Keeping your primary relationship healthy, positive, supportive and together isn’t easy. But it can be done.
“We expect a lot from our relationships, and the fact is, long-term marriages or relationships are difficult to sustain, given the pressures most of us live with,” says Sue Maisch, LSW, a family and child counselor in Glenwood Springs, Colo. “To make it work, couples need the maturity to realize a long-lasting relationship will entail sacrifice, commitment and hard work, but that the payoff of a deeper love and stable, loving home life is well worth the effort.”
Here are suggestions on how to strengthen the connection with your partner.
Resentment, anger and blame are normal reactions when your loved one does something hurtful. Without forgiveness, however, little hurts as well as betrayals can tear a relationship apart.
“People who don’t forgive often have problems maintaining positive feelings toward their partners,” says Ms. Maisch. “But partners who move toward forgiveness are better able to maintain their connection because they make a conscious decision not to dwell on the mistakes their partner has made.”
Every long-term relationship will have its share of disappointments. But learning to look beyond a particular bad patch to see your partner objectively and lovingly can pull you through.
“Remembering and nourishing memories of happy times you’ve had together can help you get past irritation and those times when you’re wondering if you want to stay in the relationship,” says Ms. Maisch.
The way you and your partner say good-bye or hello, or how you celebrate birthdays or anniversaries year after year can help build a strong connection that can keep you emotionally committed during times of conflict.
For example, taking time to kiss your partner good-bye every morning when you leave for work—no matter how late or distracted you are—tells him or her that in the grand scheme of things your relationship is a high priority.
“Jumping in and interrupting when your partner is trying to tell you something can make him or her frustrated or discouraged,” says Ms. Maisch. “It’s crucial to listen more than you speak when you’re having a serious discussion.”
Secrets and lies weaken the foundation of any relationship. Ignoring problems (another form of keeping secrets) doesn’t make them go away. What is important is respectful, open communication regarding your feelings and dreams.
Even the truest of friends and most compatible partners argue. To keep your disagreements from damaging your relationship, set up some respectful ground rules during a calm moment.
These might include no name-calling or criticizing, making sure each person gets to have a say, really listening to each other and taking a break from the discussion if it gets too heated, as long as you promise to revisit the issues within a day or two.
If you and your partner keep having the same arguments with no progress in sight, seek help from a therapist or marriage counselor.
“Above all don’t wait until your connection has been seriously damaged before you get help,” says Ms. Maisch. “Get counseling before one or both of you become entrenched in negative emotions.”
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