our own emotions and thoughts of what we wish to say next. It is difficult to remain objective during these times and sometimes even harder to understand the true messages being given to us. It is important that each partner allow one another ample time to express themselves and to equally allow themselves to listen attentively to the key messages provided to them.
Be a “team” player: By entering into a committed relationship with another, you have voluntarily accepted your role and responsibilities in maintaining open and honest communications and building a relati0nship of trust and confidence with someone you consider to be your life partner. If you are not serious about such a commitment, play fair and allow your partner to know the boundaries of your willingness and acceptance of responsibilities within the relationship. Again, remember that this relationship is an investment and you will likely only be rewarded by the contributions you have personally made within the relationship. Be prepared to discuss financial, emotional, career, etc. issues freely and to mutually arrive at common-sense and realistic goals that suit both partners in a manner that supports and enhances the relationship.
Define mutual goals: It is not uncommon nor inappropriate that each partner will have their own set of goals in life. These do not need to be abandoned however, it is important that goals be established, and clearly defined, for the couple as well in making a life together, planning and raising a family and working toward achieving the milestones you have both set for yourselves.
Make time for one another: All too often, our hectic lives, work schedules, and so on make it difficult to actually spend time with one another in a manner other than the daily household duties and financial accountabilities. There is truly so much more however to enjoy with your partner. Be willing and prepared to make time to enjoy each other’s company and to engage in mutual interests and simple conversations which bring you both pleasure and comfort.
Enjoy mutual interests and romantic opportunities: Many couples struggle with limited free time in which to continue their individual friendships with a sufficient amount of couples friendships and activities at the same time. It is important that a balance be found here as it is important to maintain your individual friends but to also enjoy social activities as a couple and share in the making of memories that will last a lifetime.
Ask more questions: This seems to present many couples significant difficulty. Rather than assuming you know the issues at hand or what your partner is feeling, ask them to explain what they are experiencing and how you can support them in resolving their concerns. You might discover that the issues you thought existed are not as pronounced and insurmountable - once you have a better understanding of your partner’s true intentions and goals.
Be genuine and sincere in your efforts: Nothing disintegrates and damages a relationship more than a lack of trust and confidence. For this reason, follow through on your commitments and ensure that you consider your partner’s feelings in all matters that involve you equally. If you say one thing then follow-through on it and build that trust and confidence that every relationship needs to flourish with comfort and a sense of security.
Never go to bed angry or upset: It is ok to disagree with one another and “lock horns” sometimes when neither of you can agree on a particular topic or issue. With this said, you and your partner are not defined by issues but rather, by your willingness to support one another and always be respectful toward each other. The discussion can always continue tomorrow but don’t go to bed with emotions high and feelings hurt. Be good to one another and always make sure you can find a mutually- satisfying common ground to leave the discussion on. Remember always, the issues don’t control you but instead, you both control the issues. Keep perspective and stay united no matter the differences or similarities in your respective positions.
Be willing to make compromises: If you find yourself consumed with the notion of “winning” or “losing” debates with your partner, regrettably, you are missing the point altogether. A true loving and committed relationship represents two people invested in each other’s happiness, safety and well-being. It’s not about YOU – it’s about you BOTH and building a relationship that respects and honours both your respective needs.
Be best friends with your partner: Remind yourself where your relationship started – as two people who developed a friendship. That friendship then grew into something more pronounced and important in your life. Value this friendship and always maintain the same vigor and attention to the uniqueness and special qualities that make your partner the friend you cherish and adore beyond all others.
No one individual can build and maintain a positive relationship on their own. There will certainly be times when you will feel frustrated and confused however, practice patience and be prepared to review your role and approach with your partner. If your relationship is truly important to you, be patient and willing to change your methods of engagement with your partner. If it is obvious that your current methods are not working successfully, what have you got to lose by trying a different approach and behavior in achieving your goals?
Like any relationship in life, it requires dedication, hard work, committed interest and a genuine desire to make your relationship fulfilling, meaningful and mutually satisfying. With this said, learn how to have fun in your relationship and share in mutual interests. Building your relationship into one that continues to flourish and grow stronger means developing a closeness with your partner; a bond, that allows you both to still function as individuals but also to live as partners in achieving your goals.
Developing these skills and behaviours will be needed in any meaningful relationship you hope to achieve. Be willing to take a closer look at your means and methods of communicating and engaging with your partner. Life will never be a bowl full of cherries but it can, and will, be as special and fulfilling as you are personally prepared to make it. Yes, it does take concerted effort by both parties in a relationship however, be less inclined to place blame or find fault with your partner. Instead, help each other to understand your feelings and what is missing in your relationship. Don’t be afraid to be honest with one another and always treat each other as the best friends you have always been to one another - now, and forever!