Nurturing Your Relationships
The focus of this article is to inspire everyone to slow down from your busy life and find ways to nurture your relationship with your partner. When we are stressed, we have little patience and often come home tense, exhausted and irritated, which ends up straining our interactions with those we love the most. The dish left on the counter, the sock left on the stair, or the garbage that needs to be taken out turns into doomsday and our whole night is ruined. Repeat the next day and the day after that.
Unfortunately, happiness in our intimate relationships is at an all time low globally, which adds more baggage to our already stressful lives. However, an intimate relationship allows us to thrive in all aspects of our lives, including being able to manage stress effectively. It takes time and commitment to create a nurturing and passionate relationship, but it can be done. The following are some tools to enhance your relationship with your partner (but note, these can be used in ANY relationship, whether it is with your kids, your co-worker or your friends).
- Communication. You need to be able to talk with your partner. However, before you can talk, you need to be able to listen and understand your partner’s perspective. To every situation, there are two valid realities. We may not agree with the other person, but it is important to listen and validate their position. Saying things like, “I can see how that would upset you” or “good point” instead of responding defensively dampens the tension in the room. And don’t add a “but” after your validation, as this completely minimized their point of view, which will only increase defensiveness.
- Connection. While communication is certainly important, connection is paramount. Enhancing your friendship is a crucial step in creating connection. Build love maps together by learning something new about your partner each day. What is your partner’s favourite hobby? Relative? Food? Tree? Vacation? Holiday? Song? Animal? What personal improvements does your partner want to make in his or her life? Which people does your partner admire most in the world and why? Become well known to each other.
- Choose the right place and time to bring up an issue. Hashing through a problem in the heat of the moment never brings positive outcomes. Ambushing your partner about the laundry after a long day at work isn’t the best time either. The best strategy: ask your partner when a good time would be to talk and be sure it is a time when you are both calm.
- Start softly. How you raise an issue in the first three minutes of a conversation impacts the outcome of the interaction. Instead of criticizing your partner, state how you feel, the facts about the situation engendering those feelings and what you need to correct the situation. Say, “I’m frustrated that there are dirty dishes in the sink. Would you please load them in the dishwasher?” instead of “You’re such a lazy slob. Why don’t you clean up after yourself?”
- Support. We all seek dependability and support from our partners, especially when we need it the most. If you make a promise, keep it. If you’re partner is having a bad day, listen non-judgementally, ask questions (i.e., show interest), empathize with his or her feelings, and always take his or her side. Don’t side with the enemy or say things like, “Gee, I can see why your boss thinks you’re lazy.” Not really showing much support.
- Appreciation. Show appreciation for your partner every opportunity you get. (Make sure you’re sincere!).
- Create shared meaning. Intentionally create rituals of emotional connection. They can be as informal as “leave taking” (find out one thing that will happen in your partner’s day before you leave in the morning) or an after-meal coffee or tea to debrief your day.
- Stay in the present. Get out of dwelling on things in the past, as this tends to create regret, anger, and guilt. Thinking of the future is often predominated by stress and fear. Being mindful in the present moment brings a greater sense of peacefulness and joy.
Creating a loving and nurturing relationship takes time and dedication, but by putting these strategies into practice, you are on the right track to relationship happiness.