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Couples relationship, like any relationship can take different shapes and forms, some healthy and some don’t. Although it takes two to tango, it only takes one to stumble. Even though it is never black and white when it comes to “who creates the problem in the relationship,” different possibilities might take place (one person is at fault, one person has more difficulty, both are at fault or both are having difficulty etc.). To add to the complexity, each partner has their own subjective view that often prevents them from seeing their own personal issues or challenges, but rather focuses on their partner’s contribution to the problem.
The subjective reality is often amplified when individuals are emotionally charged and their judgment is clouded. This happened when angeror other uncomfortable emotions are triggered. During these difficult emotional moments, the individual feels that they need to protect themselves while focusing on their personal needs or desires.
If partners want to change their unhealthy dynamic to a healthy one, they need to look at the bigger picture and think long term, while being directed by this simple (but difficult) question “Is my own behavior (NOT my partner) beneficial or hurtful to the relationship?” A follow up question, is more reflective and requires us to take responsibility to our part in the problem in the relationship. You may ask yourself, “What do I do to perpetuate or amplify the problem or the conflict?” Or, a complimentary question would be “What do I need to do to Deescalate the conflicting/problematic situation?”
Other ideas that can help couples establish healthy relationship are:
Don’t try to change your partner – After the “honeymoon” (attraction, passion, and infatuation) period that most couples begin with, which is clearly very rewarding and fulfilling, the differences between the individuals in the relationship become more apparent. The focus becomes on what you don’t get or what you don’t like or gain in the relationship. The period after the “honeymoon” is normally disappointing and becomes unpleasant. Our instinctual desire is to hold on to the pleasant feeling of our ideal partner and strongly change our partner to become this ideal partner. The desire and actions to change our partner may lead the couples to a period of conflict and power struggle.
Focus on changing your perspective – Internalizing and accepting that each individual in the relationship is different and that each one has different views, preferences, personalities and values is not easy. So, rather than trying to change your partner (which is beyond your control and destructive to the relationship), work on changing your perspective about your partner. It is easier to change your perspective than changing your partner. Focus on the positive elements and the value your partner brings to the relationship. Look at the bigger picture and avoid having narrow view that focus on the negatives.
Give to your partner (don’t wait for you partner to start giving) – True happiness comes within. It is not happened when we get it from others. Yes, it is clearly makes us feel good when we receive from others what we want. But, what happened when we don’t get it from your partner? True happiness is more about how we love ourselves and others. Learn how to find your happiness regardless of your partner’s behavior. Yet, understand that being nice to your partner, would lead you to have a better relationship. The indirect outcome of loving others, is the love of self. In addition, the more you give to your partners, encourages your partner to do more for you (as they feel better) and it increases your chances to get what you want too. So, don’t wait for your partner to give to you and then give back. Think the opposite, the more you give, the more you will get.
Be involved with shared activities – Shared activities or participating in the same activities together portray connection, intimacy and support. The activity can be watching a movie or TV together, having sex, parenting, meeting friends, cleaning the apartment, engage in a social club or sporting activity etc. The common activities lead to emotional closeness and create strong bond.
Live and let live – Be proactive in finding personal fulfillment and don’t expect the other person to fill that for you. Yet, respect your partners pursuing their own activities and dreams even when you don’t like it. It is important to provide ourselves an internal sense of self that our emotions, thoughts or aspirations are valuable. This allows us to have the bravery to pursue our dreams and truth and be honest with our partner even when our partner does not like it. This requires courage and assertive attitude, but ultimately will provide us sense of fulfillment and happiness. As couples mature, they become more respectful to individual interests. Each partner, also, find ways to support their partner in pursuing their activities and likes and even encourage their partner to engage in fulfilling activities.
Change is hard. Some couples will choose to separate, while many will carry their own personal challenges to their next relationship. Others are able to change and make the necessary adjustments needed to honor and love their partner. Some couples will stay together, yet will maintain the power-struggle to be stuck in painful miserable patterns. It is pretty clear, that for the relationship to survive and flourish, the love, respect and commitment in the couple must be strong enough to accommodate the changes and the evolutionary process of intimacy.
Please visit author, Moshe Ratson (Licensed Marriage Family Therapist, NYC) at his google+ Profile: