BY GRAHAM W PRICE.
You’re having more arguments than you used to. Your partner’s behaviour is starting to irritate you. Intimacy seems to be on the wane. Here are 21 tips for dealing with challenges in your relationship.
1. Recognise each of you has been doing your best given your perspective, attitudes, abilities, strengths, weaknesses and awareness at each moment.
2. You may not agree with each other’s perspective and attitudes but they are what they are right now and are simply a product of our life history up to each moment.
3. Understand each of you believes you’re being reasonable from your perspective and hence that your thoughts, behaviours and beliefs are justified. People always do.
4. Try to understand your partner’s perspective. It’s different from your own. Criticising them because they have a different perspective is denying those differences.
5. When your partner pushes your buttons, remember that has as much to do with your buttons as it has to do with their behaviour. The way we react to other people’s behaviour is always determined by our own programming, which is why different people react in different ways to the same event. So when we find ourselves reacting it pays to take responsibility for our reactions. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be having them … it just means we can own them instead of blaming them on the other person.
6. If you can own your reactions and understand your partner is doing their best with the perspective and awareness they have right now, you can let go of the need to maintain any conflict.
7. Stop trying to control your partner and to win every argument. Try to understand their needs instead.
8. Stop wishing that whatever has happened hadn’t happened or that the situation you’re in right now were already different. The past and present moment can never be different. And if you’ve both been doing your best with the perspective and awareness you had at each moment, they couldn’t have been different anyway. Accept ‘what is’ and focus on improving the future.
9. Keeping the above in mind, talk with your partner about any issues you each may have.
10. Use ‘I’ statements where possible. “I get upset when you do that. I’m not blaming you but I need your help to deal with it”. This usually works better than criticising their behaviour. Criticism generally just results in defence and counter-attack and gets you nowhere.
11. Listen to each other without interruption. The aim is first to understand the other person’s perspective.
12. Each focus initially on what you could change rather than just trying to change your partner.
13. Recognising you’ve both been doing your best given your perspective and awareness at the time, understand neither of you is to blame. Replace blame with responsibility. Blame is about wanting the past to be different (which it can never be) or thinking it should have been different (which it couldn’t have been if you were both doing your best given your awareness at the time). Responsibility is about recognising past mistakes and focusing on improving the future. The aim is not to find blame but to resolve issues and move forward.
14. Don’t focus just on past events. Accept them and let them go. Focus instead on making a better future.
15. Recognise the positives in your relationship, not just the issues.
16. Be courteous, tactful and empathic.
17. Avoid making too many assumptions about how your partner is thinking. Ask them. Don’t expect them to read your mind either.
18. Agree some goals and what actions you’re going to take to achieve them.
19. Make time to spend together without the distraction of children or others. Do some things together that you both enjoy outside your usual routine.
20. If things have already gone from bad to worse, think about whether some relationship counselling could help.
21. Recognise each other’s efforts and celebrate your achievements.
Relationships usually benefit from being worked on, especially when they’ve begun to age a little. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Oil the wheels and keep them running smoothly.
About the Author
Graham W Price is a chartered psychologist, CBT (Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy) specialist, relationships counsellor, coach, development trainer and professional speaker. He’s also the developer of Acceptance-Action Therapy and Acceptance-Action Training. He’s an accredited member of the British Psychological Society (BPS), the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and a registered practitioner psychologist with the Health Professions Council (HPC).
He is author of “What Is, Is! The Power of Positive Acceptance” published by HotHive, outlining tools for achieving satisfaction, resilience and success in life and in relationships.