Six Tips for Making Your Relationship Better

© By Peter S. Silin, MSW, RSW, CCC

Valentine's Day is coming up. Give yourself and your partner the gift of a better relationship. Here are six tips that will help.

  1. When you want to talk, listen.

    Oftentimes when our partner is talking and we feel pressured, misunderstood, or for some reason defensive, the response is to jump in and explain, or refute—to defend ourselves. Instead, take a deep breath and try to listen to what they say. Let them finish totally. Then try to understand the feelings behind the words. Often you will find there is sadness, loneliness or fear and they are trying to connect to you but are disconnected from the feelings they really need to express.

  2. When you want to run, stay.
  3. If you are arguing with a partner and you feel overwhelmed and as though you are about to emotionally close down or walk away, take a deep breath, and let your partner know what you are feeling, and ask for some space. The exception is that if you are afraid your anger will lead to some kind of violence. Then it is better to keep yourself, your partner, and your relationship safe, by taking a break.

  4. When you want to hide, show.

    Many times during an argument or when a relationship is rocky, people close up to protect themselves and do not let their partner know when they are feeling vulnerable, or some other tender emotion. Try to find a way to communicate it to your partner, without blaming them. Many times people find their partner is feeling the same way, and also does not feel safe enough to express it.

  5. When you want to make it them, make it us.

    We all have a tendency to find blame, but instead of blaming your partner, blame your relationship patterns. Be curious about the patterns and ask yourself what keeps the cycles going. Look at the wheel, not the spokes.

  6. When you want to assume, ask.

    We often make assumptions about what somebody means when they say something to us. When things are going well in a relationship, we assume good things—she was kidding me, he meant to help me, etc. When things are not going so well, the assumptions turn negative, and we assume they are trying to hurt us, put us down, not support us. Instead of assuming, ask. What were you feeling when you said that? Are you saying that I am…? Know that what you think you are hearing may be what you fear or what the patterns in your relationship have led you to think as you have gradually turned away emotionally from your partner.

  7. When you want to make a withdrawal, make a deposit.

    Relationships are sometimes like bank accounts—you build them slowly and when they are full you feel safer and more secure. Arguments, fights, criticisms and misunderstandings are like withdrawals. The more you make, the less safe you will feel. Pay attention to the deposits—the ways you make your partner feel good about themselves, and more important, accepted by you. The lower the bank account is, the more deposits will have to be made. Sometimes, one person has to start putting more into the account before the other starts to chip in their share.


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