Small, Simple ways to improve your Marriage

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Small, Simple ways to improve your Marriage

It isn’t easy staying married, as today’s divorce rate can attest. But it isn’t always big problems that break up a married couple. Often it’s a buildup of little things that turn into a tidal wave of problems which ultimately wash away the couple’s married future. Fight back against the tide of tiny destroyers. Here are some small, simple ways to improve your marriage right now and move forward from this instant on. Follow these and the road ahead will be much smoother.

If you want to stay close, when you are wrong, apologize. Don’t insist you are right for pride’s sake. Your pride will get between you and your spouse. When you are in an argument, don’t only view it from your perspective. Try and see things from their point of view. Use your imagination. How would you feel? What would your reaction be? Putting yourself in their shoes will calm your anger, give you a little sympathy and help to organize the negotiation phase, conjuring up a plan on how to satisfy both of you without harming either. Laugh when you two are together. It is far more important to enjoy each other’s company. It will make your bond strong and resilient.

Pencil sex in if you two are so busy and don’t have time for a long, drawn out romantic encounter. A marriage without physical intimacy gets dull and fades. But being intimate together, even if it’s just a quickie a couple of times a week, will make you closer, release tension and help keep the spark alive. It’s important to make sure that you attack life as a team. That’s why a weekly meeting is important. Instead of killing the relationship with nagging and arguments, schedule a time each week to tackle important issues and solve them. Make a running list throughout the week on what is to be covered. Solve your problems at that time and spend some other alone time during the week enjoying each other’s company. Talk about the little things in life, good and bad. Talk about everything. Keep the lines of communication open and free.

Make sure you schedule some time for your own hobbies, friends, interests, and so on. Don’t yell. It doesn’t solve anything. It only makes matters worse. If you want to yell excuse yourself and go yell in another room, in a pillow or in your car while it’s parked. Then when you calm down schedule a time to revisit the issue, discussing how it makes you feel and possible solutions. Show gratitude. Thank the other person for what they do. And expect gratitude in return too. For some fun relationship advice read, Advice for a Happy Marriage: From Miss Dietz’s Third-Grade Class by Debi Dietz Crawford and Friends.

The Rules of Engagement for Fighting Fair

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The Rules of Engagement for Fighting Fair

Arguing in a relationship is eventual, even necessary. From fighting, boundaries are found, deep seeded issues are exposed and can be dealt with, and development and healing really have their roots in conflict. What breaks people up is fighting unfairly. You need to learn the rules of engagement for fighting fair. The first one is focus on the goal. In the heat of an argument all of a sudden lovers become adversaries who throw down their gauntlets and will do whatever it takes to win. But this mindset is poisonous for a relationship.

Instead, focus on tackling a problem cooperatively instead of competitively. If you are used to fighting a certain way explain to your partner before your next squabble that you don’t want to do this anymore. That you love them and don’t want to fight like this with them but want to find a way to work together instead. If they are yelling at you or goading you into a fight, don’t take the bait. Instead, walk away. Or tell them “I don’t want to do this with you.” Or “I hate it when we hurt each other.” That will stop them cold. Focus on the crux of the conflict. Do the two of you interpret the same set of events in different ways? Interpretation is everything.

If you think something is no big deal but your sweetie flips their lid, and you act like it’s no big deal instead of validating their feelings, you are essentially saying that they are no big deal, since they care about it. Then they will go on and on to prove to you why it’s important, and if you dig in on your side to protect your ego, whammy, you have a fight on your hands. Instead, try listening actively. Listen to what your lover says and repeat it back to them. See if you’ve got it right. It might sound silly at first. But if you can figure out how the two of you interpret something you can plan a way of dealing with the situation that suits both of you. Oftentimes fights are more over miscommunication than anything else. Usually both sides mean well but misunderstand one another, and so a fight ensues.

Tell the person how you feel when they say certain things that upset you. Don’t throw past arguments or issues in your partner’s face. That isn’t fair. It isn’t helpful and they will resent you for it. Don’t call each other names. You will regret it and they will be hurt. Sarcasm doesn’t move anything forward, it only slows the process down. If you feel yourself getting heated or your lover is, suggest that you two couch the problem and discuss it at another time. Be sure to mention when so that your lover doesn’t feel like you are blowing them off. Don’t insult or give a low blow. Show respect when fighting. Think of arguments as the pruning that helps your relationship develop and grow. For more advice read, The High-Conflict Couple: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy Guide to Finding Peace, Intimacy & Validation by Alan E. Fruzzetti, Ph.D. and Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D.

Are you Giving Too Much and Not Getting Enough in Return?

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Are you Giving Too Much and Not Getting Enough in Return?

If you are in a relationship where you feel emotionally drained bending over backwards for your significant other, while they hardly lift a finger for you than this isn’t real love. In fact, you are being taken advantage of. Some people are born givers and they don’t know where to draw the line. Some people are codependent. And although it may look alright on the surface, in fact this is a very unhealthy relationship for both parties. And some people have low self-worth and so let their significant other walk all over them. Or perhaps, someone could just be in the wrong relationship, where what they do for their significant other is no longer appreciated. Instead, they are taken for granted and don’t see much coming down the pike in the other direction. Traffic only goes one way.

Are you giving too much and not getting enough in return? Here are some indicators. See if these fit your situation. The first question is, do you agree to disagree on a whole host of topics? It’s hard for two people to agree on everything. Negotiation, compromise and commitment to one’s word are key for any relationship. But if there are a bunch of things you don’t like and are expected to ignore, you are giving too much. Stick to your priorities. Demand fairness. And if it isn’t possible or doesn’t come, perhaps it’s best to move on.

Do you apologize immediately when there’s a problem? Do you do this whether it’s your fault or not? In healthy relationships, people analyze the conflict or problem and only apologize for what they’ve done wrong. But if you do this you are over-apologizing. Your partner, whether they realize it or not, will soon feel free to take advantage of you. Instead, apologize for what are your mistakes or missteps only. Otherwise you are giving way too much. Are you in a happy relationship or an unhappy one? If you fight all the time, how long has this been going on? Codependent people stay in bad or tumultuous relationships for fear they won’t find anyone else. If this is you, seek professional help. This is a serious problem and can prove dangerous depending on who your partner is. You may be experiencing emotional or even physical abuse. If you are in a high conflict relationship get out as soon as you are able. If there are children involved take them with you too. How much do you prioritize the relationship? If your partner is all you think about, putting school, your job or career, friends, family and other things aside for this person, you may be codependent. Each person in a relationship should have their own lives. But if your entire life is wrapped up in the other person, but they don’t feel the same way, you are giving way too much and not getting enough in return.

When you go out, do you worry constantly whether your partner is enjoying themselves, that you can’t relax and enjoy yourself? If parties, clubs, bars and other social situations are a constant source of worry about your partner, but they aren’t concerned whether or not you’re having a good time, you are giving way too much and not getting enough in return. Have you changed your entire life to fit this person, while they have hardly changed, if at all, for you? If so you’ve given way too much and them not enough. Do some soul searching. Talk with friends and family. Then discuss it with your partner. If they aren’t willing to change, or don’t change, get out. Find your self-worth. And then find someone who appreciates you for the incredible person you are. Don’t accept this situation. You deserve far better. And if you don’t know it, find out how you can come to that realization and feel how great you are inside. It will help you one day find the person who will recognize it when they meet you. If you believe you may battle with codependency read, Codependency- Loves Me, Loves Me Not: Learn How to Cultivate Healthy Relationships, Overcome Relationship Jealousy, Stop Controlling Others and Be Codependent No More by Simeon Lindstrom.

End the Breakup Cycle

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End the Breakup Cycle

It was Seinfeld in an episode called “The Voice” where Jerry outlines a particular dating phenomenon we’ve seen many times, “Breaking up is like knocking over a Coke machine. You can’t do it in one push. You gotta rock it back and forth a few times, and then it goes over…” What he’s talking about is the breakup cycle, where a couple makes up and breaks up many times, driving themselves and all the people around them crazy. Sure there are great benefits both people get out of this relationship. But there’s a certain issue or set of issues getting in the way of them finding love without static. If it’s at the beginning of a relationship, it usually means someone is testing things out with you, and perhaps with someone else too. Maybe he or she wants to know who is better for them.

If you believe that there is someone else in their life, why not find someone else too? It will give you another option should this relationship not work out. And it makes that other person take notice. Nothing makes a lover take notice more than when another contender is in the mix. All of a sudden your stock on the love market has shot up. Besides, do you really want to be with someone who’s not really into you? That depends where you are in life. If you’re just dating around and seeing what you like, it’s perfectly valid. But if you are on a desperate quest for “the one,” not so much.

The truth is that for long term relationships that hit a wall, and cycle through conflicts with no end, it can be draining, and emotionally painful for both parties. The couple splits up, and each person descends on their own corner. Instead of baring their souls and communicating they sit apart and throw up walls. Instead of cooperating they compete. Instead of hugging they are at each other’s throats. Sometimes the enemy is not our significant other, it is ourselves. It’s what we bring to the relationship. Take a time out. A break to help clear the air and give you some breathing room, some time to think. How do these conflicts arise? Who causes them? What role do you play? Look at it honestly. Talk to other people who know your relationship and see what they say.

Next, reengage your significant other. Don’t use blame or shame. Instead use “I” statements. Talk about how it makes you feel when these things happen. See if you can set some rules. Find ways to counteract negative behaviors. Consider seeing a couple’s counselor. Read self-help guides. Talk to friends. Have fun with your significant other. Do something daring together. Make plans and do them. Feel renewed. Find new ways to have fun in the bedroom. If they are unwilling or unable to help renew the relationship, end it, grieve and move on. Don’t settle for less than you deserve. For more insight read, Should You Break Up? 21 Questions You Should Ask Yourself If You Can Truly Be Happy In Your Relationship Or If You Should Break Up by Glenda Burney.

When an Ego Battle Replaces your Relationship

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When an Ego Battle Replaces your Relationship

Relationships can do funny things to people. The feeling of attachment can also bring confusion, fear of intimacy and the need to guard one’s self. This is due to past traumas during childhood or in previous relationships. So to protect one’s self this person will often lapse into creating fights, sarcasm, vengeful gestures, passive-aggressiveness, resentfulness, over-the-top competitiveness, self-doubt, frustration and aggression.

This person is afraid of letting their guard down or letting someone in for fear of being hurt. If you yourself think you have become stuck in an ego battle that has replaced your relationship, take a look at these signs. Ask your significant other or consider whether you are experiencing these symptoms. This person has a need to control things and situations. They may have a constant critic going in their head. They may be full of put-downs, sarcasm, criticism or ridicule. The ego tries too hard to control the situation. It is doing so in order to protect itself from love and so ironically becomes the very obstacle to what the person desires most, bonding with their love.

Some people go completely the other way. They give up everything to be with their spouse, their friends, family, hobbies, education and everything they value, just to be with the object of their desire. They lose themselves and this becomes their obstacle to their own pleasure, equal love. The last sign that you are in an ego battle is when one person is “Flat-lining.” This is behavior where one person in the relationship tries to disappear in order to not raise the ire of the other, and avoid conflict. They withdraw from their partner and stay in the relationship in name only. There is no engagement or intimacy. If the right relationship skills aren’t learned, even if this relationship doesn’t last, the person with commitment issues will bring the same problems into their next relationships.

Instead of using negative means to interact in your relationship, see the pattern and learn to dis-engage it. If this is your spouse or lover, teach them that they don’t have to act like this, that this isn’t what love is about. Whenever a problem arises, each side should take a deep breath, relax and manage the negative emotions that come to the surface. Both parties should consciously reach deep down inside and bring out the skills they need to make this relationship work; patience, understanding, openness and the desire to come to an understanding. Counseling or couples therapy may also be necessary. The first step is realizing the problem. The next is working through it. For more advice read, Why You Do the Things You Do: The Secret to Healthy Relationships by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Gary Sibcy.