In my experience as a therapist, I’ve noticed that many relationship problems – whether between partners, family or close friends – can be fixed by bringing attention to a few important considerations.
Think about how these 5 points apply to your own relationships and use the questions for each tip to guide your thoughts and actions when problems emerge.
1. Know what you want from the relationship.
To get what you want from your relationship, it helps to know what that is. Many people simply want to be happy together. Others might want a sense of emotional safety, financial security, or a partner to explore the world with.
Ask yourself: What do I want from my relationship?
2. Focus on what you can do differently more than on how your partner needs to change.
We all have room to change and grow. This is true of you, as well as your partner. However, you have more influence on making personal changes than on making your partner change. So, if you are unhappy with some aspect of your relationship, start with changing yourself.
Ask yourself: What do I contribute to the problems we face? How can I change to improve our relationship?
3. Factor in emotions – relationships are more than just logical interactions.
Relationships are more than just business transactions – a lot more. The closer people feel to each other, the more powerfully their relationships affect them. It’s these emotional reactions that so often cause problems between partners. So, to work through issues, it is essential to understand and respect each other’s emotional reactions.
Ask yourself: How can I best understand my emotional reactions and those of my partner? And how are these reactions affecting our relationship?
4. It is not enough to want a change. You must create it.
Everyone wants their relationships to be harmonious and happy. While this seems to just happen sometimes, long-term relationships need to be nurtured to keep them healthy and strong. Otherwise, problems overtake all the beauty that exists in them, much like weeds overtaking a garden.
Ask yourself: Do I want this relationship enough to work on it?
5. Working through problems takes patience and persistence.
If your relationship is important enough to work on, then choose to give it your full attention. As you address problems, remember that you are talking with someone you love – even if you are not happy about a particular behavior or trait. One way of thinking about this is that you are working issues out with a “teammate” rather than trying to beat an opponent. You will need to visit and re-visit issues with your partner. So, remind yourself to be patient.
Ask yourself: Am I doing all I can to be patient? Am I willing to take the time and put in the needed effort to make our relationship healthy and strong?
These tips and their accompanying questions can be helpful at any point when you feel there is tension in your relationship. However, the sooner you address any growing tension, the less of a real threat it will pose to your relationship.
Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.