Keeping A Relationship Strong
Valentines Day... it comes with some emotion even if you're not in a relationship. Why is this day a soft spot for Singles? Because it's a day celebrating 'love' so if you aren't in Love or don't have 'that special someone' you must not be accepted by the Holiday (that's the message, I get). This is kind of a big deal if you ask me! What other Holiday rejects a large portion of the population? None come to mind. To be honest, I would completely do away with this Heart Day nonsense if I had my way - do we really need a special day to celebrate love and BTW, if your partner only feels love from you one day a year; you're really in trouble. Unfortunately, I don't get my way on this and it's here so if you happen to be S.I.N.G.L.E., you're really going to dig the first way to keep a relationship strong...and the other 4 will come in handy, too.
1. Learn to be OK and/or complete – alone. It's natural to 'want' someone - human nature leads us to connect with others. It's not healthy to NEED another person in order to feel OK and/or complete. Personally, I blame 'Disney' or 'Hollywood' for that belief system. So, if you're reading this and are unable to think of a time (year or more) where you weren't in a relationship (emotionally or physically), you're likely in danger of being in the 'need' category.
2. Spend at least 90 minutes a week talking with them - directly - one on one. It's not much, if you think about it (there's 10,080 minutes in a week - surely you can give 90 to the one you profess to love). 90 minutes connecting with them on an emotional level - not making out or levi lovin' or sexin' it up - that's physical connection and that doesn't sustain connection. This 90 minutes can be done laying in bed after the work-day, on a bike ride, in the shower, eating dinner, etc. There are countless ways to create time and where you spend yours will reflect what you prioritize in your life as important. Get off the video games, fellas'. Clock off from the job, Ladies.
3. Have at LEAST 1 date a week - maybe 2. This one is easy when it's 'new love' (NRE Phase) but becomes tricky when the relationship matures into years. Life can have an unbalancing effect if you're not aware and consistent in re-balancing. Remembering what you prioritize with your time will be essential to maintaining a healthy and happy connection with your partner.
4. Beware of RESENTMENT (Ominous music here). If it is there, be curious as to where you are accountable for the behaviors you're upset with. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
Resentment is an off-shoot of being a victim (which we all know isn't really possible) and leads to the famous "4 horsemen of the apocalypse" that John Gottman describes as Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling. Any of those alone can be relationship killers which makes sense - in the Bible, the 4 horsemen equate to War, Famine and Death. Don't let any one of them get close.
5. Lastly, when you argue (and you will), make sure to make up afterwards. It's fine (and often WISE) to take a walk and cool down when conflict becomes heated. Often-times, reacting in anger causes more of an issue than the original argument! A good amount of time to 'cool down' is 90 minutes (that number sounds familiar). After that, return and communicate through the issue. When it goes longer than that, you may be toying with the 4th horseman - "Stonewalling". Most of the time after taking a break, people will feel more calm and rational - less impulsive. There's actually brain science to back up the 'right-left' action of walking. Science says that it will help your mind work through negative emotions/thinking errors so when I mention "take a walk", I'm being quite literal. Take a walk. Or a run. Or call me and we'll do some EMDR therapy.
Thanks for reading! I'll be sure to do a 'Jedsays' youtube on this goodness later today. Check that out at www.youtube.com/meaningtolive
Comments are welcome and if you can think of anyone that would benefit from this information - share it. Please for the love, share it. Couples counseling is expensive.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
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