Relationships are difficult. Over 20 years working as a couples therapist I have learned this first hand. A key to successful relationships is for couples to learn that working out how each other ticks is critical but it takes mindfulness and attention.
Having the space and time to really invest in knowing your partner seems like a mammoth task for some of us and granted it is a big challenge especially in such a busy world where the demands seem to overwhelm us at times. But undeniably, knowing your partner intimately is a major key to relationship success. For your relationship to thrive you need to be very clear about what makes your partner happy, sad, ashamed, guilty and angry. Of course you can’t always know but it’s important to have some kind of template to work off in your mind.
To keep a relationship on track with key elements like security, safety, support and love you need to have some kind of map of your partner’s inner world.
If you feel you might have lost track of things, getting back on track is a process that’s not really a mystery. Here are seven ways to help get your relationship back on track if navigating your relationship love map has led you AWOL.
1. Get to know what “triggers” your partner negatively
If you partner has told you a story about a negative experience in childhood that still impacts them even today and leads to them withdrawing, becoming upset or angry you need to know about it. We bring into relationships our histories and the psychological impact of growing up. Who we are is shaped in relationship with our parents and or caregivers. As an expert about your partner, it’s your job to know something about his or her history and how this has shaped who they are. This will help you decipher when their anger, upset or distress is about you or whether it’s about a childhood experiences. Ideally we are able to read what is happening and say: “Aha baby I know what this is about – let me help you feel a little better”.
2. Be conscious of your facial expressions
If you walk in the door every day with a sad or angry look on your face your partner may interpret that the angry face is about them and that you are not happy to be home. This can set up a negative evening together for both of you and possibly the family. When you walk in the door make an effort to be aware and put a smile on your face – even if it’s just a tiny one. The brain is always searching for what feels safe and secure, facial expressions plays an important part here.
3. Know your partners love language
The famous book, The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, by Gary D Chapman helps us understand the five languages of love and incorporate them into our lives. The languages include:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Get to know your partner, read the book or even take a quiz online at: http://www.beliefnet.com/Love-Family/Relationships/Quiz/The-5-Love-Languages-Quiz.aspx#7pxJHYHrfldm6qth.01
4. Gaze at your partner lovingly everyday
Have you ever watched the exchange between a mother and a baby and noticed the love pouring out of the mother’s face? This complex interaction fundamentally helps the baby feel loved, known, unique and special. As adults the benefit and desire for this feeling doesn’t change. When our partner gazes at us with a loving look or a look of appreciation the important neurochemical of love and romance are stimulated such as dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin and other neurochemicals that promote feeling good, safe and secure.
5. Be your partner’s go to person
Telling another about a wonderful personal experience or even sharing something sad or distressing before telling you partner can make them feel excluded. Making your partner feel excluded by not letting them know that they are the first person you think of when you have some news can make your partner feel insecure. Always make your partner your first go to person. It helps them feel included in your day to day life which promotes a safe environment in your relationship.
6. Make your partner feel safe and secure
Don’t threaten things you don’t mean in a heated discussion. Such acts do harm. Our brains are wired for attachment and being loved. Connection is a paramount experience that we all need to feel to be secure. Talk to your partner if you are unhappy and think about seeing a couple’s therapist. Tell your partner how serious things feel for you but never threaten to end a marriage or relationship in a heated argument or to manipulate.
7. Remember that leaving and re-uniting with your partner is important.
Always leave the house and kiss your partner goodbye. It shows you care when you remind them to have a good day and let them know you will be thinking of them. If your partner has something significant happening that day it is really important to acknowledge it or to offer words of support. When you come home make sure you embrace your partner and really hold them for a solid 30-60 seconds or ideally, for a minute if you can. Watch this set a positive tone for the rest of the evening - it really works. Relationship expert and author of the ground-breaking book Wired For Love, Stan Tatkin, recommends this highly. Simple acts like these reinforce that you care and bolster attachment so make them a habit.
Overall using all these suggestions above creates a safe and secure relationship. In relationships the brain is wired for connection and feeling safe. If you can create an environment for your partner where they feel they can be themselves and not feel judged or ridiculed you will find your partner will be more open to receiving and giving love. Of course if you find your partner is not open to these suggestions or are closed off to change you may need to seek a therapist well trained in couple therapy. Couple therapy with the right therapist can create profound changes in your relationship and marriage.
For more tips and information about love, relationships and happiness visit my Facebook page Key To Love for those looking to find a life partner and are looking for some coaching or Love, Life, Relationships & Transformation for parents and those in relationships already who like some daily inspiration.