My guess is you will probably identify some in your relationship, either from you or your partner. Maybe both of you…
Every part of nature has rhythms, patterns and cycles and we humans are no different.
The trouble with relationships is they can get stuck in a pattern like a harsh winter. Once the honeymoon effect is over, and we get into the patterns of daily living, most couples do very little to maintain and grow their relationships.
Imagine you open a bank account and you deposit, say £10,000, and over time all you do is make withdrawals. Some small purchases for daily living and others for the bigger stuff. We don’t need to be geniuses to realise that eventually the account will hit the red and be in constant overdraft.
Imagine your relationship like a bank account. Since you got together how much have you paid in and how much have you taken out?
- Commit to each other
- Show trust
- Share experiences and feelings
- Take the time to understand each other
- Show contempt
- Engage in defensiveness
- Use the “cold treatment”
Is your relationship bank in the red or black?”
I’m sure you get the picture, and for many couples, this is where their relationships live, in the red. Eventually, being in the red means there are no reserves to tap into when life throws your relationship a curveball (which happens to all of us).
It is in these moments that we need some hard cash in the relationship bank, so we feel inclined to help and support each other. If we’re in the red, crisis or breakdowns become very likely and what we felt about each other is forgotten, and the firefight begins.
What to do to fix these relationship mistakes?
At least one of you, but preferably both of you, need to start paying into the relationship bank.
The answer is simple, communicate differently and manage your differences. This can be easier said than done and many couples find they need professional support, especially if the patterns are old and ingrained.
Here are some tips:
1. Reconnect with the person you fell in love with
When I work with my clients, we go back in time on a journey of discovery and re-connect with all the things the person did and said that they loved. Share some fond memories together and sometimes of joy and happiness.
This exercise is not meant to be a permanent fix but can act as an emergency first aid to assist the recovery or crisis.
2. Change your attitudes to your relationship bank
Ideally, sit down together, agree and make a firm commitment to always do things that keep your relationship bank in the black.
Remember, the only behaviour you can control is your own. Every human needs autonomy and freedom to be themselves, and the responsibility and ownership of how you are is your job.
Trying to control others is exhausting – very few people in relationships like being told what to do and is often met with resistance, avoidant behaviours or sometimes the exact opposite.
4. Share dreams, goals and values to stop making relationship mistakes
If you find yourself in an abusive or unhealthy controlling relationship, I recommend seeking professional support, and personal safety is paramount.
Dreams and Goals
Our disagreements are often caused by conflicting goals, dreams and values, yet we lose sight of these as we move through our relationship timeline. Often they change, get forgotten or harboured as unmet. It’s useful to write them down so you can build understanding and tolerance. Here’s an example of how to write them down:
You don’t have to do everything together. However, it’s important to have some goals or activities that have shared meaning. These shared meanings should go beyond children because as we know, children can bring greater meaning, but the happiness doesn’t always go hand in hand.
For instance, in my relationship our shared meaning is the love of the outdoors, especially camping and kayaking.
Agreeing and negotiating these can be tricky and sometimes needs the help of friends, family (those who can be impartial) or coaches.
5. Agree your differences
Have a plan on how to talk to each other to reduce stress. Agreeing on everything is impossible. Find out what you agree on and then discuss how you can hold your differences in a way that doesn’t undermine your relationship.
6. Warts and all
This is a form of acceptance and can sound like a lofty ideal.
It’s about accepting the person for who they are. It doesn’t mean we have to like it or agree with it. It’s about finding a place within you to hold those parts or habits of the person that don’t match what you want or need.
It can sound esoteric, but there is a way human’s can find to hold these differences without continuing to upset or re-traumatise yourself. My clients come up with some novel ways of doing this, from rituals to words of support to themselves.
We all also need to acknowledge and accept our own imperfections. Human’s are not perfect! Brene Brown in Wholehearted Living says:
“It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”
7. Understand expressions of love and caring
We all express our caring for our significant others in different ways, these are often called “love languages”. Learning about these and appreciating difference is important if you want to stop making relationship mistakes.
For instance, if you are someone who values words of affirmation and your partner expresses their caring through doing jobs for you, understanding and appreciating the difference is vital as well as being able to meet their needs some of the time.
- Spending quality time together
- Acts of service – doing jobs or tasks
- Words of affirmation – I love you, Your hair looks lovely
- Physical touch – hugging, gestures, sexual connection
- Giving of gifts – small personal presents that make you feel special
8. Raising children
This can be tricky as you’re adding unpredictable “little one(s)” into the relationship who are themselves growing and changing.
Having children can certainly add meaning into our lives, but don’t necessarily provide happiness unless we find ways of working together and agreeing solid and reliable boundaries.
Discuss and agree on your parenting styles and how you can work together as a team. Allow your children their autonomy and most certainly do not live your life vicariously through your children.
It’s important that the needs of each individual are met within the family unit.
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Each month, I offer five free 30-minute consultations, either in person, on the phone or over Skype to establish if and how I can help you heal your relationship – without any obligation to continue.