The key to strengthening and improving any relationship, especially those that are struggling, is honesty. What are you feeling inside? What do you want and need, from both yourself and your partner? What are their wants and needs?
Once both partners face the facts and commit to being completely honest and truthful with themselves, and each other, they are halfway there.
Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want
You no doubt recognize this phrase from the 1996 hit song "Wannabe," by the Spice Girls. Why is it relevant? Simple. The key to getting what you want in life begins with identifying what that is, and just as importantly, what it is your partner wants. However, before you even begin to contemplate the other person's desires, turn your focus to you.
If you could have anything in life right now, what would you want? When it comes to working on your relationship, is saving it your top priority? If it is, then there are ways to make it work, as long as you are willing to put in any effort required and give without expecting something in return.
Be aware though that one, or both of you, may subconsciously not want to salvage the marriage; you may end up sabotaging your efforts to make it work if that is the case. Sometimes, what we think we want in life is not the case in actuality. Be sure to take the time to really reflect on this question and listen to your heart. Follow your intuition, for it truly does know what’s best for you.
Napoleon Hill talks about the importance of clarity in the first chapter of his book, Think and Grow Rich, citing that "in order to get what we want, we must have purpose, persistence and a burning desire." Do you and your partner have a burning desire to strengthen and save your relationship?
No one said it would be easy; but where there’s a will, and a unity between both partners, there is most definitely a way.
Release Tension & Remain Calm
When someone tells you to "calm down," more often than not, those very words can send even a semi-agitated person into a highly agitated state. Yet remaining calm and maintaining a relaxed state is vital in life, especially when you are going through any type of stressful situation. If you sense tension building up in your body, and you find yourself becoming overly irritated, there are various tools and techniques you can use in the privacy of your home to dissipate tension and calm yourself down.
For some, shouting all the things that bother you about your partner while looking at a photo of them can be oddly therapeutic. Let it all out. Talk to the photo as if you were talking to him or her in person. By the time you actually see them, it's more likely you will have gained perspective and be more able to talk through an issue without getting worked up.
Breathing can also easily alter a state, by taking long, slow, deep breaths and mentally choosing to let it go. I always like to ask myself: Can I control their behavior or the situation? Often, the answer is no. So then I simply wish it away.
Journaling or emailing a friend can help as well. Every person I work with has unlimited email access to contact me any time of the day, which they find helpful in releasing stress and tension.
Remember: What You Reap, You Sow
It’s an old saying, but this phrase should be something you remind yourself of on a regular basis. What you put out, you will receive back, multiplied. If you constantly dole out criticism and negative comments, rest assured, these will be thrown right back at you.
If you do have something negative that you need to convey, think about how you can say it to lessen the impact on both your partner and yourself. "I don’t like it when you..." or "If you could do...it would make my life so much better."
Always follow a complaint with a suggestion, or a possible solution. Small changes can produce substantial results. Plus, if you remember to think before you speak, chances are, you’ll have a more positive day.
If negative comments, snide remarks, and unkind words are being directed at you, then it is imperative that you find a way to protect yourself. Negativity is both draining and damaging. First and foremost, be aware of when this is occurring. For example, if your partner always comes home after work angry and negative, and your evening tends to start off with arguments, you can attempt to shift the mood by giving love and attention to them.
This may sound crazy, or impossible; however, no one wants to be aggressive or negative. Most times, this type of behavior originates from hurt. If you are able to show compassion, it may just make a substantial difference to the relationship—and, by extension, your happiness.
If you need to take a break in order to protect yourself and your emotions, feel free to do so. It may be helpful to share your ideal methods of unwinding with your partner, in order to openly offer support and prevent things from immediately unraveling.
Think Before Speaking
Did you know that we are bombarded with around 70,000 thoughts per day? Sadly, most are useless clutter. When thinking about our relationships, it's imperative to think before we speak. For some, this is easier said than done. As a rule, try to be aware of the thoughts you have, and pause before saying something negative that you may later regret.
Make a list of all the things you love about your partner, why you are with them, and the things they do that make you happy. When a negative thought arises, immediately remind yourself of what you’ve written. Read and re-read those lists. Change the direction of your negative thoughts to affirmative ones, and you may have a shot at altering the outcome of your relationship.
Being positive doesn’t always solve deeper issues, but it is a step in the right direction. Once you are feeling calm and centered, it's far easier to begin contemplating solutions to those problems you are facing. At the end of the day, ask yourself: Are the thoughts I had three hours ago still a big issue, or have they faded into the background?
Strengthening, and even saving, a relationship is possible if we are willing to put in the effort to do so. Be honest with yourself, listen to the needs and wants of your partner, and take responsibility for decisions made, actions taken, and things said. Be truthful, but be kind, and always try to come up with a solution to any given problem you are facing.
Written by Nicola Beer
Nicola Beer is a UK-certified grief and loss specialist, a leading authority on relationship psychology and divorce, an international best-selling author, and has been featured on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News Network and Wall Street Select. She works with couples to help save their marriage, and helps individuals going through the divorce process to minimize their stress and anxiety. Visit SaveMyMarriageProgram.com.