Keeping Your Relationship Strong

Monday, August 06, 2012

You know it, I know it - every committed relationship struggles at one point or another. There are even statistics about 4 and 8 year benchmarks (actually, the statistics really say it is more like 3 and 7 years), when conflict tends to be high and relationships struggle most.

Knowing this, what kind of Millie would I be if I didn't impart something of my own experience and knowledge to the rest of the Milspouse world? Not a very good one, I think, as the whole point of my blog is to connect with and help other Millies - young and seasoned alike.

As a therapist, I am in a unique position to give advice that often works. It's not that I am good at what I do (though I like to think I am), but my suggestions derive from a wealth of research in my field. A caveat: I don't always follow the advice I give my own clients, because let's face it, I am human and I make mistakes like everyone else. In the 10 years that I have been with Jeff, though, I have learned some valuable lessons that being a therapist has enhanced.

  1. Don't insult your partner! Name-calling, insults, personal attacks, and nasty jibes only achieve one thing: they drive a wedge between you and your partner. These tactics are not successful at "driving the point home" - they just drive your partner away.
  2. If you find yourselves frequently yelling each other, come up with some kind of system for calling a time out. Not the kind of time out where you each pick a corner to stand in and stare at the wall, but the kind where you pick something relaxing and calming to do for 15-20 minutes while you cool down. It's not time to stew and come up with incredible come-backs, but to geneuinely reframe, collect yourself, and approach your partner for discussion, not more fighting.
  3. Be patient, and actually listen to your partner. Seems easy right? If you are already thinking up your retort, you're not listening. If you're agitated, you are not really listening. Instead, focus on what your partner is saying as if you had to summarize it for an exam. Listen for the points they emphasize, and when they are finished, say something like, "I want to make sure I understood what you said, and correct me if I missed anything or get something wrong. It sounds like you said..."
  4. Use a neutral tone for the above and other sensitive subjects. There is no room for sarcasm in healthy relationships when it is at the expense of someone. Consider it along the same lines of #1 - it's an absolute no-no!
  5. Your body language is just as important as your tone of voice and the words you use. Use body language that invites healthy dialogue. Don't use body language that will act as a barrier between you and your partner or that sends them the message, "Get away from me!" or "Don't touch me!"
Learning to communicate in healthier ways is a lifelong practice. Trust me, no one is perfect, and even the best relationship experts have struggled, will struggle, or are struggling at this very moment. We are all human, after all. With trust, acceptance, and honesty your relationship will only get stronger and thrive.

Good luck!



(Image: Words Over Pixels)

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