What is a good relationship? One definition might be feeling enough trust in the other person that you can express your sense of self and are able to share with your partner your innermost thoughts and feelings. If an environment exists where you feel safe and that the other person cares about you, it is possible to tackle problems before they become intractable, offering the chance to forgive and to move forward with you relationship strengthened. Often the thing which destroys a relationship is when a secret or a feeling is held in and not spoken about. If it comes out often there is a strong feeling of betrayal because the trust that was there is suddenly undermined for the partner discovering this secret or feeling held about them. They struggle to fit it into their model of how the relationship works. Similarly something might happen, and you feel judged by your partner and you cannot bring yourself to discuss it with them.
Is it possible to prevent problems in relationships building? Are there simple steps that you can take?
Perhaps the first step is a health check for your relationship. While each relationship will be different, asking questions such as: do we seem to argue more than we used to? Do we spend time together and or have shared values and goals? How do we handle disagreement? Do you come to a compromise or do you avoid each other or snap at each other? It is a bit of a cliché but relationships have to be worked at and looking at your own relationship do you see yourselves working to strengthen it or do you rely on shared history to stay together?
Of course if we were only to enumerate the problems in a relationship it is unlikely to help but rather highlight everything going wrong. The next stage is to decide what you (jointly) would like to do to change what you have found and indeed realise that if one partner feels that the relationship is not working that is a problem for you both. Communication is at the very heart of any relationship and finding time and a way that you can communicate with each other is the key. Learning to argue can be key to settling differences of opinion within your relationship.
It is also helpful if you can use language carefully so say I feel, I think, it seems to me. That is; own your criticism, so that the other partner has the chance to empathise to see the behaviour without feeling they have to defend themselves against a generalisation. By giving specific examples, you can help to show where you feelings come from. Finally try to be empathic, perhaps the person does not know that their habit of cracking their knuckles drives you crazy, so perhaps words like, I am not sure if I have said before, or I know that you might not realise… will help.
Try to remember that the purpose of talking about your relationship is to make things better not worse, so it is more useful to dwell on solutions than to concentrate on making the other partner feel defeated, so resist the temptation to throw in unhelpful criticism: “you always thrown your clothes on the floor!”, while it may be true is unlikely to lead to a suggestion of a solution.
Finally remember that everyone is not perfect and that includes you, so be open to criticism and listen to it rather than immediately becoming defensive. If you feel it is something you could change or that you did wrong be responsible enough to say so. Equally your partner will have faults and they can’t be rid of them all and loving them for some of those are what relationships are about.
We can work at our relationships a little each day and like a cable, we weave a thread each day and it becomes an unbreakable cable.