Has your relationship fallen into a rut? Do you live separate lives side by side? Or does it feel more like you are arguing and getting on each other’s nerves all the time? It could just be that things aren’t as sparkling as they once were, and you are starting to notice things about your significant other which you’d rather not have seen. Whether your relationship is in turmoil or you just aren’t seeing eye-to-eye, you have before you only a few options. You can try to tackle these issues together, but on your own. You can seek out and start having regular sessions with a couple’s therapist or you could not do a thing and just wait and see what happens. It’s great to have the sound advice of a professional you trust. There are inhibiting factors such as the cost and bearing your soul to someone you hardly know. A therapist isn’t for everyone. But there are certain steps you can take to increase the likelihood of a positive outcome, or perhaps a revitalization of the relationship, no matter how serious the issues between you. Here are some steps you can take on your own and with your partner too, to help get your relationship back on track. Here’s how to fix your relationship like a therapist. First, take your emotions out of the equation. Usually, when we are in some sort of conflict with someone we start to justify our side, thinking who is right, who is wrong and for what reasons. But this process can actually impede the thinking process that needs to occur. Instead, think about the patterns of behavior you and your significant other take part in. Who starts it? What are the situations that trigger this behavior? What escalates it? What kinds of behavior would instead be more cooperative and less abrasive?
In therapy you often hear the phrase, “pattern is more powerful than people.” There are certain good patterns that we ourselves exhibit and those that we exhibit in our relationship. But negative patterns have to be analyzed with clear heads and the best of intentions. Once you see the negative pattern and how it emerges you can take steps to head it off and instead supplant it with a more positive alternative. Instead of taking part in behavior such as nagging, let your partner know that you don’t want to nag, and what would be a better or nicer way to communicate that would make more of an impression without upsetting or annoying your partner. Look at your own negative patterns and how they contribute to the relationship. Take steps to change them. Let your partner know what you’ve noticed and what steps you are taking. They’ll appreciate it and perhaps it will send them down a path of self-reflection. But one person we can always change is ourselves. In therapy there is a dichotomy, what and how. What is what the issue is in order to be resolved. How is how to resolve it. How is the process. So the facts of the argument are the content and the fact that you are both getting angry is the process. But most people focus too much on content. Instead, switch your focus and instead look deeply into the process. Notice how your partner deals with conflict and how you yourself react to it. Is it anger or withdrawal? The best thing to do is to start doing the opposite of what your instincts tell you to do. If you usually withdraw, instead step forward and say what’s on your mind. If you are prone to anger, walk away and take a breather. Then collect your thoughts. You’ll soon find that you can come to arguments with a clear head. Suggest it to your partner, too.
Always conduct yourself as an adult. Sometimes the pull to do the opposite of that can be so strong. But in the end, what will it do? It will just make it more difficult to reconcile and will drive you both farther apart. You have to both agree to argue without disrespecting one another. Don’t go out of your way to hurt anyone. No sarcasm or passive-aggressive behavior. Often it’s easier to do at work than at home. But it will go such a long way to minimizing the heat and resentment in your relationship. Start to look at relationship problems in a new way, as bad solutions to an underlying problem. Whatever issue you are experiencing in your relationship be it arguing, lack of support when it comes to household chores, lack of sex, there is a deeper underlying problem that is exhibiting itself in this manner. So if you find a better solution to the underlying problem, fear, worry or repressed anger, then these other problems will dissipate. Don’t get stuck in past transgressions unless they illuminate on a current behavior. Remember to keep the focus on each person’s behavior and reaction to that behavior, not emotion. Sometimes we get so engulfed in how we feel that we forget to examine the behavior that created the problem. Support your partner. Be on their side. Talk it out. Be loving. Be there for them. Think about what you want and need and how to talk about it in a new way, and be open to what your partner has on their mind, too. For more, pick up a copy of Long Lasting Love: 7 Secrets to Creating a Harmonious Relationship that Marriage Therapists don’t want you to Know by Dr. James A. Anderson.