Relationships involve many things: fun, intimacy, sharing, struggle, confrontation, feeling trapped, responsibility, hard work, growing together, boredom, joy, and change. When people are young, they dream about the relationship they will have some day. Then when it finally happens, it can be a wondrous experience, a sad disappointment, or some state between the two. If they are not in a relationship, people yearn for one and feel as if their lives are not complete; yet, once involved, they can feel frustrated and disappointed. However, there is hope for less than fulfilling relationships. People can change behaviors that are not working and re-educate themselves. Relationships can be successfully salvaged, sometimes with the help of a professional counselor, when the following changes are made.
Many couples don’t communicate. Verbal communication is probably much less than thirty minutes a day. This may be due to different time schedules; an overload of responsibilities; resentments that have built over time; or a lack of knowledge about how to communicate. To begin to enhance their communications, couples must pick a few times each week to get together without being interrupted for perhaps thirty minutes. Each person may have fifteen minutes to talk, broken up into five minute segments. The listener may not interrupt and the listener may not respond other than to say “Yes, I hear you.” Above all, he or she should put aside all critical thoughts and feelings of disrespect for the speaker.
Good communications involves sharing feelings. Partners who risk sharing honestly with each other, even if what they say sometimes hurt, do better than those who don’t risk sharing. When feelings such as annoyance, resentment, sadness, hurt, disappointment, jealousy, and envy build up inside, these pent-up emotions can lead to stress, addiction, physical illness, irrational outbursts, and depression. Pent-up unexpressed emotions are relationship killers. People think they are hiding how they really feel, but it comes across anyway.
A feeling should be shared without blaming or attacking the other person. The model for the correct expression of feeling is: When you do..X., I feel..Y., because…Z. For example, if your husband comes home late for dinner and he has not called, you might say, “When you don’t call, I feel hurt, because it seems as if I am not as important as other aspects of your life.”
Expectations, Judgments, and Negative Thinking:
If a person has an expectation that is not met, he or she becomes angry. People have expectations for each other based on the belief that “I am right.” Housework, cooking, making money, arranging for social events, putting the children to bed, initiating romantic interactions, planning for vacations, and dealing with in-laws, are some of the many behaviors governed by fairly rigid expectations. If one person falls short of his expected role or behavior, the other is often disappointed and resentful. The belief is “It should be this way!”
Rationally, one must question whether “it” really need be any particular way. “Oughts” and “shoulds” need to fall by the wayside. Accepting the partner’s frailties as a human being and letting go of unrealistic and harsh expectations is a priority for healthy relationships.
Touch and Physical Contact:
All close personal relationships need physical contact. Hugs, a light touch on the shoulder, a pat on the head and a back massage are various forms of letting someone know you care. Touch is the most intimate and most meaningful form of communication between two people; therefore, it is important to make an effort each day to touch the other, even if it is a very simple gesture.
Disagreements and Arguments:
Arguments are a way of letting off tension and steam and coping with genuine issues where there may be conflict and disagreement. Arguing will not lead to the end of a relationship. Instead, the opposite is the case. Once the disagreement is aired, there is a tendency to feel even closer than before.
Key issues about arguments are:
Stick with a subject of the disagreement; no name calling or mean and nasty judgments; pick a time for the argument that is agreeable to both parties; if there is too much rage present, stop the argument and wait for a calmer time; try to achieve some kind of resolution, even if it is just an agreement to disagree.
Independence of Thought and Action:
Relationships that do well allow freedom to pursue one’s own interests and activities, as long as they do not throw off the internal balance that has been achieved. Rather than becoming jealous and feeling threatened that the other might leave if there is too much independence, show support, i.e., “That’s a great idea. How can I help you get started?”
Doing Things Together:
Sharing some activities and experiences is another aspect of a happy, healthy, relationship. Couples should look for common things they can enjoy. For some it is going out to dinner, others enjoy attending concerts or plays, and others like physical activities such as walking, running or biking. Those who can’t find anything in common have to work harder and force themselves to experiment until an activity they can both agree upon is identified.
Another relationship essential is commitment. There needs to be an inner focus in each person to want to make the relationship work. There is a desire to enjoy the good times and work through the hard times because the other person is a significant part of one’s life and special in some way that cannot be duplicated.
Prayer or Meditation:
Sometimes just asking for guidance, from a higher power or from an inner guide, can be a source of much comfort and support. If there is a problem in the relationship, taking time to meditate upon it and seeking help with it may lead to the solution.
The Will to Love:
Growth and development involve the heart and the will to love. The heart integrates the whole organism, providing pulsating energy streams that flow into the body, the emotional system, and the mind. The heart is controlled and directed by the creative focus of one’s inner wisdom, but it is also helped by the will, the part that motivates and directs one’s actions. It is important to use your will to love. Love doesn’t just happen, romance happens, chemistry happens, but to take it to the next step, and create LOVE, people must use their WILL.