1. Avoid Polarizing
When you find that your partner differs from you in behavior, attitude or opinion, make an effort to moderate your position or you will both tend to become polarized, each partner becoming more one-sided.
For instance, if you are more of a pursuer and your partner is more of a distancer, hold yourself back from always trying to gain attention and more intimacy. It tends to push the other person into the position of seeking distance or needing more space.
Here are some other examples of opposite characteristics that couples often polarize in if they are not careful:
• the spontaneous person, the responsible one
• the talker/ the listener
• the intravert/the extravert
• the inner critic/ the judge
• the pleaser/the receiver
Research by John Gottman shows that if couples don’t show respect for one another at least 80% of the time their relationship will deteriorate and end up in divorce.
So show respect to one another. Pay attention to the following:
• How you speak: respectful tone of voice
• How you listen: with interest
• Value the independence, needs and desires of your partner
• Bring the best of yourself to your partner and the relationship, which includes staying healthy.
Self-respect is a gift to yourself and those around you. When you show self-respect, others tend to respect you and desire your company.
Avoid frequent self-criticism, self-contempt, or tolerating contempt or belittling from others. Turn negative self-criticism such as “I’m a loser,” into positive self-talk, such as “Next time, I’ll do it this way….”
Value yourself, your needs and desires. Stop others—respectfully—when they are disrespectful to you. In a respectful tone say “Excuse me?” or “That is not helpful.” Again, you’re doing both of you a favor. No one feels good about themselves when they treat you badly.
Emotional independence allows for deeper caring without controlling others. It is important that you:
• Stay emotionally separate
• Remain calm
• Avoid being reactive
• Don’t walk on eggshells
• Don’t allow yourself to be controlled by others’ moodiness
• Don’t allow anxiety to become infectious
• Don’t try to control others or fix all problems
The key here is to learn to tolerate the discomfort of someone else’s emotions.
When you remain capable of being emotionally and financially independent, you choose to stay with someone out of desire not fear.
Avoid becoming completely dependent on someone else for the following:
• Emotional support
• Financial needs
• Decision making
If you feel incapable of something then learn it – you will be better for it – and more desirable.
Find joy in being thoughtful, giving and doing kind things for another person. Particularly if you are the type who takes care of yourself, you will find great reward in being appreciative, considerate and surprising your partner with your caring and helpfulness. But do not deny them the pleasure of doing it themselves.
7. Pursue your Passions
When you pursue your passions and stay connected with your friends and family, you become more alive and connected with the different parts of who you really are. Similarly, it’s important to encourage your partner to pursue his or her favorite interests, sports, and hobbies, and to stay in touch with their friends.
People who restrict their lives to their partnership often lose vitality and end up having little from the outside world to bring to the relationship. Venture out, your partner should enjoy the fact that you’ll have more to bring to the relationship.
8. Shared Enjoyment
Make time for each other daily and include all or any combination of the following:
If you want the magic back in your relationship, cultivate fun and romance. It may not come naturally at first. But daily laughter and adventure together will change a boring relationship to a passionate, loving one.
9. Effective Communication
Effective communication means:
• calm demeanor
• respect for the other
• respect for your own needs and desires
10. Growth and Transformation
When we find a weak point in our relationship that we need to work on, we need to exert all effort into changing our own habits. If, for instance, you tend to be critical of your partner, it’s important to be mindful on a daily and hourly basis of your automatic tendency to criticize. You need to pay attention to that need to criticize and stop yourself by remembering that it will not enhance your relationship or make the other person feel good.
Good relationships are the result of two people’s effort to improve themselves and nurture the relationship on a daily basis. The rewards are well worth the efforts.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD