I once heard somebody say that we often feel we cannot be happy until we get married. When we get married, however, we sometimes feel that we cannot be happy as long as we stay married. The research suggests that a year or two after both positive and negative life events, we revert to our usual level of happiness. personal development
I noticed, even in adulthood, that I had learned neither how to set boundaries in a healthy way nor how to resolve conflict in a positive way. This was negatively affecting me as well as my work and personal relationships. Many couples that are tempted to break up, suffer from similar difficulties. I have noticed that those couples who stay together for decades do this, not because it is always easy and pleasant, but by making the choice to stay together. Successful couples eventually overcome their major difficulties and enjoy their life together again.
Here are some tips from relationship experts that helped me. I hope you will also find them helpful.
The Gottman Institute is my favourite resource for relationship tips. I find their tips on how to build healthy relationships to be realistic, practical, enlightening and priceless. I cannot recommend them more highly to those who want to save, or improve, their relationships. They offer a wide range of resources, from quizzes that help you to assess your relationship, to online course and retreats.
Some of their insights are especially valuable. For example, after decades of research, they have noticed that all couples have perpetual problems. These problems can be managed, but will persist. For instance, you may be very frugal and be a home bird but your partner may be very sociable and enjoy nights out with friends. These differences will most likely lead to a lifetime of continuous negotiations and compromises, around money and socialising. At the bottom of this are different value systems and these tend to remain permanent. The only way to cope with this is to accept the differences between you and agree on a compromise that is satisfactory to both sides.
Another simple tip that may be suggested by many, but is presented in a new way by the Gottman Institute, is to take a break when you feel the physical effects of stress. This can be a result of conflict, for example. They have done tests and found that an elevated heart rate, even if only due to exercise, increases the likelihood of fighting with your partner. Once you rest or calm down, you are more likely to be rational and cooperative again.
Would you like to know how likely it is that your relationship will succeed? The Gottman Institute have identified four characteristics of relationships that lead to disasters. They are 90% accurate in their predictions. They call them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These are Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. You may read more about them here. What I find very helpful about the Gottman Institute is that they not only tell you what does not work, they also teach you what does work. Here is an example from their website, which shows the difference between a valid complaint and relationship-destroying criticism:
Complaint: “I was scared when you were running late and didn’t call me. I thought we had agreed that we would do that for each other.”
Criticism: “You never think about how your behavior is affecting other people. I don’t believe you are that forgetful, you’re just selfish. You never think of others! You never think of me!”
The Gottman Institute recommends raising your concerns gently and they suggest a soft start. This strategy allows you to express your hurt feelings etc., in a gentle way, with little risk of a war.
Gottman is aware how a child can affect a relationship, since he and his wife have a daughter. I recommend their book: And Baby Makes Three The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives.
I have noticed that knowing what is right is one thing, but doing it is another. You may be so hurt, disillusioned and tired that the last thing you want to do is try again. I understand that. As mentioned above, even people in heathy relationships feel like that sometimes. I have discovered a surprising solution to that. I was frustrated with something and wanted to discuss it with the person involved, but I was definitely not in the mood for a soft start... Suddenly I could physically sense a change in my heart and that resentment went away by itself. I was then able to discuss the problem quickly and without drama. What caused the change? A prayer and a Rosary specifically. I prayed before we talked. I did not even pray for a change of my heart, because I was busy feeling frustrated. I have noticed that since my husband and I started saying the Rosary together a few months ago, our relationship has improved a lot. We did nothing else. Psychologists may give us tips but God heals us and makes relationships possible. Would you like to try this free of charge, life changing, solution? More of my spiritual tips are available here.
You have probably heard of an American professor Brene Brown and the Power of vulnerability. If you would like to listen to it again, here is a link. When we are struggling with something, it may be hard to open up and share but the happiest people do exactly that. If we share, we give ourselves a chance to be helped and supported even if we also risk being hurt. If you do not share, nobody may know how to help you.
One more thing helps me in my relationships. One of them is a book called The 5 love languages and it is available here. Sometimes we kill ourselves trying to please another person, but they still do not feel loved. It might be that we are communicating with them in the wrong language. For example, you may be getting presents from your husband, but what you really want is quality time. The other languages of love are; acts of service, physical touch and words of affirmation. I can see that my toddler hates being kissed. Touch is probably not her preferred loved language, even though she is often physically attached to us. I also see that she demands quality time. She recently demanded that each family member express their sorrow at the small cut on her hand. Then each one of us, in turn, had to admire the plaster on her hand.
You can take a quiz to asses your primary language of love if you click on the above link. I love buying presents but I do not care much about receiving them myself. What people do matters much more to me than what they say. I was very proud of my daughter recently. She was loading the washing machine and putting away the shopping. She is not even three yet. She did all of that with excitement. Maybe acts of service will be one of her languages of love.