There is an old saying that says, ‘Relationships are a two-way street’. Make no mistake, if you are not constructively contributing to your relationship than you are, in reality, destructively contaminating it with your indifference. The spirit with which we do things is just as important as our actions.
Long-term relationships have a way of bowing to the ‘comfort’ and ease of the relationship. Though the sense of security and familiarity can be enriching but anything that is stagnant starts smelling bad after a while, so is the case with relationship. If you only focus on not ruining it overtly, and slide back thinking that, you have done your part then you are stunting the growth of your bond with your partner. You may not be able to identify what’s wrong at first but years down the road, you’ll realize that your bond with your partner doesn’t feel as fulfilling as it used to be; it doesn’t empower you as much, feels confining, lacks the element of friendship and can’t stand vulnerability altogether. The goal is not just to dodge the negativity that is lurking in the peripheries of your relationship but also to nurture the relationship in a way that is fulfilling for both the partners. The goal is to reclaim the very core of your relationship and bring vitality to it. To start the reconnection process with your partner, here are a few personal relationship values that you can use to reprogram your relationship for the better.
1. Own your Relationship
You are fully accountable for your relationship, even when your partner is not an ideal partner by your standard. Owning your relationship in essence, is accepting the responsibility of creating your own experience. You are in control of your thoughts; you chose the attitude with which you approach your partner and your relationship. You are responsible for the emotions and feelings that will affect your relationship and you will ultimately decide how to act and react in your relationship. Owning your relationship does not mean that you only accept where the relationship went wrong or what role you played in harming it, it is essentially about taking a new, right-now approach towards bringing the change where it is needed. When you own your relationship, you get rid of the passive victim identity that you embody in your relationships and actively try to reflect. If the relationship is declining for instance, your very first step should not be to judge/criticize, or to become a passive victim; you should invest your energy in figuring out how you are contributing to the situation that is bringing un-fulfilment into the relationship. Owning your relationship simply means holding up the mirror to yourself before holding it up for your partner.
2. Embracing the Vulnerability
Our minds learn fear much more easily than it acknowledges strength. When we apply this example to relationships, we are even more guarded when it comes to embracing the vulnerability that will come with investing into your partner. It gets scarier when your partner has also hurt you in the past. You become a slave to your what-ifs. A deep sense of anticipated harm lies beneath the what-ifs. There is no doubt that opening up to your partner will make you vulnerable; allowing yourself to care will bring in the risk of being harmed, and developing attachment or dependency puts you in a vulnerable position as well. As natural and warranted as these fears are, taking the leap of faith and putting ourselves on the line will at least present a possibility of an enriching relationship as opposed to hurting still but without a shot at a meaningful relationship.
3. Accept your Partner
It would not be an exaggeration if, one was to say that the need for acceptance is so profound that the core conflict of most, if not all relationships, is often the lack of acceptance or the fear of rejection. The spirit of a meaningful relationship lies in unconditionally accepting your partner for who they are, with their strengths and weaknesses, the best and the worst of them. Partners should make each other feel that they have a protective cushion in the other, instead of a master who penalizes at every turn.
4. Bring Back the Friendship
One of the first things to walk out of the door in a distressed relationship is the sense of friendship that was once there with your partner but died down slowly as the relationship progressed. When two people are able to share moments where they are equals; enjoying simple pleasures of life, are able to laugh freely and provide support that is not contingent upon some reciprocal gain, the relationship breeds its own growth. Friendship in your relationship essentially means that you are supportive of the other, you do not interpret the other person’s statements as hidden agenda, and you give each other the benefit of doubt.
5. Promote your Partner’s Self-esteem
Your interaction with your partner should be enhancing to their self-esteem. Investing in your relationship may mean that you strengthen up yourself and your partner so that both of you are in a place to contribute to the relationship in a meaningful way. If you lift your partner up, point out their strengths instead of demeaning them for where they might have messed up, you are strengthening the foundation of your bond because the relationship is a source of enrichment for both of you.
6. Directing Frustrations to the Right Places
We are no strangers to frustrating emotions, conflicting feelings, plans not working out and a general sense of disconnection with our own selves. When these feelings arise in us what typically happens is that easiest, bait is too often our intimate partner. We tend to take out all these frustrations on them because we are also that vulnerable in front of them. We do not do this consciously. At a subconscious level, we expect them to see through our outburst and figure out that behind the frustration lies the true problem we are trying to escape in ourselves but end up projecting on them. When you are upset about something but find it too threatening to accept it, we often criticize our partner for the same thing.
7. Honest Discourse
Owning your relationship also means owning your own feelings and emotions and communicating in a reasonable and authentic manner. Engaging in an honest discourse with your partner about the things that truly matter to you or your opinion is also a love language. You’re learning to have the uncomfortable conversation, you’re learning to walk your partner through the areas of your life that you won’t otherwise discuss with a random person and that too builds intimacy. Intimacy in its truest form occurs where trust and security already exists.
8. Pick Your Battles
Romantic relationships have an element of high emotionality, which is why they run a greater risk of conflict and explosive results if the situation is not dealt the way it is supposed to. Picking our battles does not mean that we again take up the passive victim stance in our relationships instead it means holding on to our reaction because we want to focus on the bigger picture. It means prioritizing being happy over being right. We pick our battles when we decide what is worth a conflict and what can be dealt with a compromise that will pay off in the end and hurts no one. In the end of the day when two people in a relationship act as a team they put their relationship above their individual selves and find their own momentum.
9. Transcending Turmoil
If a relationship never experiences conflict, rough days or probably rough patches then that is not a sign of a healthy relationship. It is in fact anything but healthy. It means that two people are not getting real about themselves and on a broader level with each other. Conflicts, fights, disappointment and sometimes-even resentment are a way we demand more from our relationships. Of course, the relationship shouldn’t only be about these emotions but the display of these emotions can also add to the strength of your relationship if you learn to manage them. The Focus shouldn’t be the turmoil you face but how you transcend that turmoil. If both the partners learn to accommodate the other in everything they do in the relationship, the conflicts will not only become easier to manage but will also become less frequent to begin with.
Author: Iqra Naz
Clinical and Counseling Psychologist
Family First Institute