Maybe you’re lucky enough to fall in love and experience those early stages of can’t-get-enough-of-you love. But eventually, that intensity wears off and you settle into the reality of that relationship. You and your partner bring a lifetime of baggage that may include such relationship stultifying traits as the inability to deal with conflict, easily hurt feelings, and emotional withdrawal, to name a few.
Has your luck run out? No. It’s just time to make your own luck by developing habits that make your relationship happy and healthy. There has been quite a body of research that tells us how to do that. Basically, it comes down to nourishing a unique connection, being empathetic, and remaining positive.
Be Emotionally Responsive
The main thing partners want is to know is, “Are you there for me? Are you on my side when the rest of the world is not?” The happiest couples are tuned in on the same wavelength. It’s an emotional connection that means your partner is your safe haven. Your port in a storm.
There’s a disconnect when that safe haven is threatened. When your partner criticizes you, or yells at you, or betrays you in any way, then the emotional connection is damaged, causing great distress. Your brain interprets this as danger, and it is, because your relationship is at stake. Couples who remain happy try to avoid this disconnect by talking about their feelings without being critical of the other partner. By reassuring each other that they’re there for them. By maintaining a close connection.
The expression, “You have to work at a good marriage,” is a cliché for a reason. It takes work, or at least some effort. You have to make an effort to create an atmosphere of positivity in your marriage. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate vacation for two on a tropical island. In fact, big, grand gestures, while fine, are not really the answer.
It’s the little things that count. And it’s the frequency and the sincerity with which those little things take place. For example, a friend likes to take nature walks while his wife prefers to stay home and bake. He often brings her something from his walk to share with her, like a perfect pinecone. It’s the small, routine points of contact with your spouse that show you care and keep you connected.
This can mean just telling him he looks nice in that new shirt. Or, thanks for taking out the garbage so I never have to think about it. Or, I love that you make our table so nice with candles. Or, whatever small but positive thing your spouse does. Make sure they are appreciated for it. It takes some effort, but it’s worth it.
How does it feel to be your partner? You can’t totally know, of course, but you can try to imagine how it feels to walk in his shoes, see things from his perspective. When you understand your partner’s feelings, it’s easier to connect with him. You don’t need to be right as much as you need to show your partner you understand him.
Part of being empathetic means you don’t yell at your partner or lose control and let your stress explode in your partner’s face. You use self-control when you find yourself at a boiling point, and tell yourself to keep quiet and settle down until you become calm enough to interact with your partner on a positive level. If you can focus on what’s good about your partner, it’s good for your relationship.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact