“A healthy relationship will never require you to sacrifice your friends, your dreams, or your dignity.” ~ Dinkar Kalotra
Happy Anniversary to me and my sweetie! Today, August 22nd, is our 26th. It hasn’t always been easy. On the contrary, we’ve had our share of challenges, because neither of us knew how to be a good partner in a relationship. At times, we didn’t even know if we were going to make it. It has taken courage, vulnerability and a lot of mindful determination to cultivate a healthy, lasting relationship.
We both come from emotionally impoverished homes, so we started with unhealthy ways of getting our needs met. Today, we share a loving relationship mostly because we have worked persistently to understand and appreciate each other and fight fairly. It will continue to be a daily effort and a life-long journey.
One very significant thing I’ve learned is that I can only change me – I can’t change my sweetie. Nor do I want to. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things that irritate me, but I’ve discovered how to be a good partner in a relationship. Rather than waiting for your partner to initiate change, start with yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easily your partner follows. Let me share some other discoveries…
Practice acceptance not judgment. Your partner is who he or she is. When you truly value your partner’s unique qualities and gifts, you build your partner up. Being overly critical really hurts, so that’s something to be avoided.
Look for the positive. The more you focus on something, the larger it becomes in your mind. If you focus on positive things, you’ll have fewer irritations. If you do need to call attention to a negative aspect, do it in a positive way. Commend first, and then state the source of friction as a shared problem, looking for how both of you can contribute toward a solution.
Be more giver than taker. People who give are happier. And it encourages your partner to reciprocate in kind.
Show appreciation and gratitude. Gratitude is more than a feeling. It needs to be expressed in thankful words and actions. “I appreciate this about you” or “I’m so glad you…” are phrases that need to be spoken often.
Work as a team of “we.” “Me, you, I, yours, mine” are words that create division and an adversarial atmosphere. But when you speak and act as “we,” you’re a team, working toward a common goal. It’s important to have shared goals and routines. Regularly eating and talking together helps create a happy relationship. And look for ways to help each other every day.
Apologize often. If you’re always trying to be right, you’re going to lose your loving relationship. Apologizing is a way of acknowledging that you understand the way your partner feels. “I’m sorry I made you feel…” can solve a world of problems.
Be realistic about the ups and downs. You want your partner to be there for you, so look for ways you can always be there for your partner. Celebrate the good times and work together to get through the hard times.
Practice vulnerability. This one is hard, because we’re so afraid of rejection. To achieve real intimacy, you have to be willing to be vulnerable. Successful communication with your partner involves picking the right time and the right words. A quiet, relaxed time allows you to open up slowly to your partner. In that way you can test the waters. If your initial revelation is met with acceptance and love, then you’ll feel like you can open up further. Set the stage with comments like, “I really need to tell you how I’m feeling about something, and it’s not easy for me. So I don’t need you to “fix” anything, I just need you to let me get it all out. Okay?”
Keep the playfulness and novelty alive. You may think you know each other well, but let me assure you there’s plenty left to discover. And nothing brings that out like making time to play together. Try new and exciting activities together. Keep your sense of humor and don’t take life too seriously.
Show affection. Humans thrive on touch, and communication is improved when we incorporate the power of touch. Daily hugging, kissing, or hand holding are important. Look for ways to perform little acts of kindness.
Give your partner space. Find that sweet spot where you both feel close, without feeling smothered.
Fight fair. Set boundaries of when and how you’ll discuss disagreements. Yelling, hitting, name-calling or character assassination has no place in a loving relationship. Practice active listening and be willing to compromise.
To be a good partner in a relationship takes being a good communicator. Most of us have not been taught how to do that. If you’d like to learn how to express your feelings in ways that build strong relationships, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).