Where did you learn about relationships? How did you form an idea of a good relationship? Was it from seeing your parents or other couples or from books or TV? Maybe you base your opinion on what other people have said about your own relationship. Regardless, the fact is that only the people in the relationship can decide whether it’s working for them.
Surprisingly, although many think and worry about their relationship, they often don’t evaluate their relationship openly with their partner. (Arguments do not count as objective evaluation.)
To properly assess your current relationship, I’d recommend you first have a think about your own perspective on your relationship before going through it with your partner. It’s a good idea to write it down so that you remember it when you do speak about it together. The following questions may help you.
> Is this relationship serving us both or just the other person?
> Do I spend more time questioning whether the relationship is right or wrong than enjoying it?
> Is there more to learn for me in this relationship, or can I best learn and grow outside of this relationship?
> Would leaving this relationship be an act of self-care?
To do this type of relationship inventory, take in the broader picture. Answer these questions at a few different times over the course of a few weeks or months: On a ‘normal’ day; after an argument with your partner; after a happy time together, etcetera. Take into consideration the stage you are at in your relationship, as well as other things that are going on in your life – having or not having children, busy time at work or lack of work, illness, etcetera. Try to look at the relationship in an objective, business like way.
Make sure to evaluate your relationship, not your partner. The focus has to change from seeing the good or bad in the other person towards what is working/not working within your relationship.
If you decide that your relationship is strong but improvements could be made (and let’s be honest, there’s always room for improvement), try some of the following tips.
1. Have a relationship meeting, where you talk face to face, once a week. This should be uninterrupted time in which you both can focus only on each other. Decide what you are going to talk about and stick to it. This is a time where you both evaluate your relationship together in a clear, concise way.
2. Make sure you have your partner’s attention before you talk. Ask, “Is this a good time for us to talk?” Your partner should be truthful. If it’s not a good time, don’t try to force the conversation. Schedule a time when you both will be able to give your full attention.
3. Find practical ways to show your love. Practise random acts of kindness with your partner. Do nice things for no reason. Stay alert to those things your partner enjoys and find little ways to support them. It’s amazing how one person’s kindness prompts the other to follow suit.
4. Work on your relationship. Couples who work on their relationships have the best relationships. It keeps you from taking each other for granted. You have to be committed to making the relationship work and become a team player.
5. Fight fair. Conflict in relationships is inevitable. If you fight fair, it’s possible to resolve conflict in a positive and constructive manner.
- Don’t ambush your partner; pick a time that is good for both of you to talk in private.
- Don’t name-call or belittle your partner. Criticise the behaviour, not the person.
- Remember, bringing up ‘old stuff’ is not constructive to solving problems.
- Never threaten your relationship; emotional blackmail will only escalate the problems.
When problems arise in a relationship, it’s easy to find a million excuses to ignore them or hope they will go away. However, problems rarely just disappear. They build up, and that’s when resentment and conflict enters a relationship. Taking the time to effectively evaluate your relationship will help to ensure that this does not happen.
Visit www.relationshipsireland.com for more relationship tips, support and advice.
Jannah Walshe is a counsellor and psychotherapist based in Castlebar and Westport. A fully accredited member of The Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, she can be contacted via www.jannahwalshe.ie, or at firstname.lastname@example.org or 085 1372528.